BOSTON — As his team celebrated on the Fenway Park diamond around him, an emotional Alex Cora sought out his daughter.
When his role in the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal came to light, she was among those hurt the most. The family’s good name had been tarnished, and the Red Sox manager has had to live with that for the past two years.
It may not be possible for Cora to ever shed the cheater label completely, but after leading the Red Sox to an epic and improbable upset over the heavily favored Tampa Bay Rays, Cora is making the most of his second chance.
“I’m happier for my family that they can enjoy it and turn the page,” Cora said on the field after Boston’s 6-5 series-clinching win. “From my end, if someone is going to remind me of what I did a few years ago and they have the right to do that, but to see my kids and family enjoy this moment after what they went through because of what I did, it means a lot to me.”
None of this was guaranteed when Cora returned as Red Sox manager after a year in exile. The club was coming off a dismal last-place campaign and wasn’t expected to be any more than mediocre.
But now? The Red Sox are headed back to the American League Championship Series.
And it wouldn’t have been possible without Cora.
Throughout the season and particularly since the start of September, Cora has put on a masterclass of managerial excellence. No matter the situation and no matter what setbacks the team faced, he always seems to know just the right buttons to push.
“He doesn’t crumble under the pressure,” said Nathan Eovaldi. “Especially the times where we feel like things are getting tough, he simplifies everything down for us.”
How so? In Game 2 when the Rays scored five runs off Chris Sale in the bottom of the first inning, Cora went back and forth through the dugout reminding everyone they were only down by three with eight innings to play. They’d come back from deficits like that plenty of times, and sure enough that night they did it again.
On the flip side, when the Red Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead in Monday’s Game 4, Cora kept telling his players to keep playing. The Rays were going to fight to come back, he said, and when they did the Red Sox weren’t fazed.
“He stayed the same guy through the whole process, didn’t get too high or too low,” said Kyle Schwarber. “He just stayed that same guy and made sure the boys were out there and we were taking care of business.”
That steady approach, combined with his innate understanding of the game, has helped Cora develop a rare level of trust with his players.
“AC is the captain of our ship. He led us the entire way and he literally never lost faith in us no matter what,” said Tanner Houck. “He’s just constantly believed in us and continue to push us to the best. I’m incredibly thankful to have him as a manager and I’m truly blessed to have him. He is an amazing person.”
“If he told me to run through that wall, I’d believe that he had something there to make sure it would fall for me,” said Garrett Whitlock. “That’s the kind of leader he is.”
When Cora found his daughter during the postgame celebration, the two shared a cathartic and tearful embrace, soaking in a moment years in the making.
Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox baseball boss who gave Cora his second chance, stood nearby beaming with pride. Of all the reasons he has to be thrilled with his club’s unexpected return to contention, seeing Cora climb out of baseball’s abyss has been right near the top of the list.
“I’m happy for him. I’m happy for him to be able to experience this after the whole journey he’s been through,” Bloom said. “Even once he came back this year hasn’t been easy. There have been a lot of challenges that this year has brought. Now we get a chance to keep playing, go to the ALCS, it’s so exciting.”