BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox hired Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their new manager on Sunday, turning to a player from their 2007 World Series championship roster to help the team out of its current playoff slump.
The Red Sox announced the hire on Sunday, a day after Cora’s Astros eliminated the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series. With two days off before Houston opens the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston had a chance to hire Cora without running afoul of baseball’s ban on major moves during the Series.
Cora replaces John Farrell, who led the Red Sox to the 2013 title and in the last two years claimed the first back-to-back AL East championships in franchise history. But Boston also finished last twice in Farrell’s tenure, and the ballclub has won just one playoff game since winning it all in his first season.
“I am extremely honored and humbled to be named manager of the Boston Red Sox and I want to thank Dave [Dombrowski], John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy for giving me such a tremendous opportunity,” Cora said of the franchise’s upper management in a statement. “Returning to the Red Sox and the city of Boston is a dream come true for me and my family and I look forward to working towards the ultimate goal of winning another championship for this city and its great fans.
“At the same time, I want to express my appreciation for Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow, A.J. Hinch, and the entire Houston Astros organization for giving me the chance to start my coaching career. It has been a very special season and an incredible organization to be a part of and I am looking forward to the World Series and winning with this group.”
A native of Puerto Rico, Cora is the first Hispanic manager in for a franchise that was the last in the major leagues to field a black player. The Red Sox faced renewed racial scrutiny this season after Orioles outfielder Adam Jones reported being subjected to racial slurs at Fenway Park.
A day later, a fan was banned from the ballpark for life for using racial slurs in the stands. Red Sox president Kennedy said at the time the episode made him feel “deep remorse that these things happen in our society.
“But it’s the reality of the world that we live in,” he said. “Hopefully, this is a step forward.”
Cora, who has never managed before, played 14 years in the major leagues before retiring in 2011, including parts of four seasons with the Red Sox. He was a lifetime .243 hitter with 35 homers and 286 RBIs. In 2003, he led the league in putouts and double plays by a second baseman.
“We were very impressed when we interviewed Alex,” president of baseball operations Dombrowski said in a statement. “He came to us as a highly regarded candidate, and from speaking with him throughout this process, we found him to be very knowledgeable, driven, and deserving of this opportunity. He is a highly respected and hardworking individual who has experience playing in Boston.
“Alex also has a full appreciation for the use of analytical information in today’s game and his ability to communicate and relate to both young players and veterans is a plus. Finally, the fact that he is bilingual is very significant for our club.”
Cora served as a baseball analyst for four seasons (2013-16) before being hired by the Astros. His varied background and ability to relate to young players was a key in the hiring.
“In Alex we have found a natural leader to guide our clubhouse,” Henry, the Red Sox principal owner, said in a statement. “He is extremely smart with a dedication to what it takes to be successful in today’s game on the field. His baseball acumen and his ability to think strategically are uncommon for someone his age. We could not have found a better match for our players, our front office and for where we intend to go over the coming years as an organization.”
“Alex is a guy that communicates well with the players; he’s a guy that studies the game,” Astros designated hitter Carlos Beltran said this month. “His preparation is above what I have seen in baseball, and he has a great personality.
“He’s intense — players like to see it. But at the same time, he is a guy that can sit down in the clubhouse with the players and have a baseball conversation,” Beltran said. “So he’s got the skills and I love it. He’s been a big help for this organization. He takes a lot of pride into relationships with the players.”