How Red Sox Can Use Spring Training To Set Tone For 2022 Season

Alex Cora knows the importance of sending the right message early


Mar 17, 2022

Alex Cora learned a very important lesson early in his Boston Red Sox managerial career: Each season is different, for better or worse.

Sure, there might be continuity in certain areas. The goal of most franchises, after all, is to build a roster that’s capable of sustaining success year over year. But the past isn’t necessarily indicative of the future, and therefore it’s paramount to constantly recalibrate based on the present.

“I learned in ’18 going into ’19, it’s not the same season,” Cora told reporters this week at Red Sox spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. “It’s a new season, a lot of new challenges, and obviously we have to cancel the noise, because it’s going to be loud. There’s a lot of good teams in this division. We are one of them. But at the same time, it’s kind of like last year in the sense that we have to fight for every inch. We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to keep improving, and we’ll see where it takes us.”

World Series titles aren’t won in March. But it’s not hyperbolic to say they can be lost.

At the very least, failing to set the right tone in spring training can adversely affect a team at the beginning of the season, which could have serious repercussions down the road.

Take 2019, for instance.

The Red Sox had just tasted championship glory in 2018, a season in which they won a franchise-record 108 games before knocking off the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers en route to a World Series triumph in Cora’s first year as Boston’s skipper. Yet, the Red Sox lost 13 of their first 19 games while defending their crown. They finished 2019 with an 84-78 record, a 24-game swing from the previous campaign and a mark that resulted in a third-place finish in the American League East.

So, what happened?

Well, a lot, obviously. Several players regressed, and the pitching simply wasn’t up to snuff. But one could argue the Red Sox’s season was doomed from the start, as Cora insisted Boston didn’t need to “turn the page” but rather “write a new chapter” — a mindset he since has acknowledged was misguided.

“Alex’s message to the team, as usual, was powerful,” Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy told reporters this week at JetBlue Park, shedding light on what Cora told his players upon reporting to camp this year. “He talked about making a mistake in ’18 and delivering a message that we don’t want to turn the page, that we want to just keep this thing rolling. And he acknowledged that that was a mistake and we need to reinvent ourselves each and every year.”

The Red Sox silenced many doubters in 2021, reaching the AL Championship Series and falling just two wins shy of the Fall Classic. Clearly, they have plenty to build on this season, especially since they’re equipped with an improved farm system and more financial wiggle room.

That said, the Red Sox still need to put in the work before Opening Day — doubly so with a truncated camp in wake of the MLB lockout. Thus, it’s important for Cora to achieve universal buy-in right from jump street. And he did so this week by connecting with his players on a personal level.

“We talked about life, man,” Cora said of his message to the team at Fenway South. “How much we miss them. During the offseason, not being able to connect with them. Obviously, we know the reasons, but at the same time, one of the things that we want to make sure as an organization is that you’ve got to turn the page and it’s not a sprint. You have to slow it down.

“I know rumors-wise and transactions-wise and the handful amount of (spring training) games, it looks like it’s going to be a 100-meter race. But it’s not. We know it. So if we are able to do that — not only players or staff down here, but from top to bottom — we’re going to be in good shape.”

Of course, even the perfect message can only go so far. It sure beats the alternative of starting off on the wrong foot, though, and the Red Sox know this as well as anyone as their 2022 journey begins.

Thumbnail photo via Andrew West/The News-Press via USA TODAY Sports Images
Las Vegas Raiders running back Brandon Bolden
Previous Article

Two Patriots Running Backs Bid Farewell To Team En Route To Raiders

Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner
Next Article

Fantasy Football 2022: Biggest Winners, Losers Amid NFL Free Agency

Picked For You