Red Sox

Alex Cora's stunning fall a tale of a good man who couldn't see that he had pushed it too far

Alex Cora's stunning fall a tale of a good man who couldn't see that he had pushed it too far

Alex Cora conducted press conferences before and after every game he managed, and in Fenway Park, it was impossible to miss his entrance.

Cora appeared from the weight room through a door that stuck like July thighs. As the season progressed, budging it required increasingly aggressive force. But Cora is not easily denied, so he inevitably blasted it open while somehow managing not to stumble into the frame like Kramer.

A carpenter with a wood plane could've solved the problem in minutes, but Cora seemed to enjoy the challenge. He'd enter with a shake of his head and a look that said, "Vanquished again, door," before taking his seat in true alpha fashion by stepping over the chair rather than pulling it out demurely.

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The idea of Cora solving problems by lowering his shoulder might not be the first image that springs to mind in the wake of a cheating scandal involving videotape, codebreaking, and spycraft, but it feels apt as we digest the shocking news that he's out as Red Sox manager after only two seasons.

Both sides agreed to a mutual parting of the ways on Tuesday that brings his tenure to a stunning conclusion. Hired as a wunderkind who had studied at the altar of the game's most progressive franchise, Cora brought more than a knowledge of analytics from Houston, we now know.

He learned not to let regulations limit his ability to seek whatever edge he could manage. And while he may not have instructed Red Sox players to bang on any trash cans, his solution for stealing opposing signs was still about as subtle as a Fast and Furious sequel -- use the replay room in real time, brute-force the code, relay it to a runner on second base, damn the consequences.

Considering the warning MLB had given each team in the wake of the Red Sox being caught using an Apple Watch in 2017, Cora's flouting of the rules qualified as brazen, if not breathtaking. The Red Sox and Astros clearly calculated that violations involving this minor espionage would continue receiving slaps on the wrist. They never saw the sledgehammer swinging until it went splat.

And so Cora lowered his shoulder to see what kind of doors he could force open. We'll never know exactly what impact the scheme had on the 2018 title, because that team was a killing machine, but that's hardly the point. Not needing an edge doesn't negate the fact that you tried to take one anyway, a point that's continually lost on our friends in Foxboro.

Cora has now learned this painful lesson, possibly at the expense of his career. It's truly a shame, because he signified so much that's good about the game, from his enthusiasm for the job, to his willingness to be an ambassador both at home and abroad, to his outstanding tactical and communication skills. The Red Sox don't win it all without him, and who knows if young stars Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Christian Vazquez blossom, either.

Cora should've had a long career here and as recently as the winter meetings last month, he was still focused on atoning for the disappointment of 2019. It's fair to say the events of the last 48 hours have blindsided him as much as anyone, even if they are entirely self-made.

Where this leaves his legacy is in tatters. If he never works again, he'll be the man who brought Boston a title before succumbing to his own hubris. If he does manage again, he's certainly capable of redemption, but for now, that decision is out of his hands.

When confronted with on-field challenges in his Red Sox tenure, Cora liked to say, "We'll be fine," with a cocky shrug, so great was his confidence that the team would find its way to the other side. And in 2018, anyway, he was consistently right.

But it turns out there are some problems you simply can't will away, no matter how much you throw your weight into them.

This photo of Mookie Betts, Brock Holt will look so strange to Red Sox fans

This photo of Mookie Betts, Brock Holt will look so strange to Red Sox fans

The Boston Red Sox lost two of their fan favorites over the offseason with the departures of Mookie Betts and Brock Holt.

Betts was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a multi-player blockbuster deal earlier this month, and Holt left as a free agent to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers. Betts and Holt spent six years as teammates in Boston and helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2018. 

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They were reunited Friday for the first time since leaving Boston when the Dodgers and Brewers squared off in a spring training game in Phoenix. They even posed for a photo, which is sure to bring some sadness to Red Sox fans everywhere.

Check it out in the tweet below:

It's going to take some time for Red Sox fans to get used to seeing Betts and Holt on different teams (and in the National League). Making matters worse is the Red Sox apparently put Betts on some of their season tickets sent out to fans.

It's going to be a long year for Red Sox fans, and it could get even worse in October if Betts and/or Holt enjoy postseason success.

Ron Roenicke explains why he's hidden radar gun readings at JetBlue Park

Ron Roenicke explains why he's hidden radar gun readings at JetBlue Park

Ron Roenicke dislikes baseball's current obsession with velocity, so he has removed the tool that feeds his pitchers' counterproductive cycle of gratification and mortification — the radar gun.

Attend a game at JetBlue Park this spring, and you'll notice the familiar scoreboard velocity readings are missing. That's by design, Roenicke explained to reporters in Fort Myers on Friday morning, because at this point in camp, no good can come of overextending.

"You guys all see what pitchers do," Roenicke said. "They throw a pitch, then it's rub here and the eye is right on the radar. Right now, that's not a good thing. So I think as much as we can stay, and I realize the fans want that radar up there, we'll get it up there when Bushy feels like, OK, they're beyond the point, we can start putting it up there."

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Bushy is pitching coach Dave Bush, and he brings an analytical bent to the job, but also experience as a veteran of nine seasons, including a pair of 12-win campaigns with the Brewers in the mid-2000s.

The Red Sox have struggled to keep their pitchers from overthrowing early in the spring over the years, with ace Chris Sale memorably hitting 99 mph in his very first Grapefruit League appearance in 2017.

"It's there. It's real," Roenicke said. "You see it in every big league game. A pitcher comes into the game, he throws that first pitch, and those eyes are right up on the radar. When they don't see what they are used to seeing, maybe if a guy is 95 and all of a sudden he looks up there and sees 92, he's like, 'Whoa.' Whether he's going to throw harder on that next pitch or what, it makes a difference."

Roenicke played during an era when craftiness and guile were as valued as velocity, with pitchers like Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine living on the black and winning with pinpoint command. It may help explain why Roenicke is so impressed with right-hander Ryan Weber, a longshot fifth starter candidate who rarely breaks 90 mph, but throws a curveball and sinker with considerable movement.

With teams prioritizing big arms above all else in the draft, Roenicke worries about a generation of kids obsessing over throwing rather than pitching.

"When I was young, I didn't even know what a radar gun was," he said. "I just tried to pitch to get guys out, pitch to the corners where guys didn't seem to hit the baseball. Now they're pitching to velocity. You're seeing it in Little League. You're seeing it in radar guns all the way through." 

A kid, if in his mind he's thinking about playing professionally, it's max. It's max effort to throw the baseball. Max effort doesn't last if you do this all the way up through. You just can't last. It scares me.

Roenicke hopes teams don't shy away from the Webers of the world, pitchers with unconventional repertoires who nonetheless show some potential. He'd like to see soft, cerebral throwers win games so the pendulum swings back.

"If we see pitchers come up and they are successful and being able to hit spots again, I think if that happens, yeah," he said. "I hope they continue to give those guys chances. So if you're in college and your record is whatever, 15-3 but you only throw 88, I hope we still continue to give those guys a chance."

So don't go look for radar gun readings in Fort Myers this spring, because for now, they're nowhere to be seen.