Boston Red Sox Rehire Alex Cora as the Team’s Manager

Alex Cora is back in Boston…

The Boston Red Sox have rehired the team’s 45-year-old Puerto Rican former manager,.

Alex Cora

Cora led the Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title but mutually agreed to part with the club amid the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. He was suspended for one season by Major League Baseball for his role in the scandal.

Boston, which ended the 60-game shortened season with a 24-36 record, decided not to retain manager Ron Roenicke, who replaced Cora in January after serving on his coaching staff.

The Red Sox were not allowed to speak to Cora until after the World Series, which ended October 27. The lack of activity before then was a sign that they were focused on Cora.

Cora agreed to a two-year contract that has a two-year team option for 2023 and ’24, the team said.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to manage once again and return to the game I have loved my entire life,” Cora said in a statement released by the team. “This past year, I have had time to reflect and evaluate many things, and I recognize how fortunate I am to lead this team once again. Not being a part of the game of baseball, and the pain of bringing negative attention to my family and this organization was extremely difficult. I am sorry for the harm my past actions have caused and will work hard to make this organization and its fans proud. …

“Boston is where I have always wanted to be and I could not be more excited to help the Red Sox achieve our ultimate goal of winning in October.”

The team he returns to bears little resemblance to the one he last managed.

Chaim Bloom is running the baseball side now, taking over last offseason just in time to part ways with Cora. He welcomed Cora back in a team statement Friday.

“Alex Cora is an outstanding manager, and the right person to lead our club into 2021 and beyond,” Bloom said. “The way he leads, inspires, and connects with everyone around him is almost unmatched, and he has incredible baseball acumen and feel for the game. …

“Because of all that had happened, I knew that I wanted to speak with Alex once his suspension ended, but I didn’t yet know if it made sense to consider him for the job as well. Our conversations were lengthy, intense, and emotional. Alex knows that what he did was wrong, and he regrets it. … He loves the Red Sox and the game of baseball, and because of that we believe he will make good on this second chance.”

Bloom’s other big move last offseason was to trade 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with David Price as part of an effort to get the Red Sox under the threshold for baseball’s competitive balance tax.

With Betts and Price gone, Chris Sale out with Tommy John surgery and Eduardo Rodriguez recovering from a COVID-19-related heart problem, the Red Sox finished in last place in the AL East.

But Cora also has hope for improvement in the 2021 season.

Sale is expected to return in the first half. J.D. Martinez, an MLB All-Star his first two years in Boston before struggling in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, is also under contract for at least one more year.

And the Red Sox have plenty of salary flexibility gained in the deal that sent Betts and Price to Los Angeles.

Cora replaced John Farrell as Boston’s manager after the team twice finished last under Farrell, despite winning the 2013 World Series with him. With Cora at the helm in 2018, the Red Sox raced to a 108-54 regular-season record and an easy win in the AL East. They led the majors with a .268 team batting average and 876 runs scored.

Boston then dominated the postseason with an 11-3 mark, posting wins over the Yankees and Astros in the AL division and championship series, respectively, before defeating the Dodgers in the World Series.

The Red Sox couldn’t sustain 2018’s success in Cora’s second season, finishing 84-78 and third in the division, 19 games behind the Yankees.

Cora, who worked as an ESPN analyst before leaving for the Astros, played 14 MLB seasons, including parts of four seasons with the Red Sox, winning the 2007 World Series with Boston. He also played for the Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets and Texas Rangers before finishing his career with the Washington Nationals in 2011.

Manny Machado Named National League MVP Finalist

Manny Machado has proven his most valuable status…

The 28-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball player and San Diego Padres third baseman and shortstop has been named a finalist in the MLB’s National League MVP race.

Manny Machado

Machado, who hit .304 with 16 homers and 47 RBIs for the Padres this season, is nominated alongside Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Atlanta Braves star Freddie Freeman, after balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Meanwhile, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom is going for his third consecutive National League Cy Young Award. He’s facing off Trevor Bauer and Yu Darvish for the honor.

The top three finishers for each BBWAA award were revealed Monday. The winners will be announced next week.

Balloting for the BBWAA awards was completed before the start of the postseason.

Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Cleveland Indians infielder Jose Ramirez and New York Yankees leadoff man DJ LeMahieu are the top three finishers in voting for the American League MVP award.

LeMahieu, who hit a big league-best .364, and Bauer are free agents after starring during the pandemic-shortened season.

Indian’ pitcher Shane Bieber joined Minnesota Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda and Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu as finalists for the American League Cy Young Award.

The top finishers in voting for American League Manager of the Year are Tampa Bay RaysKevin Cash, Toronto OriolesCharlie Montoyo and Rick Renteria, who was let go by the Chicago White Sox after the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Miami’s Don Mattingly, San Diego’s Jayce Tingler and the Cubs’ David Ross are the finalists for NL Manager of the Year. Tingler and Ross just completed their first seasons as big league skippers.

The finalists for AL Rookie of the Year are Houston Astros right-hander Cristian Javier and center fielders Kyle Lewis of the Seattle Mariners and Luis Robert of the White Sox. Philadelphia Phillies infielder Alec Bohm, Padres infielder Jake Cronenworth and Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams are the top finishers for the National League rookie award.

Randy Arozarena Named American League Championship Series MVP After Hitting Four Homers vs. Houston Astros

Randy Arozarena is the man of  the hour…

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder continued his historic postseason run on Saturday with his seventh homer, a two-run shot in the first inning that gave theTampa Bay Rays a lead it never relinquished against the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

Randy Arozarena

Arozarena was named MVP of the ALCS, becoming the fourth rookie — and first rookie position player — to be named MVP of a league championship series.

He has homered seven times during this year’s playoffs, just one shy of the Major League Baseball record, and now has 47 total bases since the regular season ended.

Tampa Baywill now head to the World Series after holding off baseball’s most infamous team. The Rays beat the Astros 4-2 in Game 7, ending Houston’s bid to become the second team in baseball history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.

“It goes without saying this has been a weird year,” Rays Game 7 starter — and winner — Charlie Morton said. “It was pretty apparent early on the guys had bought into each other during this time.

“It was very challenging, because at first everything was about the protocols and trying to keep guys safe. Just guys come onto the field every day, knowing they could get sick, and staff coming in, and just a ton of work by people behind the scenes. I am so proud of these guys.”

The formula for the Rays is consistency, and it was very much evident in Game 7. They stifle the opposition. They catch the ball on defense. And they ride just enough home runs on offense to bring home the win.

The Rays now head to their second World Series in franchise history. The last time they played in the Fall Classic was in 2008, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tampa Bay entered the first 16-team playoff format in baseball history with a 40-20 record, tops in the AL, and thus earned the Junior Circuit’s No. 1 seed. That top seed held up, even though the Rays had to recover from losing three straight to Houston after winning the first three contests.

“Pretty special feeling,” Cash said. “I don’t know if I’ve had many better [moments] other than getting married and having three kids. This is right there below that. It can’t get much better than that. This is a special group to be a part of.”

For Houston, it was an emotional loss after a tumultuous season for the organization. The Astros were embroiled in a sign-stealing scandal last winter that tainted their 2017 World Series title and cost manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow their jobs.

“The legacy of this group is that these guys are ballplayers,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “These guys are men; they have been through a whole bunch other than on the ballfield. [Now] these guys can forget the problems they had that is out there and come together as a group and be forever friends.”

Hinch’s replacement, the 71-year-old Baker, helped restore some of the goodwill the Astros squandered. But with the Game 7 loss, Baker is still looking for the first championship of a managerial career that began in 1993. Yet, in 2020, there was much more that was brought into perspective.

“You go home and you regroup,” Baker said. “Personally, when I think of [former MLB executive Jimmie Lee Solomon, whose] funeral was today, and you think about the many friends I have lost over the last month, six months. That is the reality of life. Those are far greater losses than losing a ballgame.”

Carlos Correa Hits Game-Winning Home Run to Keep the Houston Astros Alive in the American League Championship Series

It’s a swing and a win for Carlos Correa

The 26-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball player and Houston Astros shortstop smacked his sixth home run of the postseason, a walk-off homer to centerfield, to propel his team to a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday at San Diego’s Petco Park.

Carlos Correa

 

Game 6 of the series, which the Rays lead 3-2, will take place at 5:07 p.m. on Friday.

“I don’t want to go home yet,” Correa said in TBS‘ on-field interview. “We were down 0-3, we had a players meeting in the clubhouse and we said we don’t want to go home yet, so we better do something about it. We’re down 2-3 and still have a lot of work to do, but it’s a good start.”

The Astros held on a to slim 3-2 lead heading into the eighth before Ji-Man Choi blasted a ball off Astros reliever Josh James 447 feet to right field to tie the game.

The Astros got off to a quick start when George Springer took the first pitch from Rays starter John Curtiss deep to left field for a solo home run.

The Rays tied things up with a Brandon Lowe homer off reliever Blake Taylor in the third.

The Astros regained the lead with a Michael Brantley single to right that scored Josh Reddick and Martin Maldonado.

The Rays’ Randy Arozarena hit a solo homer off Astros reliever Enoli Paredes in the fifth.

The Astros used seven different pitches with the first five being rookies. Luis Garcia, who had made just one start in his big league career, pitched two shutout innings, despite loading the bases in the second. From there, Taylor got a couple outs before handing off to Paredes, who got five outs. Andre Scrubb got four outs, then Brooks Raley threw a scoreless inning. James gave up the homer in the eighth before Ryan Pressly entered to get the game’s final four outs.

The Astros will have Framber Valdez on the mound for Game 6 with a fully rested Lance McCullers ready to go in a Game 7 if they get that far.

Yuli Gurriel Agrees to One-Year Deal with Houston Astros

Yuli Gurriel is ready to slash and stay…

The 36-year-old Cuban professional baseball player nicknamed “La Piña“, the Houston Astros’ first baseman, has agreed to a one-year contract with an option for 2022 that guarantees $7 million, a cut of nearly 20% from his 2020 deal.

Yuli Gurriel

The agreement was announced hours before the defending American League champions started their first-round playoff matchup at the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, an odd time to reach a contract for a future season.

Gurriel’s 2020 contract called for an $8.3 million salary and wound up being worth $3,074,074 prorated.

His new deal includes a $6.5 million salary for 2021 and an $8 million club option for 2021 with a $500,000 buyout. Gurriel can earn $2 million in performance bonuses each year based on plate appearances: $250,000 each for 300 and 350, $350,000 apiece for 400 and 450, and $400,000 each for 500 and 550.

He also would get $50,000 for becoming an All-Star, $50,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $100,000 for Word Series MVP, $200,000 for league MVP, $100,000 for second and $50,000 for third. There is a $50,000 bonus for Gold Glove and another $50,000 for Silver Slugger.

Gurriel would’ve been eligible for free agency under a provision in his 2020 contract, even though he does not have the six years of major league service usually required.

His new deal includes the same provision.

He hit .232 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 57 games during the pandemic-shortened season, down from a career-best .298 with 31 homers and 104 RBIs in 2019. He helped Houston reach the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

In five seasons in Houston that followed a stellar career in Cuba, Gurriel has hit .287 with 71 homers and 301 RBIs.

Albert Pujols Stands Alone at No. 2 on MLB’s Career RBI List

Albert Pujols is standing alone at No. 2…

The 40-year-old Dominican professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels, who tied Alex Rodriguez for second place on the Major League Baseball career RBI list last week, is now all alone in second place.

Albert Pujols

Pujols passed ARod on the list with an RBI single in the fifth inning of Monday night’s 11-4 loss to the Houston Astros in Houston. That gave him 2,087 career RBIs.

Hank Aaron is the record holder at 2,297.

Babe Ruth had 2,214 career RBIs, but he isn’t officially on the career list because RBIs didn’t become an official stat until 1920, per Elias Sports Bureau research.

Pedro Leon Reportedly Signing with Houston Astros

Pedro Leonhas an astronomical deal in the works…

The 21-year-old Cuban outfielder, who dominated Cuba’s Serie Nacional in 2018 before defecting, is expected to sign with the Houston Astros for around $4 million when a new international signing period opens July 2, according to ESPN.

Pedro Leon

Leon would be one of the class’s highest-paid players.

Leon mostly played corner outfield in Cuba and has hit for power in games, but is reputed to have above-average speed, a plus arm and plus raw power as a right-handed hitter. While a roster at his workout on Wednesday listed him at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, one scout estimated Leon to be 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds.

Pedro Leon

Scouts didn’t get to see Leon’s reputed power on display during the workout at the San Francisco Giants‘ academy in the Dominican Republic as they were told he’d already reached a deal with a team.

Leon was cleared as a free agent in December, but delayed his open workout due to an oblique injury. Scouts say he previously has dealt with a shoulder injury as well.

Cuban prospects have to wait to negotiate with clubs until after their first open workout for all 30 teams, or after they are cleared to be a free agent. 

Sources said Leon worked out privately for the Astros at their facility recently and the club was able to collect valuable data using advanced technology like bat sensors and radar-based technology like TrackManthat other clubs weren’t able to collect on Wednesday.

Francisco Liriano Signs Minor League Contract with the Philadelphia Phillies

Francisco Liriano isn’t leaving The Keystone State… 

The Philadelphia Phillies have signed the 36-year-old Dominican professional baseball left-handed pitcher to a minor league contracts with invitations to attend major league spring training.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano was 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 69 relief appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirateslast season. Liriano is 112-114 with a 4.15 ERA and has averaged 9.01 strikeouts per nine innings over 419 career games.

During his career, he has played for the Minnesota TwinsChicago White Sox, the PiratesToronto Blue JaysHouston Astrosand Detroit Tigers.

Liriano was an MLB All-Star in 2006, and is a two-time winner of the MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Hector Rondon Agrees to One-Year Deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks

Hector Rondonis heading to the Grand Canyon State

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball relief pitcher has reportedly agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to ESPN.

Hector Rondon

Rondon would get a $2.5 million salary next season and would include a team option for 2021 with a $500,000 buyout.

Rondon, a right-hander, is a seven-year veteran who helped the Chicago Cubs win the World Seriesin 2016. He pitched last season for the Houston Astros and had a 3.71 ERA over 62 appearances, including one start.

Rondon has 92 saves and could be a candidate to close games for the D-backs, though Archie Bradley returns after handling the closer role for much of the second half of last season.

The Arizona Republic first reported Rondon’s signing.

Robinson Chirinos to Return to the Texas Rangers

Robinson Chirinos is headed back to the range(rs)…

The 35-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball catcherand the Texas Rangers have agreed on a one-year, $6.75 million deal, according to ESPN.

Robinson Chirinos

The deal includes a $5.75 million salary for 2020, with a club option for 2021 that is worth $6.5 million with a $1 million buyout.

Chirinos spent six seasons with the Rangers before departing last offseason for the Houston Astrosafter the Texas Rangersopted for defensive-minded Jeff Mathis.

But Mathis hit just .158 in 86 games last season, with two home runs and 12 RBIs, compared with Chirinos’ .238-17-58 line for the Astros.

The previous season in Texas was Chirinos’ most productive, with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs.