By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Dave Dombrowski almost seems to pride himself on being a mercenary, a hired gun, the kind of executive who comes in, loads up, goes for broke. Now he has been fired as the Red Sox president of baseball operations, having done the job he was paid to do.
So what’s the problem?
Thanks and goodbye.
Of course, this is the problem with being the kind of executive Dombrowski is, an all-or-nothing decision-maker who spends other people’s money, trades other people’s prospects and then tries to claim it all as his own. Is Dombrowski a good baseball executive? Sure, yes, I guess. But baseball has changed dramatically over the years – not necessarily for the better – and the truth is that Dombrowski has been fired twice as many times (two) as he has been hired (one) in the last four years.
The Detroit Tigers dismissed him in 2015, just weeks before John Henry scooped him up. The Red Sox subsequently won three divisions and a World Series during Dombrowski’s tenure, then had one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory for a Sox organization that has had far too many of those since the departure of Theo Epstein. And make no mistake, what Dombrowski’s Sox achieved this year was every bit as extraordinary as in 2018: for the first time in a long, long time – maybe ever? – the Red Sox played a season in which they were largely irrelevant.
And so, did Dombrowski deserve to be fired? No. At least based on the resume (which Dombrowski is always all too happy to recite). But like a CEO hired to elevate the stock price before a blockbuster sale, he isn’t the right man for the job anymore, either. The Red Sox are not necessarily rebuilding now, but they are definitely reshaping. Dombrowski, again, historically has won with other people’s money and prospects, and right now he has neither.
If it was OK for the Red Sox to hire Dombrowski when they wanted to win, why is it wrong for them to fire him now? Signing Nathan Eovaldi for $17 million a year was an overpayment in excess of 50 percent. Signing Chris Sale at all was an inexcusable offense – the Sox should have waited – especially given the fact that Sale missed the second of last year with a shoulder problem. During his time here, Dombrowski acquired Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, Drew Pomeranz, Eovaldi and Sale, investing significant resources into all of them. All had history of injury or highly questionable pitching mechanics, something Dombrowski cavalierly placed under the all-encompassing umbrella titled Every Pitcher Has Injuries.
He just happened to get all of them.
Oh, don’t misunderstand. The Sox hardly handled this well. News of Dombrowski’s imminent dismissal was essentially reported/leaked weeks ago by Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, and nobody in the Boston organization had done anything to refute it. Then the Sox formally fired Dombrowski after a nationally televised game on the night the Patriots raised their sixth championship banner and opened their 2019 season, the kind of sneaky, cowardly maneuver that makes the 2019 Red Sox season relevant (finally) for all the wrong reasons.
Low? You bet it is. Almost as low as revealing sordid details about manager Terry Francona following the cataclysmic 2011 campaign.
The Red Sox, too, have plenty of concerns now. While Dombrowski allies (or Sox ownership enemies) ran to national media members people like Bob Nightengale and Ken Rosenthal to point out Dombrowski’s reputation and resume – and I’m not blaming the reporters – there are some truths impossible to overlook. The Red Sox have now fired their last two general managers within two years of winning a World Series, and in the case of Dombrowski it took only 10 months.
Hypothetical: if you were Theo Epstein, would you work for Sox owners right now? If the answer is yes, you either need serious psychotherapy or a 10-year contract that includes a piece of ownership.
In the end, here we are again, just months after a Red Sox championship, wondering how it all came apart so fast. Sale may need elbow surgery. David Price is chronically unhappy and, at the moment, hurt. J.D. Martinez may opt out of his contract and Mookie Betts seems a very real candidate to flee, the latter of which means the Sox may have no choice but to trade the reigning American League Most Valuable Player.
If you feel like the Red Sox have returned to a bygone time, you’re not alone.
After all, for a very long time in Boston, the problem with the Red Sox was that the winters were more important than the summers.