To say this wasn’t the Boston Red Sox’s year would be an understatement, and Alex Cora knows that.
Boston had a historic run in 2018, winning a franchise-best 108 regular-season games en route to a World Series championship in Cora’s first year. And with essentially the same team returning in 2019, many thought the Red Sox were destined to repeat.
But an Opening Day loss to the Seattle Mariners foreshadowed what was about to come. Boston never really could find a groove, at times looking like the defending World Series champs and other times looking completely lost. Cora said several times his team was consistent at being inconsistent, and an 84-78 record proved that.
But was there ever a time in the season the skipper thought it was time to look toward 2020? Cora revealed to The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey that there wasn’t just one time, but maybe even a few games the thought crossed his mine.
“Honestly, well there were a few games we did stuff out of the ordinary,” he told McCaffrey. “I told you there were certain games I felt like if we win that game, we take off. The game against the Dodgers on (July 14, a 7-4 loss). We got a man on second, no outs, and we trust that Marco (Hernandez), he’s going to pull the ball. He hits a ground ball to short and Jackie (Bradley Jr.) at second, he gets thrown out. It’s like ‘Ugh. We don’t usually do that.’
“Then we lost two out of three in Baltimore. But then we go to Tampa and win the first two, but the whole freaking mess on the 24th with the changing pitchers. We won two, but that third game kind of took everything out of it. I didn’t notice it (then), but I was out there for 25 minutes. So that was like, ‘That’s weird.’ We beat Tampa two out of three but it didn’t feel that way. Then you get to that Sunday game (against the Yankees on July 28). You (have a chance to) sweep them, but we get beat. And it’s like, ‘Man.’ Last year, we (would have) swept them.”
Did Cora think it had anything to do with the team not acquiring any help — particularly a closer — at the trade deadline?
“I just feel like we put ourselves in a tough spot,” Cora said. “It’s just one of those that you’re, like, in the middle. You put pressure on ownership and the front office to make the big deal. But right around there, that’s when we (beat New York) three out of four but lose (the finale) on Sunday. We lose on Tuesday. If we won that Sunday, maybe it was different. But we were fighting for the wild card at that point. We were close, but not that close. It wasn’t easy. I think the players understood that. I just think we didn’t play well. There were taxing games around there. If Christian (Vazquez) hits a homer the 30th (with two runners on and two outs in the ninth inning of a 6-5 loss to Tampa), then boom, maybe it’s different. But I don’t think it was making a trade or not. It was about us playing and (it) just didn’t happen.”
Boston now focuses on what likely is to be a busy offseason with names like Mitch Moreland, Rick Porcello and Brock Holt all becoming free agents, while J.D. Martinez can opt-out of his current contract and test the free-agent market. Only time will tell where these players end up and how the Red Sox handle 2020 in order to get back to the postseason.
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images