Red Sox

Alex Cora's outburst with broadcaster a footnote or an omen?

Alex Cora's outburst with broadcaster a footnote or an omen?

After a season of discord for the Red Sox, Alex Cora’s job is to create stability. To reduce moments like Dustin Pedroia telling Manny Machado, “It’s not me, it’s them," and prevent another David Price-Dennis Eckersley confrontation.

But a loud misstep in Cora's time as the Astros’ bench coach opens a question of how effectively the new manager will prevent a repeat of the past. Not only the Red Sox’ past, but his own. 

In his first year as a major league coach, Cora lived a night with echoes of Price-Eckersley.

On Aug. 31, less than two months before he was named Sox manager and at a time of peak anxiety off the field, Cora cursed out Astros broadcaster Geoff Blum on a team bus heading from the airport to the stadium in Houston. When the bus arrived at the Astros’ Minute Maid Park, Cora went off again, screaming at his boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch. 

Both expletive-filled episodes were visible to a large number of the Astros’ traveling party. The confrontations were described to NBC Sports Boston by multiple people with direct knowledge of them, including witnesses. 

Whether the lack of self-control Cora displayed proves a footnote to Cora’s coaching career or an omen entering his first managerial gig is to be seen. 

Multiple sources said Cora had been drinking and that it contributed to his behavior. It is not uncommon for players or staff to drink on travel days. There is no indication Cora has a recurring issue controlling his alcohol intake. 

Cora declined comment on specifics of what transpired. Blum and Hinch declined any comment.

“You learn how to overcome. It happens on every team," Cora said. "People have disagreements. Sometimes it’s about life, sometimes it’s about the game. The good thing is that you work with people that you respect, and they respect you . . . You move on and you learn from it and you keep getting better.”

The situation did not become physical. A highly sought after manager, Cora felt embarrassed by his actions, and later apologized to both parties.

The circumstances the Astros found themselves in on Aug. 31 were complex and intense -- a statement true for every member of the organization. The Astros were returning to Houston and to their homes for the first time since Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25.

As Houston came into view on the plane back from Florida, where games were temporarily relocated, some Astros had trouble seeing land because there was so much water everywhere, an unsettling moment. Everyone was worried about their family, their friends, and their city, as they began to see the devastation firsthand. In addition, Cora was greatly concerned about potential damage to his native Puerto Rico from Hurricane Irma, which would hit the island within a week. (The more powerful and destructive Hurricane Maria, which would not reach Puerto Rico until Sept. 20, had yet to form.)

Against that backdrop, behind-the-scenes friction between Cora and Blum boiled over when Blum, who played 14 years in the majors like Cora, asked Cora to turn down music on the bus. Curse words came at Blum for about five minutes. (Unlike the Price-Eckersley drama, Cora’s argument with Blum did not stem from commentary on air.)

Once off the bus, Cora lashed out at Hinch as Hinch tried to defuse the situation. The incident with Hinch lasted roughly another 10 minutes near the stadium’s loading dock, as both team buses -- one for staff, which carried Cora and Blum, and one for players -- disembarked. Former Astros outfielder and Yankees managerial candidate Carlos Beltran tried to calm down Cora.

“Between Harvey and [Irma], it was a combination of a lot of emotions on a personal level,” Cora said. “We’re flying everywhere, man, and then the team, we weren’t playing good [with an 11-17 record in August]. I learned that we can be -- honestly, honestly, on a personal standpoint, I learned that boys are boys, and it’s a family and you’re going to have your good days and your bad days."

Cora did not point to the fact the Astros won the World Series to downplay the incident. 

“We were one game away from losing against the Yankees [in the ALCS],” Cora said. 

Rather, as Cora explained it, the incident mattered afterward only because the result was a tighter bond with Hinch.

“Our relationship grew up and it got better, and hey, man, my biggest supporter throughout the whole process, who was it? It was A.J. Hinch," Cora said. "Because we slipped at one point doesn’t mean it was over. I think families, and friends, they got moments. And it was a moment. And it wasn’t a great moment . . . If we lose to the Dodgers (in the World Series), it was going to be the same thing. That whole month of October, with him, he was not my mentor, but he was the guy that I was looking up to throughout the process.”

