Hanley Ramirez

Alex Cora, Red Sox discuss relationships with the media

Alex Cora, Red Sox discuss relationships with the media

Like every new manager, Alex Cora made a getting-to-know-you effort with his players this winter. He’s been around the game for a long time: player, ESPN commentator, bench coach. But he did not know many of the Red Sox on a personal level.

“The only guy that I really know is Dustin [Pedroia],” Cora said in January. “Well, I played with Mitch [Moreland] for five days, I think it was. But, talking to them and meeting them, it’s a lot different when — first of all I was on your side, very critical. And then I was the enemy, quote-unquote. So, the conversations were very limited. But now, they're more open.”

Interesting word choice. Catch that? The “enemy, quote-unquote.” Cora said as much basically in passing. But the words are nonetheless a gateway to a loaded topic. The way Cora said them suggested he thinks labeling the media the enemy is, at the very least, an oversimplification. He would know, to an extent. At ESPN, Cora was critical of how Chris Sale cut up jerseys with the White Sox, as most onlookers were. He has an idea of the workings of at least one job in the broad spectrum of media.


But Cora’s mention of the “enemy, quote-unquote” also further validated the idea that players hold this view: some players, in some places, including the Red Sox think this way. No surprise there. But, the subject is particularly relevant to both Cora and the 2018 Red Sox, given how 2017 unfolded without Cora.

Does the new manager think players look at the media as the enemy?

"There’s certain guys [who] feel they’re the enemy,” Cora said in a sit-down with NBC Sports Boston. “You watch TV and you’re like, ‘What is he talking about?’ It’s not enemy as like really, enemy. But you try to keep ‘em away, far enough from you that they don’t bother you. I think at the end of the day, the media has a job to do. I lived it. I have to educate people. And with all the networks, 24-hour sports networks. There’s people there that — they’re there the whole time. And their job is to educate the fans. 

“The fans want information, they want to know about their players, they want to talk about players, they want to be informed about other teams. This market — they do. I mean, I come from an organization that, for how great it was, I never had this feeling. Over 182 days, and in the playoffs, like, the need for information about my team: ‘I gotta know everything about it. What’s Alex doing today? Who’s playing today?’ 

“They ask about the lineup in spring training, sometimes I don’t even know who’s playing. You know, you guys ask me, I’m like, ‘I’ll get back to you.’ But everybody wants to know, and this is a market that they want that, they need it and we understand that. But as the enemy enemy? No no no. It’s not enemy. Sometimes you’re very aware and you’re cautious.”


NBC Sports Boston sat down with a few players in the first couple weeks of spring training, and asked them: what could the media do better in the players’ eyes? The question was presented semi-seriously: maybe there’s a little pet peeve they have in interactions that doesn’t strike at any core issue, something that may be more amusing than anything else. Maybe they in fact have deeper thoughts on the media dynamic as a whole. They were given the floor.

Some of their thoughts:

“What I don’t like, what I would prefer is if people got fully dressed and then everybody ran over at the same time,” Jackie Bradley Jr. said, discussing how the media that actually goes to games can sometimes storm a player’s locker. “Instead of like surrounding the locker before. 

“We kind of get a feel sometimes who’s gonna be asked certain questions and stuff like that. So, I mean yeah, I can only speak for myself. I’m there every time, and I’m fine to answer and I don’t shy away from the hard questions.”

Chris Sale? Well, he had a very Sale-like answer.

“Hey man, if you came and told me how to throw a slider, I’d laugh in your face,” Sale said. “I’m not going to tell you how to do your job. That’s not my style. I’m going to stay in my lane. And you ask me whatever you want to ask me and I’ll find a way to get it done.”

Hanley Ramirez said he doesn’t judge because he knows the media has a job to do.

“Sometimes the fans follow you guys. Sometimes you guys are saying things that the fans sometimes just take it the wrong way, and it’s not good for the players," Ramirez said. "We come every day to the field and get ready. … Sometimes [a game is] not going to go the way that you expect. If you see [a player] hustling and give everything, it's fine, it's fine. For me, it doesn't bother me, because I know that I give everything that I got every day."

Joe Kelly, who pretended to be a media member during camp as a prank, said he does not like when he’s told to talk about a subject rather than asked a question.

