Mariners interview Chicago's Joey Cora
Forget about that whole interview process thing when it comes to onetime Mariners infielder Joey Cora. The guy whose bunt single got the...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Forget about that whole interview process thing when it comes to onetime Mariners infielder Joey Cora.
The guy whose bunt single got the Mariners started on their come-from-behind rally to beat the New York Yankees in the 1995 Division Series sounded Tuesday like he'd turned the clock back a decade and was currently employed by Seattle. There were so many references to "we've got to" and "we're going to" in Cora's conference call with the media that it seemed he'd already been hired to manage the Mariners, despite still being a bench coach with the Chicago White Sox.
If the intent was to come across as if he's firmly in charge and awaiting the next step, the guy who has spent years running interference for Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen in the media pulled it off quite well.
"There's got to be pride, got to be a way to play the game that the fans and the organization feel proud of," Cora said. "Making sure that the other teams worry about us. We don't want to worry about them. We want to make them worry about us."
That wasn't always the case, he added, when his White Sox were about to play Seattle.
"We knew we were going to play the Mariners, we would think about Ichiro, about [Felix] Hernandez, and a couple of other things," Cora said. "But they had problems. Obviously, if they didn't have problems, I wouldn't be here. Obviously they have talented players, but we need to get back to the way things were, where we hope to win a World Series."
Cora was the second of seven managerial hopefuls to interview for the job. Arizona Diamondbacks third-base coach Chip Hale met with general manager Jack Zduriencik later in the day, but his interview had to be pushed back to early evening because of flight delays.
Hale said any manager has to be flexible enough in style to use a team's strengths to its advantage. But his overall philosophy remains the same.
"My thing is, play the game the right way," he said. "I played under Tom Kelly in Minnesota and the thing he used to preach is 'Respect the game.'
"I came through that system. We just did things the right way. Whether it was working on bunt defenses, taking infield, outfield. If we didn't do it the right way, we'd keep on doing it again."
Boston Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills interviewed Monday, while Oakland Athletics bench coach Don Wakamatsu goes this morning, followed by Class AAA Portland manager Randy Ready in the early evening. Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo and Red Sox third base coach DeMarlo Hale will also be interviewed this week, with a manager possibly being named by early next week.
The Mariners had attempted to add a third member of the Red Sox staff, pitching coach John Farrell, to their interview list. But Farrell, in a statement released by the Red Sox this week, declined to be interviewed.
"I have withdrawn my name for consideration by the Seattle Mariners as they search for a new manager," Farrell said. "My decision is based on family reasons and being committed to the Red Sox organization."
Cora remains the sentimental favorite for a sizable chunk of Mariners fans, many of whom remember "Little Joey" crying in the dugout in 1995 after the Cleveland Indians had eliminated Seattle in the ALCS. But it's in Chicago where he has groomed the formative skills needed to succeed at the managerial position.
"He's ready, given an opportunity, anywhere; but to me, to be successful in the American League, you've got to have a little better knowledge of the AL," White Sox GM Kenny Williams told Larry Stone of the Times at the recent GM Meetings. "He's seen the best and knows what it takes, both at the veteran level and the younger level, because we have a blend. He's certainly had a lot of practice learning to navigate his way around the media, from the manager we have in place."
Cora spoke on Tuesday about the blending of personalities between him and the often-volatile Guillen in the White Sox clubhouse. He spoke of how Guillen's outbursts in the media often overshadowed the strong bond he has had with players — a relationship Cora helped keep track of as bench coach.
"I'm the one who gives Ozzie a different perspective every day," he said. "Because I'm not Ozzie. Nobody is Ozzie.
"So far, we've been very successful in Chicago. We won the World Series, obviously. We made the playoffs this year, even though we had a lot of injuries."
It's doubtful the Mariners want an Ozzie Guillen-type running their clubhouse and calling players out in public whenever they underperform. Instead, they would likely want the counterpoint to that Guillen persona, the levelheaded, softer-spoken Cora that Williams felt blended so well.
And a return to 1995-style glory wouldn't hurt.
"I know the fans, I know what the fans want," Cora said. "I know what they want, they want a World Series there. That's the way it is. Seattle sports fans, they've had a tough time."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com.
Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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