A manager can be emotional and successful, Cora believes. Yet, there’s the adage that the manager need be the steadiest guy in the room, the most even-keeled. 

Cora plans to encourage emotion in his players. When he played, he feels he was too buttoned up, despite a famous moment in his time at the University of Miami, when a walk-off home run ended the College World Series in a loss and Cora crumpled to the ground in disappointment.

"I encourage guys to be passionate about it and show emotion,” Cora said. “I was the other way around. And sometimes I regret that. I didn’t have as much as fun on the field . . . It goes with the era I grew up in the game. And it’s not just my playing years, but before that. Following [my brother] Joey and his career, winter ball and the way he was."

Alex’s m.o. in a non-playing leadership role is still taking shape. Cora said that during his time in winter ball in Puerto Rico last year, and then during the World Baseball Classic in the spring, he found himself more publicly reserved than he had been in the past.

"I think A.J. showed more emotion than I did, throughout the [Astros’] season,” Cora said. "I think the whole year was a learning process of trying to stay calm. At the same time, inside, I was enjoying the whole thing.”

Anger has a different time and place for expression compared to, say, joy or anxiety. Asked if it would be okay for a manager to react the way he did on Aug. 31, Cora reiterated he learned from the situation.

The Red Sox presumably would have liked to discuss the events of Aug. 31 with Cora during the interview process, but they didn't know the events happened until NBC Sports Boston reached out to the team, sources confirmed.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski declined to discuss his interview process.

“He’s our manager, we’re thrilled that’s he’s with us,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve had some tremendous managers around me that lost their cool at times. And I think every situation’s different. When I’m not there, it’s hard to evaluate different things.”

The Sox moved quickly to make a hire so they could land a top candidate, announcing Cora’s arrival 11 days after announcing John Farrell’s firing. It’s the Sox’ responsibility to know everything about their new manager, but, at the same time, it’s difficult to gather every detail in a short window.

A mistake like Aug. 31 in Cora's new role would be problematic, given that his job here is to defuse tension.

“I’m very comfortable with the way I do things,” Cora said generally. “We just got to wait and see, man. Right now we’re in a stage, that I know that the organization, everybody is connected and talking and looking forward for what’s going to happen.

“I’ve been able to learn about guys and talk about guys, and the most important thing [of late] is the coaching staff. Connecting with them and getting ideas from them.

“All that stuff is going on right now, so I have no idea how I’m going to be. I know what I want. I know what I want from this team. From the coaching staff. From the medical staff. Analytics staff, everybody. You name it, I know what I want from them. But until Feb. 14 starts, we have no idea.”

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Pros (prospects!) and cons (Wil Myers?) of potential Mookie Betts trade to Padres

Pros (prospects!) and cons (Wil Myers?) of potential Mookie Betts trade to Padres

With multiple reports revealing that the Padres and Red Sox have discussed a Mookie Betts trade, here are some thoughts on what it all means ...

MONEY MATTERS

The money doesn't really work for me. In swapping Betts for outfielder/first baseman Wil Myers, the Red Sox would save $13 million in 2020, which gets them roughly two-thirds of the way towards their goal of dropping below the $208 million luxury tax threshold. Maybe San Diego kicks in some cash to increase that number.

Boston would then be assuming the final three years and $68.5 million remaining on Myers' contract (including a $1 million buyout in 2023), though for luxury tax purposes, he'd only count for just under $14 million annually.

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If the Red Sox are intent on slashing $21 million in payroll, jettisoning Betts and still coming up well short of that goal feels suboptimal.

Put another way: if the Red Sox carry Betts into the season and then trade him at the deadline, they'd save about $9 million. Is that $4 million difference worth four months of Betts to see if the Red Sox can contend?

From this view, that's a yes.

L.A. STORY

I'd still rather move David Price and the $32 million he's owed in 2020 to find the savings the Red Sox need, and that's why the Dodgers remain their most logical trade partners.

