As Yankees collapse, here's a scary thought: Alex Cora to New York

As Yankees collapse, here’s a scary thought: Alex Cora to New York originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The fortunes of the Red Sox and Yankees have been intertwined since Harry Frazee said, “Here, have Babe Ruth,” but the rivalry lost its recent luster while the clubs took turns contending without much overlap.

Well, they appear ready to intersect now, and not merely because of the tightening standings or the door that Red Sox manager Alex Cora believes just opened on his team’s playoff chances.

It’s the exit that could take Cora straight out of Boston and straight into New York.

You want a nightmare, here it is: The Yankees, in the midst of a third straight collapse, finally jettison embattled manager Aaron Boone. That creates an offseason opening for the richest team in baseball to court the best manager in baseball.

This is purely conjecture at the moment, because Cora once again declined to discuss his future on Tuesday, except to say the team has honored his wish to hold off until “after the last out — hopefully of the World Series.”

But it’s hard to miss the obvious landing spot if the Red Sox allow Cora to reach free agency, where he should shatter the record $40 million the Cubs just paid Craig Counsell to leave the Brewers.

The Yankees have the means, the roster, and most crucially, the need for a new voice. Cora would transform the franchise’s fortunes overnight. The city’s legendary tabloids would have a field day. “Welcome to the Cora Zone!” under the famed I Love New York heart logo or something.

Some have characterized Cora as a lame duck, but the reality is he’s free as bird, and he knows it. The Red Sox are rolling, now a season-high 10 games over .500 after Tuesday’s 12-9 victory over the A’s, and not only are they two games clear of the Royals in the wild card race, they’ve pulled within 3.5 games of the Yankees, whose free-fall is approaching terminal velocity.

Not even a month ago, New York led Boston by 14 games. The symmetry ever since is perfect. The Red Sox have won 17 of 23 and the Yankees have lost 17 of 23, giving Boston the best record in baseball during that span and New York the worst.

The latter’s latest loss came on Tuesday to the Rays with general manager Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner in attendance. It featured more of the same in this extended run of misery – a terrible first inning from free agent bust Carlos Rodón, a failure to capitalize on limited opportunities, and an awkward swing from All-Star Juan Soto, whom the Yankees can hardly afford to lose.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox keep playing their exciting brand of baseball, which included an eight-run second inning on Tuesday, starter Brayan Bello recording his first 10 outs via the K, and space cadet first baseman Triston Casas conducting NESN’s postgame interview with just the right amount of weirdness.

The Red Sox are everything the Yankees are not – young, relentless, joyous. The Yankees are going on Year 3 of Aaron Judge and Not Much Else and the heat on Boone is scorching.

In 2022, New York won 64 games in the first half before going 35-35 down the stretch and being swept by the Astros. Last year, they hit the All-Star break just a game out of the wild card before playing sub-.500 and missing the playoffs.

Even if Hal did not inherit his father’s notorious trigger finger, there’s only so much a team can take before it makes a change, especially with the Yankees playing such sloppy baseball. Cashman has shown considerable loyalty to Boone, so maybe he’s allowed to finish the season after taking baseball’s best record into June. But if this slide towards oblivion continues, Cora’s good friend and former ESPN co-worker will be out of a job.

An opening in New York would give Cora tremendous leverage, and having perfectly positioned himself in managerial free agency, he’d be crazy not to wield it. Watching him leave might hit Red Sox fans harder than Mookie Betts, given the destination. And it would further damage a brand already battered by neglect.

Why the Red Sox let it get this far is a mystery, their scattershot approach to Cora mystifying. They announced his return last fall before even hiring Craig Breslow to replace Chaim Bloom, but then let him enter his walk year while Breslow evaluated the organization.

Now he’s got the Red Sox exceeding everyone’s expectations, starting with ownership, which declined to invest during the offseason. We’re currently consumed with the question of whether they’ll right that wrong at the trade deadline, but a much bigger issue looms, and it’s if they’ll be in the market for a manager this winter because they let the acclaimed incumbent take his talents to New York.

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