LOS ANGELES — After the Red Sox won their fourth World Series in 15 seasons Sunday, players were not shy in their use of superlatives in praising first-year manager Alex Cora.
Those who hired Cora last offseason felt the same way.
“On every level, the way he dealt with everyone and managed this clubhouse was remarkable,” principal owner John Henry said on the field after the trophy presentation.
Cora was the hot name last offseason among managerial candidates, and Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski targeted the then-Astros bench coach during Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series crown. He was hired after the Astros beat the Yankees in the ALCS.
Cora came with a reputation that appeals to those in a position to choose managers nowadays: top-notch communication skills, the ability to connect with players, and a willingness to embrace analytics and a collaboration between the manager and the front office in making key decisions.
Dombrowski believed he had that in Cora, 43, but he still surpassed those expectations. That’s something Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, now a special adviser in the Red Sox organization, highlighted in a recent conversation.
“When I talked to Tony, he said, ‘Dave, the thing that’s phenomenal for me, I know Alex is good and he has a lot of good baseball people around him, but the way he’s brought people together so quickly is something I’ve never seen,’ ” Dombrowski said on the Dodgers Stadium grass late Sunday night as Red Sox players and their families celebrated nearby. “And, of course, he’s [La Russa] been in the dugout himself for years. For me, the way he brought people together in such a quick fashion, I don’t think you could ever anticipate that.”
La Russa, who went 2,728-2,365 in the regular season and won six pennants and three World Series in a 33-year career in the dugout, said Cora is the complete package as a manager.
“He has substance because he knows what relationships are all about and how important it is to cultivate them,” La Russa said on the field after Game 5. “In this game, though, you have to have baseball knowledge and you have to have judgment. You can’t just be a relationship guy because you’re making decisions.”
Part of what made Cora so effective, La Russa said, was that the young manager was comfortable enough in his own skin to hire a cross-section of coaches — such as baseball lifer Ron Roenicke as bench coach — and allow them to do their jobs.
“He had the great sense to put together this coaching staff and empower them all to work together, in and out of uniform,” La Russa said. “There’s guys in the background, too, providing reports, so his feel for the team concept [was important]. In the end, he’s the guy that pulls the trigger, and I thought he was masterful at that. Sometimes you see guys that are smart but they don’t expose themselves [making the tough call]. If he believed in it, he did it, and that’s leadership.”
Henry, whose team had failed in the first round of the postseason each of the previous two seasons under John Farrell, had believed his club had the right manager in Cora but acknowledged not being 100 percent certain.
“Until you see someone manage day to day, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Henry said. “He put together a clubhouse that had more unity than I’ve ever seen. It shows what day-to-day perseverance, sense of purpose, dedication [can accomplish]. Every day and he had them ready. On every level, he was a superior manager. He was every bit as good as our best players every day . . . The way he integrated the baseball ops, front office, into the clubhouse, that’s rare.”