L.A. has the need for the five-tool outfielder after two World Series losses and one shocking NLDS ouster, it has the financial and prospect resources to acquire both Betts and Price, and it could actually use another starter, to boot.

Add Andrew Friedman's familiarity with Price from their Tampa days, and these Padres discussions feel more like a way to goose the Dodgers to the table rather than watch a star player join a division rival.

WHERE THERE'S A WIL ...

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom knows Myers well from Tampa, where the slugger was one of the centerpieces of the 2012 trade that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City.

Myers won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2013 in what was a remarkably weak class — former Red Sox infielder Jose Iglesias finished second — and made an All-Star team in 2016 with the Padres, but has trended noticeably downward since. Injuries limited him to 83 games in 2018, and last year he hit only .239 with 18 homers while striking out 168 times.

If the Red Sox are going to take Myers, they absolutely need the Padres to pick up some of his salary, because there's a real possibility he has reached the JAG portion of his career.

BUYER BEWARE

Granted, this little bit of egregiousness happened on Dave Dombrowski's watch, but how quickly the Red Sox forget the pitfalls of dealing with A.J. Preller.

The Padres GM was suspended by MLB for withholding medical information that would've revealed more extensive damage to the elbow of left-hander Drew Pomeranz before the Red Sox acquired him in 2016.

The Red Sox surrendered their top pitching prospect, right-hander Anderson Espinoza, and by the time San Diego's malfeasance was revealed, the Red Sox decided it was too late to undo the deal.

Espinoza has since needed a pair of Tommy John surgeries, leaving his career very much in doubt, but the Red Sox shouldn't forget how badly Preller burned them.

FARM FRESH

If there's one plus to a potential San Diego deal, it's that the Red Sox would be choosing players from one of baseball's most loaded farm systems, as we laid out here.

A couple of names to watch: imposing Cuban right-hander Michel Baez, a 6-foot-8 behemoth who is a potential future closer, and catcher Luis Campusano, who is considered one of the best young backstops in the minors.

MLB Rumors: What Padres could give Red Sox in Mookie Betts trade

MLB Rumors: What Padres could give Red Sox in Mookie Betts trade

The Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres reportedly have opened discussions on a Mookie Betts trade.

But what would that trade entail?

The Boston Globe's Alex Speier offered some insight Friday morning, reporting that current talks involve San Diego sending outfielder Wil Myers "as well as both prospects and young controllable major league pieces" to the Red Sox.

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Speier also added this, via a source:

San Diego expressed willingness to clear the bar set by the trade of Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks to the Cardinals last winter, at a time when Goldschmidt had one remaining year of team control before he reached free agency.

Arizona's haul in that Dec. 2018 trade included starting pitcher Luke Weaver, major-league catcher Carson Kelly, infield prospect Andy Young and St. Louis' Round B competitive balance pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.

The Padres, with the second-youngest roster in baseball as of 2019 and one of the game's strongest farm systems, have both controllable young MLB players and prospects to entice the Red Sox in a Betts deal.

Among the former group, Speier lists 23-year-old outfielder Trent Grisham or 26-year-old shortstop/pitcher Jake Cronenworth as potential targets for Boston, as well as three young pitchers: right-handed starter Cal Quantrill, left-handed starter Joey Lucchesi and righty reliever Michel Baez.

Lucchesi is the most accomplished player of that bunch with 56 starts (18-19 record; 4.14 ERA) over two big-league seasons, but all are 26 years old or younger and are on team-friendly deals.

As for prospects, San Diego likely won't deal its top four prospects -- pitcher Mackenzie Gore, pitcher Luis Patino, outfielder Taylor Trammell and shortstop C.J. Abrams -- but the Padres have two more prospects on Baseball America's Top 100 list whom Boston may covet in catcher Luis Campusano and pitcher Adrian Morejon.

To land Betts, it appears San Diego would need to send Myers (who's owed $61 million on the final three years of his contract), at least one major league-level player and at least one prospect to the Red Sox, potentially adding a draft pick as a sweetener.

That's a lot of moving parts, and if Chaim Bloom and Padres general manager A.J. Preller can't make them fit, then this deal could fall through quickly.