Cora Approaching Rare Territory
By Michael Silverman
TORONTO -- The Red Sox have played second fiddle with the Patriots for roughly the past decade at least.
But at this point of overlap in the New England sports calendar, at a time when the Patriots are sweating out training camp just as the Red Sox are nearing the final turn before their playoff run, that second fiddle’s starting to play a tune that’s sounding a little stronger and louder than it has in a long time.
The crossover of the two winning teams and franchises has been in our face the past few days.
Belichick sat with Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski at Sunday night’s unforgettable rally of a win against the Yankees.
On Monday, Belichick gushed about the game and the team, wishing “the Red Sox nothing but the best, not that they need any help from me. They seem to be doing just fine.”
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, Cora had yet to hear about Belichick’s remarks, which is unusual considering that Cora does not shy away from admitting he is an avid consumer of sports media.
Still, it made him happy to hear that Belichick is a fan of what’s happening.
The manager saw an opportunity to parlay the attention into a favor.
“That’s cool -- I need tickets for the Texans-Patriots game for a friend of mine,” said Cora jokingly.
Somebody should tell Cora’s friend to make plans to be at Foxboro on Sept. 9.
The Red Sox are gaining believers at a time when the Patriots have a growing share of doubters.
That has to do with the cracks that started to show in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady-Robert Kraft triangle last year, the Malcolm Butler-less loss in the Super Bowl and Brady’s advanced age. Few would bet against the Patriots’ chances of at least reaching the Super Bowl again this year, just as they have eight times in the last 17 years, winning five of them.
But the Patriots’ absurd amount of winning over more than a decade and a half is nearing its expiration date, which is why the recent sports smooches between Belichick and the Red Sox and then Cora’s return of affection signaled to some that the pendulum could be swinging back, ever so slowly, in the direction of the Red Sox.
Winning back-to-back AL East division titles in 2016 and 2017 counted, but that felt hollow in hindsight once the Red Sox were eliminated right away each time in the postseason.
Check back at the end of October for how the Red Sox will fare this time, but the 2018 Red Sox are playing winning baseball at a caliber this season that has been absolutely Patriots-like.
It feels different this year with the Red Sox. A lot of that is the feeling that Cora has had a magical touch in Year One of his reign.
Belichick was in Jupiter, Fla., this March when the Red Sox were in town for an exhibition game with his friend, Tony La Russa, who is now an advisor of Dombrowski’s.
Cora caught a side of Belichick that few others -- well, at least few in the media -- see.
“It was cool; like, down to earth. He opens up a little bit more when the cameras are not on,” said Cora, who is arguably the biggest University of Miami fan on the Eastern seaboard. “We were talking about Miami football and all that. He was doing his tour as far as scouting and all that stuff. Dave told me that throughout the game, he asked a lot of questions. He’s in tune with what we’re doing. I found out, too, that they had a day at Fenway (in June, playing cornhole), Dave told me, and they had a blast as a team. He’s the best.”
Cora was joking -- probably, hopefully -- when he had a take on Belichick’s frequently frosty relationship with the media.
“Excellent. He does a good job,” said Cora.
He turned more serious when it came to putting the Patriots’ run of success in some perspective.
“He knows his team, he has a great pulse about it,” said Cora. “For what they do on a yearly basis, that’s very impressive to play the big game every year, that’s crazy, I can’t even imagine. But yeah, he’s the best on that.”
Understanding what type of player the Patriots need is what Cora focused upon as an organizational trait that is most valuable.
“It’s not that I follow them as a fan, but I know what they do,” said Cora. “The fact that they let players go and they bring in guys that people don’t think can do the job but they fit the system. He knows his system, he knows what kind of players he needs for this to work. They have one right now, (Braxton) Berrios, that went to U-M. Everyone knows, he’s the type of player, he’s going to be good in New England before he even got drafted by New England. I was like ‘Yeah, that makes sense, a little guy that can run and make plays.’”
Cora gets Belichick and the Patriots and -- this is more important -- Belichick gets Cora and the Red Sox.
Baseball will never be confused with football.
The more the Red Sox resemble the Patriots in wins and big wins, the better chance they will have of stealing back some of the spotlight.