The end of the season could not have come soon enough for the 2012 Red Sox, such was the dissension and anger under manager Bobby Valentine.
It felt much the same way in 2014 after the Sox made a series of trades that broke up the 2013 World Series championship team.
The shortened 2020 season was another “get me outta here” disaster because of the pandemic. Coming to the park sparked trepidation, not joy.
The Sox finished in last place again this season and only on occasion did it seem to be a misery for those most closely involved.
Alex Cora said several times in recent weeks that this group of players was good to work with. When the Sox were in Toronto last weekend, the players and coaches spent Sunday morning signing lineup cards, jerseys, and other keepsakes to each other.
Yes, it’s special to play in the big leagues. But why would anybody want souvenirs to remember finishing 21 games behind the Yankees?
It’s a problem that starts at the top. If principal owner John Henry or chairman Tom Werner are disappointed, they’ve kept it to themselves.
According to the team, neither will attend a press conference at Fenway Park on Thursday morning to discuss the season. They will leave the post-mortems to team president Sam Kennedy, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, general manager Brian O’Halloran and Cora.
To his credit, Cora pushed back at the complacency before Wednesday’s 6-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays, who were just killing time before going to Cleveland for a wild card series.
“I’ve been thinking about next year for a while,” Cora said. “A lot of watching, a lot of thinking, a lot of questions the last month, and the plan is in place in my mind.
“One of the things that I really want is a sense of urgency. It’s something that as an organization we’ve done throughout the years and we have to push hard in the offseason. The message is going to [start] now.”
Cora said that missive also needs to be louder and that it doesn’t matter if the players are young, or if there are a lot of injuries to deal with.
“It’s not an excuse in the big leagues,” he said. “That’s something that from top to bottom, regardless of who you are, a $35 million player or a rookie that is coming here for a spot start. We expect to push and think about today, don’t think about tomorrow. You have to win every day.”
This season was one of the few in Cora’s career going back to college that ended in a losing record.
“To be honest with you we were a big disappointment,” he said.
It was refreshing to finally hear that stated so plainly.
Cora and the coaches will take this act on the road, meeting with players in person to stress being ready to go when spring training starts.
He also quickly named Alex Verdugo as a player the Sox should expect more from, calling on the corner outfielder to improve defensively and running the bases.
“He’s getting to that area in his career [of] who he’s going to be,” Cora said.
At 78-84, the Sox had the best record for a last-place team since the 2015 team also won 78 games.
The Red Sox won 93 games the following season and made the playoffs.
“We were like the best worst team in baseball. That’s the way we see it,” Cora said. “Like, how could this happen?”
The best of the worst? Doesn’t sound like much of a marketing slogan. But at least Cora seems committed to changing the story.
“This season there were a lot of ups and downs, more downs than ups, actually,” he said. “I learned from it. This feeling, hey, it’s not great. I’m going to use it as something to push me forward to be better.”