HOUSTON -- The manager needed to disappear for the man to reappear. Alex Cora didn't realize it at the time, because survival tends to outweigh self-reflection when the world is collapsing around you, when everything you've built -- respect, loyalty, acclaim -- vanishes in a fiasco of your own making.
He did what he did. The cheating. The trash can. All of it. Cora experienced the worst years of his professional life, which felt like an endless plunge into an empty space where a man is nothing more than his worst moment, but he earned them. He did baseball dirty, and baseball ditched him in return. And even if he knew that others would forever define him by this, for Cora it was always about how he would plow past it.
Because baseball can't help but be poetic, Cora finds himself back in the same building where he made a choice that would alter the course of his life, fighting for his season's survival. The Boston Red Sox weren't supposed to be here, at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. They weren't supposed to make the postseason, and they weren't supposed to win a wild-card game or a division series.