FORT MYERS, Fla. — Walk into the Red Sox clubhouse at JetBlue Park and hanging from the rafters to your right are four world championship banners that have been won since 2004.
There they are: 2004, 2007, 2013 and the latest, 2018.
Over that same span, the Yankees own one. Sure, the Yankees have 27 world championships and Boston has nine, but lately, this has been a one-sided affair.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora pushed all the right buttons last year, his first year on the job, and is looking to go back-to-back. He is not afraid to put great expectations on his team.
“We do believe we’re going to do it,” Cora said Wednesday on Day 1 of workouts. “We have a good team. We play every day, and we finish games every day. That’s what I love about our team. Even in Game 5 of the World Series, we were teaching the game in the eighth inning.
“It’s a challenge, but we love challenges. Somebody asked me last year why I took this job. I love this. This is fun. We’re the Boston Red Sox. We know where we play. The challenge of going out there and performing for this fan base and the media and everybody else is what gets us going.’’
The Red Sox never stumbled.
“Didn’t get caught up on the historic season and all that,” Cora said. “They just got caught up in showing up every day and playing the game the right way and then win games. That’s what it’s all about.”
Listen to Cora’s message.
“Do we really want to turn the page?’’ he asked. “It’s a book and we wrote a chapter last year. Let’s write a new chapter this year. Sometimes turning the page is so negative. This case it was very positive. We can learn a lot from last year. Is it going to be same way? Hopefully. I don’t mind that. But we know it’s going to be a little bit different. We can learn a lot from what we did last year and put it into play this year.”
No team has repeated as World Series champions since the Yankees won three in a row in 1998-2000.
Cora said he knows about winning back-to-back. He was Astros bench coach in 2017 when they won their first World Series and guided the Red Sox last season, dispatching the Yankees in four games in the division series after winning the AL East by eight games.
Asked what Cora does for a clubhouse, ace Chris Sale said: “He wins championships. Back-to-back World Series champion. He makes it fun and can light a fire underneath you. He holds it down. He is an unbelievable leader. With any team that is great, they have to have a great leader and there is no question he is that.’’
“The thing about repeating, you can say turn the page or hangover or all that, it’s about who you have in the clubhouse and what they want to do,’’ Cora said. “The Giants were in the World Series every other year, Kansas City was in the World Series back-to-back years, the Phillies in ’08 and ’09. The Dodgers have been in been in back-to-back World Series. Teams have been able to show up the next year and have good seasons.
“We’ve won the division three times in a row and last year we won the World Series, so there is something good going on,’’ Cora said. “It’s a matter of keep preaching our principles and keep doing the things that we feel that are going to make us a better team, and if we do that we feel we are going to be in good shape.’’
Cora said he believes these Red Sox can be better than last year even though they have to come up with a closer to replace Craig Kimbrel, the right-hander who remains a free agent.
The Red Sox are hoping for a comeback season from Dustin Pedroia and his troubled left knee.
“He is going to shock the world here in spring training,’’ Cora said. “Now it’s about workload. From what I’ve seen [in videos], he’s ready to roll. He actually, believe it or not, he took ground balls with a full uni the other day, the World Series uniform. I was like, ‘You’re nuts, man.’ ’’
Noted Sale: “We got guys in here that are still hungry. You don’t hang your hat on the one, we go for another one.’’
It would be nuts to bet against Alex Cora’s Red Sox.