By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The Red Sox are down to five candidates, at least officially, but we all know that’s a stretch. The real number is one or two. And if the Red Sox are smart, here’s what they should do:
Bring back Alex Cora.
And then make Sam Fuld his bench coach.
If that sounds convoluted, it is – a little. Both Cora and Fuld are listed among the five “finalists” for the Red Sox’ managerial opening, though we all know the Red Sox aren’t deciding between five people. They’re deciding between one or two while trying to fill any remaining holes in their organization and, simultaneously, meeting the requirements of Major League Baseball for a thorough hiring process. But they have probably known who they have wanted for some time.
And you read that right – they. Any suggestion that Chaim Bloom is making this decision on his own is preposterous, no matter how much the Sox would like us to think otherwise. On the one hand, the Red Sox want us to believe that Bloom has the power to hire his own manager. On the other, the told us they hired Bloom last fall after firing Dave Dombrowski because they wanted someone more willing to collaborate. So what are we supposed to believe now?
So collaborate Bloom will, which brings us to Fuld and the ultimate compromise. If you don’t know or remember Fuld, you should feel no shame. A native of Durham, NH, he was a part-time outfielder with good speed, no power and an excellent glove. He played for the Rays from 2011-13 when he met, among others, Bloom. He attended Stanford (big points there) and was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs. He has most recently worked for the Phillies, for whom Gabe Kapler (more big points) hired him to serve as a liaison between the clubhouse and, you guessed it, analytics. (Jackpot!)
Fuld has worn a uniform and he’s exceptionally bright, which makes him the rarest of the rare in baseball. And it makes a valuable member to any staff in an age when a starting pitcher gets pulled during a masterpiece in Game 6 of the World Series purely because he made it twice through the batting order.
Now here’s another reason Fuld needs to be on this staff: because ownership probably wants Cora back and Bloom needs his own guy high up on the Red Sox’ uniformed chain of command.
Allow me to explain: for as long as baseball has existed, general managers and managers have had different pressures and wants. Cora was here before Bloom and won a World Series title. The two really have no relationship whatsoever. Bloom repeatedly has demonstrated no willingness to talk about Cora until he has spoken to the deposed manager directly, and one can understand if Bloom has doubts about Cora after one of the biggest cheating scandals in baseball history effectively wiped out what was once the Houston Astros dugout.
And yet, Cora has value to the Red Sox now, perhaps more than ever. Their team is reeling. He has confidence and charisma, and the fan base knows him. The Red Sox have an enormous credibility problem with their fans at the moment, and Cora oozes leadership. Maybe he’s a cheat. Maybe you like him. Maybe you don’t. But Boston needs a manager the fan base can get behind at the moment and it needs manager, more important, that has the trust of key players like Rafael Devers, Eduardo Rodriguez and especially Xander Bogaerts, who can opt out following the 2022 season.
So why Fuld as bench coach? Because every general manager needs eyes and ears in the dugout and clubhouse, especially when the manager was never his guy in the first place. Cora knows how to run a game. He doesn’t need Ron Roenicke to serve as his training wheels anymore. Years ago, when tensions existed between general manager Jimy Williams and general manager Dan Duquette, special assistant Lee Thomas became Williams’ confidant because he had lost his closest allies on the coaching staff. Now Bloom is the guy who needs someone in the dugout and Fuld seems like the perfect fit.
Is the Cora-Fuld ticket where the Sox are headed? That is impossible to know for sure. But something suggests that Red Sox owners want Cora while simultaneously hoping to make him look like Bloom’s choice, so the sides could settle in the middle.
And, in the event that Cora ever slips up again and has to be shown the door, well, his successor will once again be in place – and this time, perhaps, for the much longer term.
And he will have Chaim Bloom’s endorsement to boot.