No one in Major League Baseball had a better 2018 than Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
The first-year skipper took over an established contender that was searching for answers after back-to-back quick eliminations in the ALDS. In a span of 12 months, Cora unflinchingly provided all of the answers and even rewrote most of the questions.
Cora helped transform Boston into an unstoppable force that won a franchise record 108 games during the regular season, before plowing through the postseason to win its ninth World Series championship. In the process, he made history by becoming the first-ever Puerto Rican born manager to bring home a World Series crown.
It was a remarkable story, but there’s an even more incredible story that preceded his Red Sox success. For a short time in October of 2017, none of that success seemed remotely possible. That’s because Cora admittedly “bombed” in his first interview for the Detroit Tigers managerial opening, which seemingly closed the door on managing for the 2018 season.
How Cora rebounded to unexpectedly land his dream managerial job with the Red Sox is just one of the remarkable stories that’s told in “Alex Cora: The Making of a Champion.” The 60-minute documentary is set to premiere on MLB Network Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 9 p.m. ET.
We were given an opportunity to screen the program in advance and really enjoyed Cora’s candor. The program is set around an interview with Cora conducted by MLB Network’s Tom Verducci. In it, Cora opens up on growing up in Caguas, Puerto Rico, his relationship with his father, Jose Manuel, who died when Alex was only 13, and his passion for baseball.
A lot of the program focuses on Cora’s family and his hometown, which is appropriate given that they are the most vital parts of his story. You could see the pride Cora and his family felt when he returned to Puerto Rico in November to celebrate his latest championship. Cora earned his World Series ring as a player for the Red Sox in 2007. He won another as the Houston Astros bench coach in 2017. But it’s his championship with the Red Sox in 2018 that stirred the most emotions.
The celebration was a bright light amid trying times in Puerto Rico. One year earlier the island had been ravaged by Hurricane Maria. In January of 2018, Cora contributed to the recovery process by teaming with the Red Sox to organize a massive humanitarian mission. In November, he brought joy and a renewed sense of pride.
Cora also speaks of the great influence his brother Joey, a former MLB player and current coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, has had on him. After their father died, Joey took a leadership role in the family. Joey even once talked Alex out of quitting baseball at the University of Miami when he started to feel homesick. That moment proved to be a turning point in Alex’s life and career.
Unexpected second chance
Joey Cora was there too after the painful Tigers interview, which in no uncertain terms Alex says he “bombed.”
“I did the interview, and on the way to the hotel I called Joey and I said “that wasn’t good,” Cora recalled.
His big brother likened it to batting practice, adding that Detroit wasn’t the job he wanted anyway.
“I remember that. I wasn’t worried about that one,” Joey Cora said of the phone call. “That wasn’t going to happen. Don’t worry about it. This is just like batting practice. You got your feet wet this year. You took your swings. Now something else is going to come up.”
A few days later, that something else was the Red Sox job. Boston had fired John Farrell after Cora’s Astros eliminated them in the 2017 ALDS. When called upon this time, an admittedly “too confident” Cora managed to impress owner John Henry and the rest of Boston’s brass enough to secure one of MLB’s most coveted managerial positions.
That moment is a clear milestone in a journey fueled by Cora’s passion for baseball and his dedication to seeing his dreams through. Along the way there are several other milestones covered that have helped mold his inspiring story.
Why you should watch
This a fascinating program that moves quickly, motivates Cora to open up and satisfies those who enjoy a peak behind the scenes of MLB managing.
Yes, there’s plenty of inside baseball talk, too. Cora discusses how his time with the Astros helped shape a focused and balanced managerial philosophy that aims to connect the entire organization. And he breaks down some of the difficult postseason decisions that ultimately positioned the Red Sox for success.
Red Sox fans and baseball fans in general will be missing out if they don’t watch “Alex Cora: The Making of a Champion.”
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