BOSTON -- I understand that Houston will celebrate its first World Series title, and I hope Astros fans take all the time they want to savor the win, especially as the city continues to recover from Hurricane Harvey. However, it’s time, Houston, for Alex Cora to leave you, because this son of Puerto Rico was named the manager of the Boston Red Sox to become the franchise’s first Latino manager, and the moment to make more history is now.
I happen to be Puerto Rican and have been constantly barraged and saddened by the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, so news that the 42-year-old Cora would be leading the team I have grown to love has been my sliver of comfort. In a city once invisibly Latino, Cora’s arrival will be the latest chapter of a baseball story that has made legends out of Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martínez, Manny Ramírez and, of course, "Big Papi" David Ortiz.
Now comes Cora, who has the opportunity to not only succeed in a tough baseball town but also prove to the baseball world that having a Latino manager at the helm shouldn’t be seen as some aberration.
The statistics are a stark reminder. In a league that is 31.9 percent Latino, Cora would be only the third Latino manager in the majors next season, joining the Chicago White Sox’s Rick Renteria and the Washington Nationals’ Dave Martinez (also Puerto Rican, by way of New York City). The excuse about how difficult it is to find a qualified Latino candidate or that there are only 30 managerial positions is tiresome. In a league that is more and more Latino, we should not be having this discussion any longer, and we should be insisting that three Latino managers is not enough.
Cora represents the opportunity to change the narrative and prove to other teams that if they are not seriously considering (and hiring) Latino candidates for managers, they are missing out. Latinos have led teams to major accomplishments, such as when Felipe Alou was named National League Manager of the Year in 1994.
Twenty-three years ago.
Or when Tony Peña won American League Manager of the Year in 2003.
Fourteen years ago.
Or when Ozzie Guillén won the World Series with the White Sox in 2005.
Twelve years ago.
It’s been a while, and it’s time to change that.
Over the past few years, the Red Sox have become a destination for Latino players, and there are no signs of that letting up. At one point this past season, the Sox fielded a lineup that featured a majority of Latinos on the field (Hanley Ramírez, Eduardo Nuñez, Rafael Devers, Christian Vázquez, Eduardo Rodríguez). In the history of Boston, that is a big deal.
Imagine what Cora can do with someone like the Dominican-born Devers, an exceptional young third baseman who has all the potential to be the next great Red Sox. Does it matter that someone like Cora understands how someone like Devers is dealing with cultural and language issues? You bet it does. And anyone who downplays this connection due to “political correctness” is missing the point: Without Latinos, Major League Baseball would be a different sport. Latinos are saving baseball, and it’s about time that teams have more Latino managers and coaches.
And let’s not forget that Cora’s influence as a bench coach for the Astros played a huge role in Houston’s magical season.
Not surprisingly, because this is Boston and there are few mainstream media Latino voices writing and talking about sports, there is a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to Cora. Not many are discussing how historic his hiring was, given that Massachusetts is home to the fifth-largest Puerto Rican community in the United States, comprising the state’s largest share of Latino residents. And while Boricuas in Boston worry about Hurricane Maria, there is a sense of pride that Cora is coming to our city to represent us all. That might be hokey to many Boston sports fans, but not this one, and if you see me waving a Puerto Rican flag or wearing a World Baseball Classic Puerto Rico jersey next year in Fenway, you’ll know why.
So take as many victory laps as you want, Houston, but do it without Cora. Boston Boricuas are ready to give a big bienvenido to the new Red Sox manager. Because when it comes to Puerto Rican baseball, we take pride in our own —los nuestros.
Julio Ricardo Varela is co-host of the Webby-nominated In The Thick podcast. He is also the founder of LatinoRebels.com. Follow him @julito77.