Mason: Murky team meeting talk a rare communication breakdown with Alex Cora

AP photoIt’s easy to see why Alex Cora does almost everything, which makes his back-and-forth importance on a team meeting all the more perplexing.

NEW YORK — Alex Cora is an ace communicator. 

So articulate in his second language that he served as an ESPN analyst, Cora’s ability to get through to people is one of his strongest qualities. It helped land him this gig managing the Red Sox and his players love him for it. Cora’s reasoning is always clear, he can rib guys in English or Spanish, and he embodies the transparent-and-accountable mantra he demands. 

That’s what makes the last 48 hours so head-scratching. 

To borrow a phrase from the warden in Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” 

It all stems from a team meeting that didn’t happen. Or maybe it did? But probably didn’t.  

Before Thursday’s loss to the Rays, Cora spoke about the need for sit down with his players following a string of bad losses and Dave Dombrowski’s inactivity at the trade deadline. 

“I’ll make it up (Thursday night) on the way to New York,” Cora said of the substance. “But I think it’s important, not because of what people think, it’s just what’s coming now. It’s August 1st, August 2nd, whenever we talk. This is the reality of where we’re at. They know, but it’s just a reminder, and we do that most of the time, but probably in a different setup.”

Makes sense given the way the Sox were dropping games to the Rays.

How common are meetings like this?

“Not common at all,” Cora said on Thursday. “I mean, we meet on a daily basis to go over pitchers and I use that sometimes to send a message or we need to do this better, or we’re doing this great, just keep going. Not too often.”

That checks out.

Friday afternoon is where the brain freeze begins. 

During his pregame press conference at Yankee Stadium, Cora was asked whether he’d held the meeting. 

“Nah, nah,” Cora said. “We always talk. The way I said it, yeah it sounded that way, but we always address stuff during the day. It can be in the food room, in the hitters’ meeting, pitchers’ meeting. We always try to find something positive we’re doing, or if we’re not doing something right, just address it. We do it on a daily basis. The way I said it was out of proportion.

“First of all, if we’re going to have a team meeting, you guys are going to be the last people to know about it,” Cora continued. “And second, we communicate with the players on a daily basis. Different places. It can be at breakfast in the morning or lunch or in the clubhouse, the bus. That’s the way I operate.”

But 24 hours earlier the manager made a point to say it was important to hold this session in a different setting.

Cora was asked whether there was going to be a meeting but he changed his mind. Or was he just kidding?

“All of the above,” Cora replied.

And the brain freeze intensifies.

So at one point they were going to have a meeting? And now they aren’t?

“What I said two days ago is we might address where we’re at after the trading deadline,” Cora answered. “Somebody asked me about the mood in the clubhouse and if they were down because we didn’t add somebody that day. I said we might address it, we might not, I might talk to the guys about where we’re at. They know where we’re at. Then somebody asked me (Thursday) about the meeting and I said I might do it (Friday), I might not. And now...”

So why the change of heart? 

“I’ll do it on a daily basis,” Cora responded. “It’s just not a close-door meeting. It’s not like let’s close doors and let me go at it.”

Does he think Dombrowski’s dead deadline had anything to do with the losses to the Rays?

“No,” Cora said. “I just think we didn’t execute pitches.” 

With that he delved into a breakdown of the Tampa Bay losses.

There was still no clarity on why the importance of a meeting had been zapped in 24 hours. Or maybe it was never important to begin with. 

Got it?

Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Daily News and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at cmason@northofboston.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason.