Chicago White Sox: Joey Cora
Miami's next manager will be the fifth for owner Jeffrey Loria since early 2010. Two managers he fired made the playoffs this year. The Marlins still owe Guillen $7.5 million for the three years remaining on his contract
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That’s how general manager Kenny Williams described the situation as Don Cooper was named interim manager for the last two games in the wake of Ozzie Guillen’s departure following Monday’s game.
“What happened was that I texted him that he was not managing,” Williams said. “I had heard that someone had told him he was managing today’s game. So I texted him this morning: ‘Don Cooper is managing the game, but if you’d like to talk, stop by my office on the way in.’ He asked me via text if that meant he didn’t have to come to the ballpark.”
At that point, Williams said he picked up the phone and called Cora.
“We had a conversation that we mutually agreed [since] he is likely to go with Ozzie it would have been, in his words, awkward for him to be here,” Williams said. “So I said, ‘That’s not a problem. I get it. Good luck.’ We exchanged pleasantries and that was the end of it. A three-minute conversation.”
Cora is expected to be a part of Guillen’s staff when Guillen is announced as the new Florida Marlins manager. That announcement is expected to come Wednesday.
Unfortunately, those didn't come until the scheduled postgame pyrotechnics after a 10-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles -- and they certainly had nothing to do with the team's on-field performance.
This wasn't how the struggling Sox wanted to start this six-game home stand. Joey Cora, who managed the Sox in place of the suspended Ozzie Guillen, didn't have much to say about his team's performance.
“We didn't deserve to win,” Cora said. “It's that simple. They played better than us. They did everything better than us. The first three innings were good, but after that we didn't deserve to win.”
“If I get the opportunity tomorrow, I'm going to do the same thing,” Danks said of his pitch to Reynolds. “A.J.'s going to knock it down. I think that's the first time he's ever not knocked the ball down for me.”
Danks' departure made way for Jesse Crain to enter the game for the Sox's dreadful seventh inning. Crain nearly pitched himself out of a jam, but a botched grounder by Alexei Ramirez with two outs paved the way for a five-run inning for the O's.
And the boos continued.
“It's frustrating,” Danks said. “There's no other word for it. This is frustrating. We're all putting the work in. There's really no reason why it's not going our way. We're way too talented. We're working hard. It's frustrating.”
General manager Kenny Williams reminded reporters before the game that it was still early in the season and fans shouldn't panic quite yet. But don't tell that to Danks, who has yet to pick up his first victory of the season despite pitching relatively well.
“If we go like this too much longer, it isn't early. That's just a fact. There's still plenty of time to bounce back and get back in it … but we need to turn it around quick.”
Cora, who will manage the team again Saturday while Guillen finishes a two-game suspension for some post-ejection tweets he made on Thursday, made no excuses after the game.
“Whatever our record is,” Cora said, “we have earned it.”
Waiting for his flight back to Georgia following four days at “Camp Cora” in south Florida, Beckham said his first-half struggles last season were self-imposed and his hand injury from late last season is a thing of the past.
“The way I have dissected the whole situation, there was a lot put on my plate from myself and others,” Beckham said about his attempts last year to build off a strong 2009 season. “When I didn’t hit immediately, mentally I went into panic mode. That happens but it won’t happen again.
“It’s one of those things where I got in a bad place and was mentally frustrated and mentally tired. If there was any mechanical flaws, we fixed those. Once I got out of my own way it was easy.”
Well maybe not easy but easier. It still wasn’t all smooth sailing. He was hit in the hand by a pitch and struggled with the ensuing injury over the final month, missing a lot of playing time. That hand injury was bothering him as late as last month.
“I had to break up some scar tissue in the middle of December,” he said. “It had been bothering me and I went in to hit the next day and it was fine.”
Agreeing with bench coach Joey Cora, who said Wednesday that the White Sox could have one of the best fielding infields in baseball, Gordon likes what he sees. Beckham, Alexei Ramirez and Brent Morel all got in some work at “Camp Cora,” working out on the field in advance of spring training next month.
“We looked good and we have big aspirations as an infield,” Beckham said.
Ramirez, in particular, was noticeably different. Beckham said the svelte shortstop, who hit 18 home runs last season and had a .431 slugging percentage a year ago, added even more muscle.
“He looks to have gained muscle and it’s pretty exciting,” Beckham said. “I think some guys have hit more than I have (this offseason) but everybody is ready and excited and that’s important. When you have guys that are prepared and exited that’s a good combination.”
With Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn set to lead an offense with plenty of power potential, the White Sox already and being labeled as division favorites in some circles. Does that cause any extra pressure?
“No, it doesn’t add pressure,” Beckham said. “I think that we have a big payroll, so what. I get the feeling [the guys] just want to get out and play. That’s way more important that payroll. This season is looking up and everybody is excited. It’s hard to explain past that. There is buzz from players and coaches.
“Getting around Joey, he’s excited and it’s a fun time. It doesn’t add pressure it adds personnel.”
