Yankees’ Aaron Boone remains loyal to Red Sox manager Alex Cora, glad to see him back

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Yankees manager Aaron Boone and Red Sox manager Alex Cora talking in 2018
Yankees manager Aaron Boone and Red Sox manager Alex Cora talking in 2018

Flash back to 2018, when Aaron Boone, Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch emerged as three of the brightest, most promising young managers in the game -- a trio exhibiting a new-school blend of playing experience, facility with analytics, and the sensitive interpersonal touch that the contemporary athlete needs.

A lot, you might have noticed, has happened since.

All three have retained their skills, but Hinch and Cora spent a year suspended from the game for their roles in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal.

Of that group, Boone and Cora have always been the tightest. And it turns out that their friendship has weathered the drama that left Boone and the Yankees embittered.

The day before facing the Red Sox for the first time since Cora’s suspension for his involvement in the Astros’ 2017 misdeeds, I asked Boone if he was glad to see Cora back in the game.

“Yeah, I am,” Boone said. “I think he’s really good at what he does. I know he's paid a significant price. But he is one of the really good managers out there.

It was a subtle but undeniable contrast to his frostier comments on Hinch before playing Hinch’s Detroit Tigers in April.

Boone and Cora go back at least to their brief time playing together in Cleveland in 2005. Later, as colleagues at ESPN, they further bonded while sharing information and insight that helped Cora on Baseball Tonight, and Boone in the Sunday Night Baseball booth.

Coincidence made them managers of the game’s most storied rivalry in 2018. Cora outmaneuvered his fellow rookie leader in the division series that year, and the teams even brawled earlier in the season. But the competition never became personal for either.

In the spring of 2020, as the Yankees spent much of the pre-pandemic spring training stewing about the Astros (and, to a lesser extent, the Red Sox for their 2018 replay room codebreaking), Boone never went after Cora -- in public or in private.

He simply knew him too well, and had too much respect for the totality of his character and managerial skills, to hold a grudge.

With Cora back, the rivalry is surprisingly resurgent. Cora and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom are leading a Boston team that is competing for a playoff spot a year or two ahead of the schedule that most in baseball expected.

Despite a rough week in Houston and an offense that has slumped of late, the Red Sox are probably here to stay. Even Yankees people will privately admit it.

Cora and Boone would likely credit the Boston players for that, being former players themselves. But Boone knows that his friend -- now a professional rival again -- is part of what’s different.

“He’s created a culture where it’s a team that really pays close attention to the details,” Boone said.

“He sees the game really well. He’s fearless. I think he’s really good at what he does, and I think his players certainly reflect that and, I think, play with a confidence that he kind of sets that tone for them on a daily basis.”