Major League diss: Red Sox manager takes a pass on White House visit

The intersection of sports and politics meets again. Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced his decision on accepting an invitation extended by the White House to celebrate the team’s World Series victory. It’s a hard pass. The sole reason given by Cora is his dissatisfaction with the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria.

The Boston Red Sox will meet with President Trump Thursday at the White House to be recognized for the team’s 2018 World Series victory. Cora, a native of Puerto Rico, wrestled with whether or not to go for some time. Back in January, it was reported that he was unhappy with the Trump administration’s proposal to divert funds from recovery efforts in Puerto Rico to instead go for funding the border wall.

“We’ll see what happens,” Cora said before the annual dinner of the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “There’s a lot of stuff going on right now as far as the government and the shutdown and all that. If I go, I’ll represent Puerto Rico the right way.”

Cora said his final decision will rest on whether he can accomplish more by going or by staying home.

“I don’t know what kind of platform I’m going to have if I go,” he said. “Sometimes, if you walk the other way and you get your back to whatever is going on, is it positive? I don’t know. Sometimes you’ve got to show your face.”

So, for Cora, “the right way” to represent Puerto Rico was to use the team’s visit to the White House as a platform to promote his political agenda. The team’s visit was originally scheduled for February but the trip was postponed and moved to May. He announced his decision to pass on the trip in El Nuevo Dia. He cites a long process of talking to family and friends and his conclusion is that he would not “feel comfortable” celebrating at the White House. He told some players and coaches of his decision on Sunday morning. Cora has the support of the organization.

“Puerto Rico is very important to me. During the winter I spent a lot of time back home, visiting my family and friends. Unfortunately, we are still struggling, still fighting. Some people still lack basic necessities, others remain without electricity and many homes and schools are in pretty bad shape almost a year and a half after Hurricane María struck”, said Cora.

“Even though the United States Government has helped, there’s still a long road ahead and that is OUR reality. I’ve used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten and my absence (from the White House) is no different. As such, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating in the White House”, added Cora, who calls the municipality of Caguas his home.

The trip is optional for team members and coaches. The Red Sox president and CEO, principal owner and chairman will all make the trip to the White House.

Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy voiced his backing.

“We fully support Alex and respect his decision,” said Kennedy via text. “He and I have discussed this issue frequently since last November, and I know it was a hard decision for him. I am grateful to (principal owner) John (Henry) and (chairman) Tom (Werner) for creating a culture where we discuss these issues openly, and encourage individual decision-making. I appreciate Alex for talking openly with our team and supporting those who are looking forward to being honored on Thursday.”

Kennedy, Henry and Werner are all planning on attending.

Some of the other players will not attend, whether they support Cora’s stance or not.

Rick Porcello, Sunday’s starting pitcher, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts each support Cora — Porcello is attending, Bogaerts is not.

“It’s his decision, I think that’s the whole point of all of this — we all have different perspective and have the right to make a decision on attending one way or another,” said Porcello. “I absolutely respect everyone’s decision, whether they’re going or not.”

Said Bogaerts: “Everyone has their own opinion on that type of stuff. He’s not going, we’ve got to just respect that for whatever reason it is, we don’t have to buy into that. He’s a grown man and he can make a decision on his own.”

Other members of the team who will not be there — for assorted reasons — include Mookie Betts, David Price, Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr., Hector Velazquez and Sandy Leon.

Frankly, I think it’s a good thing that Cora won’t go if the purpose was to voice displeasure about government aid to Puerto Rico. The visit is for the whole team and allows them a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the White House and to meet an American president. It isn’t to give political support to the president or his policies. It is an honor to be recognized in the People’s House.

It is understandable to be frustrated with progress in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane. Many of the residents of my city still struggle to make their lives whole again after Hurricane Harvey. That hurricane hit the Houston area in August 2017 before Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September of that year.

Puerto Rico suffered from a corrupt government and insufficient infrastructure before Hurricane Maria and unfortunately for the residents there, the aftermath has been badly managed on the ground. The mayor of San Juan was very busy attacking President Trump and his administration on camera for television reporters in the days after the storm. She turned the tragedy into a political opportunity for herself. Now she is running to be Governor of Puerto Rico in 2020.

The House Oversight Committee Monday demanded White House documents on the response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. And on it goes.