Video obtained from White Sox TV showed Brent Morel, Alexei Viciedo and Gordon Beckham going through some rapid-fire infield drills while Cora hit grounders. It was far from a balmy Florida afternoon as Cora wore a windbreaker and Morel and Ramirez sported long sleeves.
Cora on the workouts: “We want to get them in shape and work on backhands and some of the fundamentals of the game; work on making good throws. We’re striving to be one of the best infields in the league and we have the potential to do that.
“I’m not going to waste my time here doing nothing. They’re working hard and they will be ready. They will have a good spring training and we should be a good team.”
With snow on the ground around Beckham’s home in Georgia, getting the chance to head down to Florida worked out perfectly.
“It’s basically an ice breaker,” Beckham told White Sox TV. “It gets you back and moving around baseball wise that you haven’t been able to do. I haven’t been able to do [that]. I live in Atlanta and it’s been really cold there. You can’t get out on the field. Coming down here you can get back on the field, it’s pretty decent weather and you just get your mindset right for the season and make sure you’re getting ready.”
For Morel, the January camp is a jumpstart for what should be an important few months. He will head to spring training next month as the favorite to be the White Sox's Opening Day third baseman.
“It’s just a chance for all of us to get together in the offseason and get used to practice again and getting the feel, being around everybody,” Morel said. “ It’s been a pleasure to come down here.”
Juan Pierre and A.J. Pierzynski are also working out. Cora is being assisted by hitting coach Greg Walker.
The workouts are taking place at Florida International University.
Bench coach Joey Cora recently finished second for the vacant Milwaukee Brewers manager opening.
The focus will continue to be on Guillen's situation again in the upcoming season. His contract is up after 2011 with a team option available for 2012.
The Florida Marlins manager job figures to remain a possibility. The Marlins were reportedly granted permission to talk to Guillen this past season and their interest figures to remain high despite hiring Edwin Rodriguez, who spent the last two years as the organization’s Triple-A manager. The Marlins are set to open a new ballpark in 2012.
If Guillen goes, it is expected that his right-hand man Cora would likely go as well. The possibility remains, though, that Cora could take over the White Sox if Guillen departs. Cora could also be up for other manager openings after the season.
Then there is Walker. He already needed time this offseason to ponder his future. Although he didn’t complain about it, the thankless nature of his job is well known. It’s how it goes for just about all hitting coaches really. Whenever an offense that appears to have talent starts to struggle, the hitting coach is put into question. When the offense is on track it’s merely a respite before the criticism comes again.
How long Walker is willing to endure the rigors of a major-league season remain to be seen.
It looks like anything short of an American League Central title in 2011 and solid showing in the postseason will create rumors of coaching departures and replacements. That's just how it works for a staff that has been in place for some time and has been to the playoffs only once in the past four seasons.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has reported that Cora had a second interview for the job on Sunday with Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio.
Cora’s main competition is believed to be former Diamondbacks and Mariners manager Bob Melvin, as well as Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke. A fourth unknown finalist is also believed to be in the mix.
We're finally done with the daily breakdown of each position, including the bench and the bullpen, we now move on to the White Sox’s decision-makers, starting with those in the dugout.
Managers and coaches
Looking ahead to 2011: Guillen and Williams finally put aside their differences during the last week of the season and the reconciliation sounded sincere. You can’t help but think, though, that if they have more issues, especially early in the year, it could mean serious trouble. Guillen is in the final year of his contract, but a team option remains for 2012. Not only that, but that option gets triggered automatically if the White Sox win the division. Walker has contemplated starting a new chapter in his life, but the consensus is that his return still seems very likely. Cooper has a lot to work with next year, especially if Peavy is healthy, as all of the starters return. The bullpen will pretty much have to be rebuilt, though. Bench coach Joey Cora, after hearing nothing from teams searching for a new manager early in the offseason, has interviewed with the Brewers and has talked to the Blue Jays about their vacancy. The logical fit, though, was the Mariners’ opening (he played in Seattle during Ken Griffey Jr.’s heyday), but he wasn’t even considered a candidate. Cora isn’t considered the top candidate for either the Brewers or Blue Jays job, though, so it is likely that he returns as well. Getting the team on the same page early in the season, to avoid the slow start of 2010, figures to be the theme of spring training.
Key stat: On the final day of the 2010 season the White Sox’s victory over the Indians gave Guillen his 600th career win in seven seasons. Guillen’s five seasons with a winning record as White Sox manager trails only Al Lopez, who had nine. Guillen’s five are tied with Jimmy Dykes.
Quote: “I don’t have any doubt we can put this thing back in place. We’re grown men. I think our friendship got better the last couple of weeks. I think that helped. I think all that stuff outside helped to see what kind of people we are and we really care about each other. I think it was good. Even if people think it was bad I think it was good to see what kind of person we are, we are professional and we are good human beings. We talked and everything was good. I think the best thing about this situation between the organization, myself and Kenny and Jerry [Reinsdorf] is that the fans know exactly what we want.” –Guillen, on repairing his relationship with Williams and how everybody continues to have the same strategy for success in the future.