“I want it go be grammatically correct,” Kelly said dryly. “When you ask a question, I want your voice to rise a little bit. … If your teacher told you to write a question and then you put an exclamation point, are you going to get an A?"


Rick Porcello took more of a philosophical route. He doesn’t necessarily love talking about the game itself after a game, a game many already know the result of.

“This is a great question for the fans,” Porcello said. “‘Cause that’s really what matters, is what they want to hear? What do they want to hear us talk about? I don’t want to get the question, ‘What happened out there today?’ If anybody watched the game they know what happened . . . Send out a poll question to the fans and see what they want to hear and then starting asking those questions.”

Brock Holt was asked this spring if he thought Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton would hit more than 100 home runs combined. He would prefer if the questions were kept relevant to his own team.

“There is one question . . . 'What did the opposing pitcher have tonight?'” Benintendi said. “Maybe [it would be better if media did] not stand in the middle of like the clubhouse, so we have to go around you guys all the time.”

Cora played too. He said he didn’t love being asked simply, “How do you feel?”

"During my career, not too many people came up to me and talked," Cora said. "I think in 10 days [in Florida with the Red Sox] I had more interviews than I had over the course of my career. I think people want to know. 

“People want to know, what are you thinking in that situation? The answer is like, I don’t know, I just reacted. That’s good enough, you know? We don’t have to go deep into it. Hey, sometimes it’s just a reaction. One thing I’ve been telling them, and I use ground balls as an example. You know, in baseball there’s no right or wrong. Obviously there’s decisions that a manager did make that, yeah, I mean, I’m gonna get crushed because I decided not to pitch this guy in this situation. That comes with the territory. 

“But, as a player . . . there’s a ground ball. The ball comes up, you got two options: either charge the ball and catch the short hop or step back and catch the long one. There’s no right or wrong. So I mean, whatever decision they make during the game, it’s a reaction, it’s instinct.”


Drellich's Red Sox Opening Day roster picture

Drellich's Red Sox Opening Day roster picture

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Opening Day is later this month. As a spring-training exercise, here’s one way to look at the Red Sox' current roster situation.

The roster positions are numbered to 25, with a presumed 13 bench players and 12 pitchers.

There seem to be three competitions: Three players for two spots at the back of the bench, the final spot in the rotation (at least to begin the season while Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright rehab) and the final spot in the bullpen.

One perspective:

CATCHER (Alex Cora has said these two are his catchers, for those watching Blake Swihart’s progress closely.)
1. Christian Vazquez
2. Sandy Leon (no minor-league options)

3. Mitch Moreland
4. Eduardo Nunez
5. Xander Bogaerts
6. Rafael Devers
7. Hanley Ramirez

8. Jackie Bradley
9. Andrew Benintendi
10. Mookie Betts
11. J.D. Martinez

12. BUBBLE-ISH: Brock Holt (options)
13. BUBBLE: Blake Swihart (no options), Deven Marrero (no options)


14. Chris Sale
15. David Price
16. Rick Porcello
17. Drew Pomeranz
18. Fifth starter, Brian Johnson (out of options, could be in bullpen)
BUBBLE: Hector Velazquez (options), Roenis Elias (options)

19. Craig Kimbrel
20. Carson Smith
21. Robby Scott
22. Joe Kelly
23. Matt Barnes
24. Heath Hembree (out of options)
25. BUBBLE: Brandon Workman (options), Austin Maddox (options), Fernando Rodriguez (minors deal)

COMING BACK EVENTUALLY: Tyler Thornburg, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright



Drellich: It's the bench where Martinez creates roster dilemma

Drellich: It's the bench where Martinez creates roster dilemma

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Now that J.D. Martinez is about to join the fold, the Red Sox have some roster intrigue. But it's not at first base with Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez. It sits on the infield with Brock Holt, Blake Swihart and Deven Marrero.

The ideal Red Sox lineup right now — or at least, the version we think we will see when Martinez is officially inked — has Moreland sitting out more often. Still, remember that we are talking about an ideal. Someone will get hurt. Multiple players, in fact. And even if everyone is healthy, we're in an era where teams prioritize depth and keeping players fresh.

