A day after the Red Sox were officially eliminated from the postseason, Puerto Rican manager Alex Cora had to deal with a reality that many others in his shoes have had to face in recent years.
Forget that no team has repeated as a World Series champion since the 2000 Yankees. In this case, it says more that the Red Sox are the fifth defending champion in the past seven years not to make the postseason.
The two exceptions are last year's Astros and the 2017 Cubs.
Cora offered her thoughts on why it's so difficult for a champion to duplicate success the following season.
“It's not easy, brother. We talk about the hangover or whatever. The fact of being able to go to the end and win is very rewarding,” said Cora. “We were talking about it yesterday. Last year we lost only 57 games. We were in the perfect spot mentally. And then the offseason gets pretty short."
“Sometimes it's great. Always give me a short offseason. But as far as preparation and all that, you're in a hurry. I feel that before the season we prepared well, we did everything possible, but that first month is very important. You have a goal. We talked about it."
The Red Sox didn't play well in what turned out to be a brutal start to the season, perhaps also not being able to display the same intensity as their opponents at that point.
"I'm not going to say the name of the pitcher, but there was one in game four or five of the season this year, we had a man on third, two outs and the game was nil in the third inning," Cora recalled. "He struck out somebody and he got emotional like it was October."
"It's not like last year the teams didn't want to beat us," Cora continued. “But there's something about winning and the level of play night after night, it's a little bit different emotionally. I don't know if that's the reason. But I feel like that was something I learned this year. Is different".
As for the criticism he has received for the conservative plan they designed for their pitchers during practice, Cora believes there was no other option.
Boston's veteran starters were exhausted last October, especially since they were constantly moving between the rotation and the bullpen. As a way to take care of their races, and to hope they had something in the tank for an eventual return in October, Cora felt she had to let them recover in practice.
The plan didn't pan out, and both ace Chris Sale and second-string starter David Price had inconsistent, injury-scarred years, as did Nathan Eovaldi. Rick Porcello stayed healthy, but he didn't have a good season.
Would Cora have liked to do things differently in the spring?
"Not at all," assured the foreman. “What these guys (starters) did was not easy. We structure the workouts based on that. It was not very different from what we did two years ago. But we just didn't shoot well."
Although no one wants to miss out on the playoffs, Cora believes the additional time off could benefit the club going into next year. Cora will also have more time to decompress, since in 2017 he was a bench coach for the Astros, who ended up being crowned.
"There are certain things in which we are going to improve and others that we are analyzing," continued Cora. “Obviously there is an open question about the direction the organization will take in the coming days, weeks or months, we don't know. But as for the coaching staff and what we are doing, I am already working for next year. And waiting for a different dead season. It's been a while since I've been home since the beginning of October, so I'll have time to structure some things I want to do in the winter and during training. MLB