Sunday: Upper management
Assistant general manager Rick Hahn and bench coach Joey Cora both have declined to talk about high-profile opportunities with other organizations, not only out of respect for those clubs, but for their current one as well.
From the outset since Hahn’s name has been linked to the vacant New York Mets GM vacancy, he has offered what amounts to a polite no-comment when it comes to the position he reportedly interviewed for two weeks ago.
Cora isn’t talking about his reported interview last week with the Milwaukee Brewers and one that is expected to be coming with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Both of them know how hard it is to quietly conduct business in this new media age where every idea, plan and step seems to be chronicled in a blog, tweet, radio update or the tried and true way of appearing in black and white in a newspaper story. Hahn knows it all too well as the right-hand man to GM Kenny Williams.
But it isn’t just the Mets, Brewers and Blue Jays these men are trying to respect. It is also the White Sox themselves, an organization that both of them have worked passionately for and have been dedicated to.
Talking about their potential opportunities, no matter how enticing they are, is akin to crafting a Facebook post about an upcoming first date with the girl you just met when you haven’t even broken up with your girlfriend yet. Nothing good could come of it.
So while huge voids could be left in the organization, and backup plans are being formulated to replace both Hahn and Cora, they are each going about their business as if they aren’t going anywhere. In Hahn’s case, he was in his office at 35th and Shields bright and early the day after being the toast of the town in New York.
Hahn might be good at talking contracts, while Cora is adept at talking strategy with manager Ozzie Guillen, but neither seems to feel comfortable talking about what might be in their immediate future.
Former Indians manager Eric Wedge got the job Monday.
So how did the 5-foot-7, 170-pound Cora, a native of Puerto Rico, help save Seattle Mariners baseball?
In the Pacific Northwest it is stuff of legend how three 11th-inning hits, Cora’s being the first, eventually led to the existence of Safeco Field. Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez might play the more iconic roles in the Mariners’ masterpiece, but if they were the artists, then Cora was the canvas providing the base for what would happen next.
Game 5 of the Mariners-Yankees AL Division series in 1995 was the stage. After the Yankees took a one-run lead in the 11th inning, leaving them three outs from advancing to the ALCS, Cora led off the bottom of the inning with a drag bunt single. Griffey singled to put runners on the corners and Martinez delivered what is affectionately referred to as “The Double” to Mariners fans, scoring both runners for the victory.
The memorable snapshot of the moment was Griffey on the ground with a grin as his teammates piled on top of him.
Cora, who was in his first season with the Mariners after playing four years with the White Sox, batted .297 that 1995 season with a .359 on-base percentage. He would go on to have arguably three better seasons in Seattle, but never had a better moment. Cora also had a home run in Game 5.
Before that Game 5 victory, rumors had been flying that the team could be sold and relocated. The Mariners ended up staying and in 1999, Safeco Field opened. Among the artwork in the new stadium is a depiction of “The Double.” Somebody should have included “The Drag Bunt.”
Word has surfaced recently that the Brewers and Blue Jays are interested in talking to Cora about their manager vacancies. Cora is reportedly set to interview with the Brewers on Tuesday. His body of work from a player to minor-league manager (three seasons) to a White Sox coach for seven years shows his qualifications.
They just weren’t qualifications the Mariners could see, despite his ties to the team and his role in one of the organization’s most defining moments.
In correspondence with Cora recently, he said that all he wanted was a chance to talk to somebody within the Mariners this offseason about their manager opening. As of Friday, though, he had not received one call and seemed, if not hurt, then a little disappointed. He apparently will get that chance elsewhere now.
If anything, not being on the Mariners’ candidate list is what probably affected Cora the most. He was their second-best candidate the last time around when Don Wakamatsu was hired prior to the 2009 season, and the consensus seemed to be that the Mariners would right their wrong and Cora would be among the favorites to get the job this time around.
Instead, the Mariners were reportedly looking for candidates with previous major-league experience. Why? A big reason could be that Wakamatsu didn’t have that experience (he was a minor-league manager for four seasons) and the Mariners apparently didn’t want to go down that road again.
So not only did Wakamatsu beat out Cora for the Mariners job originally, his inability to relate to his players apparently cost Cora a chance to be considered for it this time.
The Mariners didn’t have to hire Cora, but they could have at least brought him in to talk. He appears to know what he’s doing, definitely knows what he’s talking about and is ready to manage.
It’s sad the Mariners didn’t see it, but good for the Brewers and Blue Jays to consider a guy who doesn’t even have a history with those clubs, much less a rich history.
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According to a major league source, the Seattle Mariners never considered Cora a candidate for their managerial opening and the Pittsburgh Pirates don't have Ozzie Guillen's right-hand man on their preliminary list of candidates for their manager opening.
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