For the first time in Alex Cora’s brief career as a major league manager and coach, he will not take part in the playoffs. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The reality hit Alex Cora like a ton of bricks.  We’ve known for weeks now that the Boston Red Sox were not going to play postseason baseball in October, but it didn’t become official until Friday night.

Suddenly, for the first time in his short career as a manager and coach, Cora knows he is going home when the regular season ends. After a record-setting 2018 season that ended in a championship, the Red Sox will finish third in the American League East. A stunning reality for a team that spent the summer thinking it would finally shift into a higher gear and make a playoff run.

“This is a group that has been doing it for what, three years in a row,” said Cora, “playing all the way to the end. Sometimes, hey, that grind costs you. I think at the end there’s no excuses. We didn’t play well. We were very inconsistent. When we got hot, other teams stayed hot.”

Honestly, they didn’t get hot that often. Now, after wrapping up a four-game series in Tampa Bay, they will finish the season with six meaningless games against the Rangers and Orioles, two other teams that will miss out on the postseason.

“There’s no excuses,” Cora said. “We will get better. We will attack the offseason the right way. You see it right now. The way they’re going about their business, that’s very gratifying because (the Rays had) to earn it. It’s not that we come in here and, ‘Hey, go ahead, win three out of four and move on.’ There’s certain things we’re going to get better at and we’re taking a look at a few things. Obviously there’s still a question mark of what’s going to happen with the organization in the upcoming days and weeks or months, you don’t know. But as far as the staff and what we’re doing, I’m already working for next year.”

That will be different for Cora. Over the past 36 months he has had virtually no days off.  He spent the winter of 2017 serving as general manager of the Puerto Rico World Baseball Classic team before becoming the bench coach of the Houston Astros.

That Astros won it all, and Cora got to take part in the offseason celebrations. Yet during that postseason run he was interviewing for various managing jobs. He was hired by the Red Sox, where he led the team to a record-setting season. Which led to more offseason celebrations.

“Now, I can have time to structure a few things I want to do in the offseason and spring training,” said Cora. “It is nonstop focus for my family I was talking about it the other day and it was WBC in the offseason of 2016, then the playoff rounds with the Astros while interviewing for five jobs and then getting a job and to Boston to get the World Series and get back to spring training.”

Last spring, Cora surprised people by saying he wasn’t turning the page after winning it all in 2018. His point was that the Red Sox should continue to build on their success. To write another chapter in their championship saga.

This season has taught him to selectively look at what should stay the same and what should change.

“You turn the page on the things that are bad,” said Cora. “You continue doing the things you’re supposed to do to get better.

“At the end, there’s no excuses. We just didn’t play well.”

That’s a fact. And something we are all ready to turn away from.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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