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Boston Red Sox

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

In the end, in the days and weeks leading up to the annual major league trading deadline, a whopping 14 teams acquired bullpen help and an astonishing 22 relievers changed uniforms. And by the time it all gets sorted out in September and October, one thing is for certain.

Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox are going to look very, very smart or very, very stupid.

And so the major league deadline came, the major league deadline went, and we were all left with a familiar question yesterday as the Red Sox failed to address what many have regarded as their primary need for weeks if not months: does president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski understand the importance of the bullpen in the modern game? The Red Sox need a setup man, or so we thought, and yet Dombrowski stood by and watched as relievers jumped from one team to another as if playing “Duck, Duck, Goose.”

“We had our hands involved in a lot of different things. We had conversations all over the place. We were watching everybody. There really was a combination of factors,” Dombrowski told reporters. “Some of them – we didn’t think there was an improvement. Some of them – we didn’t like the asking price for a couple guys that we did think were an improvement. Thirdly, a couple of times, they went in a different direction.”

Spin? Of course. There is always spin. Some of that s undoubtedly true and some of probably isn’t. But what means more than a singular deadline, as always, is the pattern, and Dombrowski’s history over the last 20 years is generally that he doesn’t do enough to help his bullpen.

In this specific case, the contrast is striking. This deadline, every playoff contender added at least one reliever … except for the Red Sox. In recent years, especially, October has been jammed with a succession of dominant relievers ranging from Kelvin Herrera to Andrew Miller to Wade Davis to Aroldis Chapman, and executives now stuff their bullpens until the door pops open.

Dombrowski is now thumbing his nose more than ever at this trend, which can’t help but make you wonder whether he’s stubborn or brilliant.

Fact: Dombrowski hasn’t won a World Series since 1997 with the Florida Marlins. His teams are 1-11 in their last 12 playoff games. While running the Detroit Tigers, Dombrowski built teams with excellent starting rotations and suspect bullpens, the latter of which came back to haunt him on more than one occasion.

Now, in 2018, Dombrowski has a team with the best record in baseball and still appears to building it as if it were 1997, when middle relievers and set-up were found among the rejects from the starting rotation. Maybe he will prove right. Maybe he will prove wrong. But what we know for certain is that Dombrowski has more invested in this Red Sox season than ever before, because something far more than a World Series championship may be at stake.

His credibility may be on the line, too.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.