Alex Cora, from Puerto Rico, has now become the second Latino managing in the MLB, and the 12th full-time hire in the sport’s history. On Sunday, the Boston Red Sox announced they had agreed on a 3-year contract with Cora–who played 14 seasons with 6 different teams, including the team he now manages. The 42-year-old, along with his older brother, Joey (who has, in the past, criticized the MLB hiring system), was among the Latino names often mentioned as potential managerial hires. Now that he has been named boss of the Red Sox—something Cora described as a “dream come true”—he becomes the franchise’s first Latino manager.
As a player, coach, and executive, the younger of the Cora brothers has been successful everywhere he’s been. As a college player at the University of Miami, Cora led the Hurricanes to the College World Series in each of his 3 seasons. While playing in the MLB, Cora was a member of the 2007 World Series champion Red Sox squad. Cora was also the general manager for Puerto Rico’s national baseball team that made it to the finals of the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Currently, Cora is a bench coach with the Houston Astros, who are currently in the World Series–Cora will join the Red Sox after the World Series.
Along with Cora’s accomplishment and knowledge of the game, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski mentioned that the Puerto Rican being bilingual was significant to the team. Being able to speak Spanish has become pivotal for a league where close to a third of its players are Latin American, and the Red Sox are no different.
The hire is also important from a historical sense, as Boston is an iconic baseball team with a complicated history with race. They were the last team to integrate, doing so a dozen years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line; that’s the same Jackie Robinson for whom the Red Sox held a sham tryout, never intending to offer him a contract. However, in recent years, Latinos—especially Dominican players like Pedro Martínez, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz—were pivotal to the Red Sox’s World Series success. Fenway Park, the Red Sox’s home stadium, even played Juan Luis Guerra over the loud speakers whenever Martínez pitched.
The Red Sox and their fans also have a history for being among the most demanding and impatient in sports. The team fired Terry Francona in 2011 after he managed them for 8 seasons, despite winning 2 World Series in that time, including the franchise’s first in 86 years. Similarly, the Red Sox fired John Farrell, Cora’s predecessor, 4 years after winning the 2013 World Series. For Cora, having played and won a World Series in Boston will undoubtedly help him, as he likely understands the expectations and pressure he’ll face in Beantown. On a positive note, with the Red Sox coming off 2 straight playoff seasons and the team’s willingness to spend money–the team had the 4th highest payroll entering the 2017 season–Cora will seemingly have a greater opportunity for success than other first-time managers.
Cora’s hire is a positive step towards having manager demographics match player percentages. With the Washington Nationals set to interview Brooklyn-born boricua Dave Martinez for their managerial opening, and Sandy Alomar Jr. named as another potential candidate for open positions around the league, the 2018 season may have more than 2 Latino managers; that’s something that hasn’t occurred since 2011.