Absolutely, Alex Cora becoming the first minority manager of the Red Sox is significant.
Even if it took this long — for this organization in particular — it's another page turned on a disturbing past.
A parade of lily-white managers has finally been broken by a face of color that not only better represents today’s game, it’s future and the players who take the field for the Olde Towne Team, but this city and region as well.
And for that, Cora’s hiring should be celebrated.
But this day could have done without not only ignoring the pink (hat) elephant in the room, but whitewashing it as well.
“How significant is it?” said an almost startled — why would anyone ask that question?! — John Henry after the press conference, which featured Cora presenting the organization the flag of his native Puerto Rico for their relief efforts in the wake of the recent hurricanes. “In my mind, it did not play a role. We chose the best man. We weren’t looking to make a statement, we were looking to do the best thing for the organization.”
If you believe that, I have some leftover Fenway bricks to sell you.
Sure, the Red Sox, after 117 years of only white managers, being the last team to integrate in 1959, and nearly three months after Henry said he was “haunted” by renowned racist Tom Yawkey’s name being on the street outside the ballpark and wanted it changed, just so happened to name a Puerto Rican as their 47th manager.
This is after Dave Dombrowski said he wanted to find a manager with experience or at least extensive bench coaching experience, for the next steward of his team. Cora met neither of those qualifications. Yet, the Red Sox couldn’t hire Cora quick enough after dispatching John Farrell. They even took the highly unusual step of officially naming him before the World Series, but not introducing Cora until after his Astros were victorious.
Sure, this was all just the stars aligning.
Nevermind the fact that during Henry’s stints as owners of the Marlins and the Red Sox, his managers were John Boles (Tony Perez was interim manager but quickly went back to being a special assistant the next season), Grady Little, Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine and John Farrell, while his general managers were Dombrowski (twice), Theo Epstein (twice-ish), and Ben Cherington (twice).
The Sox haven’t exactly been the “It’s A Small World” ride of Major League Baseball.
It would be a little bit awkward, don’t you think, if you’re the owner of the Red Sox and recently made national news because you bemoaned the racist history of the franchise and wanted it stricken from the exterior of the ballpark, and then, when you had the most important job opening in the franchise, gave it to another white manager? It wouldn’t be so easy to sell the city, and take questions, about getting Yawkey Way changed to, say, Jimmy Fund Way if that were the case.
John, you’ve had 10-ish opportunities to hire either a minority manager or general manager and you haven’t done it once, are you sure you’re the one…
But now, after hiring Cora, Henry can walk those corridors of power and talk about change in front of microphones from a position of strength.
You can just see it now: Cora and Henry telling the city council why it’s important to change the name. Cora and Henry cutting the ribbon when it’s finally made.
Henry and Ron Gardenhire at those photo ops doesn’t quite sing the same way, does it?
Don’t mistake pointing out the obvious to mean that Cora is in some way unqualified for the job. Hardly. In fact, I didn’t like Dombrowski putting those qualifications on the job in the first place.
Cora is young, Hispanic, has been well respected throughout his career on and off the field, communicates exceedingly well to the players and the media, and his mere presence brings a fresh air to the often stale hallways of Fenway.
Can’t you just see players like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and Hanley Ramirez buying in just a little bit more for Cora, which could help push the Sox when it matters the most? Or how about Eduardo Nunez, who became so important as a glue guy down the stretch, sticking around for next season because of who the new skipper is? Of course, that will pale in comparison to how David Price and Dustin Pedroia (in many ways, Cora's protege) get their collective acts together. Price thinks former players have all the answers anyway, so it feels like the Sox are cooking with gas with Cora (ok, at least he might buy in for a few more months).
So, yeah, I’m all for giving Cora a shot, no matter what country he comes from. And at least Cora didn’t run away from the question or scoff ignorance that his first language isn’t English.
“As far as being the first minority manager of the Boston Red Sox … I always said the last few years, I’m a capable manager. It was going to come down to somebody giving me that opportunity,” he said. “I never thought I was getting interviewed because I was a minority. I’m proud to be Puerto Rican. You’re going to see that flag, a lot of fans from back home. I see it as I’m a capable guy. Yeah, the history (here), I understand it, and the history throughout the game. There aren’t many Latino managers, there aren’t many minority managers, there are 30 capable managers and I’m one of them.”
On his first day on the job, Cora already showed that he has a much firmer grasp of reality than his new bosses. That's as good a start as any.