Dave Dombrowski hired Alex Cora the first time, and he's not surprised Chaim Bloom made the same choice


Alex Cora will be introduced as manager of the Red Sox Tuesday.

Dave Dombrowski, for one, is not surprised.

“I thought he would manage again, yes. I thought he would,” the former Red Sox President of Baseball Operations told WEEI.com. “Of course it was completely up to the Red Sox if it was this one or another job. But I didn’t have any question he would because he’s a good person. He’s a good manager, which of course is important, but he’s a good person. He made a mistake. He paid his dues for the mistake. If you do that and you handle yourself well society is forgiving in those things. You see other people who have been involved in sports and the world, really, they bounce back. So, yes, I did think he would be, and I would think — there are no other jobs now — but if the Red Sox didn’t hire him someone down the road would hire him quickly because he’s so good.”

So much has changed since Dombrowski was the one introducing Cora as the Red Sox’ skipper. The longtime baseball executive has started to devote himself to bringing Major League Baseball to Nashville (telling teams potentially interested in his services he was committed to the project), while Cora also lived life outside baseball for the last 11 months thanks to his suspension.

But while the two have gone their separate ways they remain friends, talking on occasion while going to dinner last offseason after Dombrowski’s departure from the Red Sox.

While the pair have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, neither will forget how it all began, when Dombrowski came to the same conclusion Chaim Bloom just did — Cora was the right guy for the job.

“Yes,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was confident he had found the right guy after interviewing Cora in New York just before the 2017 World Series. “But we had only interviewed a couple of other people at that point because we figured we could expand our process if we didn’t find somebody. We interviewed Ron Gardnehire and Brad Ausmus. Not only did I feel that way but the group that interviewed him all felt that way so that was a pretty simple factor. Not that we didn’t like the other people, and of course Ron got hired for the Tigers job and Brad got hired for the Angels guy, we had good candidates in there. But it was apparent that everybody involved in the interview had Alex on top.”

The team has changed since then. And in some ways so has the game. But the same strengths that helped separate Cora back during that manager search three years ago is what likely made the difference this time around, as well.

Dombrowski had done his research on Cora. But it was once he got in front of the player/Winter League and World Baseball Classic GM/ESPN analyst/bench coach that he was truly sold.

“He’s a very intelligent baseball person,” Dombrowski noted. “And you can tell he has studying the game all along. As I started to do my homework even before the interview and after the interview, when you talk to people who knew Alex everybody said that. He was always the smartest guys in the clubhouse. The managers always loved him. They loved being around him. He was someone who asked questions and was inquisitive about the game. And he just loved baseball. He’s a guy who could talk baseball 24-7. He was just a very, very knowledgable guy and paid attention to little details and was focused on things. Nothing got by him, and that was before he came with us. That was the hallmark in the interview. You could see he was really on top of those things.

“I would say the other thing is his communication skills. He’s just a such a good communicator. He’s a good communicator with you in the interview room, but he’s also a good communicator with people above him, so he could talk to ownership very easily. He’s a good communicator with the players. He’s a good communicator with the media, which I think in Boston is extremely important. And being bilingual is an added plus. That stood out very easily. A great communicator.

“He wants all the information he can possibly receive. He’s very inquisitive. He’s very smart. He made that apparent. But he was also one who would ask you questions. Why is this? What is that? He is just really, really good at that.”

Dombrowski’s instincts proved to be on-point, with Cora quickly showing the ability to maneuver himself through the kind of first-year pitfalls that have swallowed up previous managers.

The end result, of course, was 118 wins in that initial season, culminating in Dombrowski being showered with champagne while taking a celebratory bath in the middle of the Dodger Stadium visiting clubhouse.

“I talk about the communication and he was really outstanding in that regard. He was even better than you can imagine for somebody stepping in,” the former Red Sox boss said. “I think the other thing that was he really excelled … he had that fine line which the great managers do, because the players know he cares about them, that you can be in a position where you can have a great relationship with the player but you can also push them when necessary. Not everybody has that ability. Not that they won’t be upset with you for a minute or something, or a day or whatever it may be, but he had a great ability to do that. If a guy needed to do a little extra work or needed to improve on something or needed to do something with his at-bats, he really could communicate that well with the players. He was really, really good on that. And yet he would keep a good relationship with his players because they had a great deal of respect for him. He was honest with them. That was something that stands out for me when I saw him.

“The other thing he really had a great feeling of, probably better than you would anticipate for a first-time manager, is the ability to bring everybody together as an organization. You start with the coaching staff and the players and the people in the trainers room and all of that. But he had a great ability to do that within the organization. And for someone who is new who has so much to do and to learn about the job, he was really, really good with that right off the bat. Sometimes he would wear himself out in the sense he would push himself so much to do things. But it came naturally for him. He would stop in the front office. He would walk through and say hello to people. He would stop by if it was community relations or PR or the business end of it and visit people. He was just really good at that. It’s something that usually takes a long time to be able to grow into to be able to do all of that because you have to prioritize when you become a new manager. First and foremost, you’ve got to get to know all your players. He did all that and did all those other things too.

“He just had a really good feel for the job.”

Now, Cora has another chance to prove it all over again.

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