When Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez left the mound yesterday, it was as a hero to his team. By the time he reached his dugout he had something else to think about.
Rodriguez went six innings for the Sox, holding Houston to three runs on five hits while picking up the win in a 12-3 victory in Game 3 of the ALCS. The last of his 18 outs came courtesy of a Carlos Correa ground out. It was the third time on the day Rodriguez had retired Correa, who didn’t even breach the infield.
On his way down the mound, Rodriguez pointed to his wrist. It was a subtle gesture, but unmistakable. It wasn’t Correa’s time.
Correa is a self-professed keeper of clock, particularly during the playoffs. He made this clear after hitting a seventh-inning homer in Game 1, when he threw his bat, admired the blast and, looking into his own dugout, pointed exuberantly at his wrist while shouting, “It’s my time!” His teammates had urged him to do it, he explained to reporters later.
So it only made sense that Rodriguez gently mocked the man after besting him in Game 3.
Boston manager Alex Cora wanted no part of it.
As soon as he saw the display, Cora began yelling, “No!” and “Don’t do that!” When Rodriguez reached the dugout, the manager took a moment to speak directly into his ear. After the game, Cora laid it all out for reporters.
“We don’t act that way,” he said. “We just show up, we play and we move on. He knows. I let him know. We don’t have to do that. If we’re looking for motivation outside of what we’re trying to accomplish, we’re in the wrong business. The only motivation we have is to win four games against them and move on to the next round.”
There are a couple of ways to look at this. Under the modern baseball landscape, Correa is allowed to celebrate. He wasn’t showing up the pitcher or the Red Sox. He faced his own dugout while doing his wrist thing. It was strictly an internal matter, and entirely acceptable under the auspices of Let the Kids Play.
As far as I know, Cora made no public comment about Correa’s actions. He did not seek on-field retribution. He was willing to let the Astros be the Astros, and devote his attention to the playing of baseball.
Now we know that when it’s his guy doing the thing, it’s different.
At this point, even the old-school holdouts who still decry shenanigans like Correa’s must accept that this is the way baseball is now played. Alex Cora appears to be among their ranks. The Astros clubhouse is not his business. The Red Sox clubhouse is. And when one of his guys does something about which he disapproves—it should be noted that Rodriguez’s showboating was directed toward the opposition, unlike Correa’s initial salvo—he has every right to address it.
After Correa’s home run in Game 1, we got a telling statement from Hansel Robles, the pitcher who gave it up. “It did not bother me,” he told ESPN about the slugger’s It’s my time gesture. “Correa is one of the best hitters in baseball; you cannot make mistakes against him. But I did think for a moment … the standing at home plate … pointing to the watch … sometimes some of that stuff is a bit overboard. But let me tell you something, I have no reason to be mad at Correa. I am the one who made the pitch. In that at-bat, he did his job; I did not do mine.”
Don’t like it, but no hard feelings. Seems in line with the tenor of his manager.
Alex Cora has every right to set whatever expectations he wants for his players. If they don’t like it, if they rebel, if he loses the room, then he won’t be long for his job. In the meantime, the guy is on the cusp of the World Series, which on its own counts for quite a bit. His team is playing his brand of baseball, which is exactly how it should be.