Look, Alex Cora didn’t just fall off the turnip truck and end up on Lansdowne. The man won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007 and the Astros in 2017 and he knows a thing or two about the game. Having spent some time in the Houston organization, he also has a precious insider’s view to how that machine works. The man is a thinker and a schemer, and everything that has transpired thus far in the Red Sox’ season has done so according to his design. For all we know, the stock market may rise and fall on his every whim.

But let’s stick to baseball. Last night, after our bullpen imploded and the Houston Astros scored six times in the 7th and 8th to take the first game of the series, it was easy to drop the blame on our hapless corp of relievers. And honestly, none of them have done anything to give us a sense of confidence heading into October.

However, I think there’s another game being played here. The long game. The Alex Cora game.

I am convinced that Cora is lulling the Astros into a false sense of security. It’s a total con job. In fact, I’d bet cash money that Cora’s not basing his game plan for this series on any fucking nerd-ass sabermetrics. Rather, he’s pulling a page from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.” Specifically, the part where the author notes that “all warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable.”

Right now, everyone knows that the Red Sox’ biggest weakness is the bullpen. You know it. I know it. The bullpen knows it. The squirrels in my backyard that have been slowly chomping away at my deck know it.

So what does Cora do? He exploits it. He makes damn sure that in a game widely billed as an ALCS preview, the bullpen takes an epic dive. All eyes on the game now know the narrative for October: the Boston bullpen is trash.

Problem is, that’s the narrative Cora wants them to believe. See, he’s twisting and turning and beating your ass with a chess board while the rest of the world is playing checkers. Again, let’s quote Sun-Tzu: “pretend inferiority and encourage your enemy’s arrogance.” Cora is three fucking steps ahead of all of us in a spaceship fighting space-dragons with a laser sword.

Remember that scene in Battle for the Planet of Apes, when the mutant armies were surrounding Caesar, but then he yelled, “Now, fight like apes!” and you realized that all the apes were playing possum, waiting for that very moment? That’s what’s going on here. Only with baseball players. You get me?

It’s a crazy plan but I’m convinced everybody’s in on it. And it breaks down into four easy steps:

1. Lull your enemies into a false sense of security.
2. Let them think they know your greatest weakness.
3. Throw them a left when they expect a right.
4. Hoist World Series trophy.

So I’m not going to waste a lot of precious breath complaining about the bullpen. Or if I do, it will be in special “coded” language (for example, “Oh, yes, [wink, wink]. Of course Joe Kelly sucks [wink, wink]. Wouldn’t want to have to trust THAT fellow in October, eh? [wink wink wink wink wink].”)

All I’m saying is that the Red Sox didn’t win 100 games by accident (and, no, I didn’t just jinx it). They’re a good team. A powerful team. This is the time of year when every playoff-bound team goes under the microscope. If Cora can get an edge by pushing the shitty bullpen agenda, more power to him.

I don’t believe we have a bullpen problem. But I do believe that Alex Cora wants us to believe we do. That’s the art of war, son.