"We've got guys that can play the infield and can play the outfield,” manager Alex Cora said Tuesday. "I'm comfortable with that. I'm comfortable with a roster that's very versatile. That's very important. Guys that can complement each other. I've been talking about rest the whole week. It's very important with the travel and schedule and workload, it's very important to have versatile players on your roster.”

In Martinez, Moreland, and Ramirez, there'll be three players on a daily basis for two spots: first base and designated hitter. Martinez just received a $110 million contract to start, likely at DH. So that leaves Ramirez and Moreland to share time at first.

Ramirez has the leg up. He has the bigger bat and the bigger salary. Plus, Cora on Tuesday said he looks at Ramirez as his No. 3 hitter. It would be odd for Cora to declare as much and then put Ramirez in, say, a platoon with the left-handed hitting Moreland once Martinez is officially signed.

“As of now?” Cora said Tuesday. “Hanley Ramirez.”

With that in mind, here’s a quick review (and projection) of the other starting roles:

C: Christian Vazquez
1B: Hanley Ramirez
2B: Eduardo Nunez
SS: Xander Bogaerts
3B: Rafael Devers
LF: Andrew Benintendi
CF: Jackie Bradley Jr.
RF: Mookie Betts
DH: J.D. Martinez 

Make no mistake, Martinez’s arrival will have ripple effects. The Sox traded outfielder Bryce Brentz to the Pirates for cash, clearing a 40-man spot for Martinez, whenever his deal becomes official. (It shouldn’t be long, barring any problems with a physical.) Brentz, a depth right-handed hitting outfielder with pop, was one of a few players the Sox have in camp out of options.

Moreland may well lose some at-bats with Martinez in the fold. Ramirez might too. Unless Ramirez mashes, the Sox will have reason to limit his playing time. At 497 plate appearances, a vesting option kicks in for 2019.

“I was supposed to be in a platoon role last year, split time last year, and I played more than I ever have in my career,” Moreland said Tuesday. “A lot of things can happen. He's a great guy. He's going to be a great addition for us, and looking forward to welcoming him with open arms and watching him help us win.”

Moreland's going to get his crack again this year, you can bet on it. And he also may need some down time himself.

Moreland, 32, had a fractured toe in 2017. His 149 games played were nonetheless a career high. Jackie Bradley Jr. was slowed by injuries last season, as was Mookie Betts, as was Hanley Ramirez, as was even Martinez. 

All it takes is one. An injury in the outfield, for example, could give Martinez more time in left field, in turn opening up the DH spot, in turn opening up more time at first base for Moreland.

Martinez had a sprained right foot to start the 2017 season and played in 119 regular-season games. He had an injury when he first got to Arizona as well (because he was hit by a pitch). He also had a fractured elbow in 2016, when he played 120 games.

People wonder too, well, what happens when Dustin Pedroia comes back? Where does Nunez play? It’s the same principle. Pedroia’s coming off major knee surgery. Nunez is coming off a knee injury of his own. Neither of these guys would do well to be in the lineup every day.

So, what is the real roster intrigue to open the season? If everyone is healthy on Opening Day — and that's also a big if — the bench is tricky.

Assuming the Sox carry 13 position players and that Sandy Leon remains the backup catcher, they'll have to choose two from these three: Brock Holt, who has experience and a $2.2 million salary but also has minor-league options; Deven Marrero, who's the surest defender they have; and Blake Swihart, who's not well versed on the infield but has upside as an athlete and at the plate. Swihart and Marrero do not have options.

Holt, who turns 30 in June, by virtue of his salary, has to be considered a favorite to stick around. At the same time, he's the only one the Sox could freely stash in the minors. Swihart and Marrero have upside that makes them appealing not only to the Sox, but to other teams as well.

Demote Holt? Trade one of Swihart or Marrero? Figure someone's hurt to begin Opening Day?

(Swihart conceivably could be carried as a second catcher, but it'd be hard to see the Sox parting with Leon, whose receiving is so well liked.)

Here's a fuller visual for you:

1. Christian Vazquez
2. Sandy Leon

3. Mitch Moreland
4. Eduardo Nunez
5. Xander Bogaerts
6. Rafael Devers
7. Hanley Ramirez

8. Jackie Bradley
9. Andrew Benintendi
10. Mookie Betts
11. J.D. Martinez

12. Brock Holt?
13. Deven Marrero?
14. Blake Swihart?