By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Dave Dombrowski was fired over a month ago, has been a lame duck for more than two. And yet here we are, nearing the end of the baseball postseason, and the Red Sox’ search for a new chief baseball executive remains conspicuously quiet.
Which means it’s about to get noisy.
As John Tomase of NBC Sports Boston noted earlier this week, Andrew Friedman of the Los Angeles Dodgers effectively became a free agent when the Dodgers were eliminated from the playoffs. Recently, the Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins also have been eliminated. The point is that baseball’s offseason is about to get cranked up to full potency, at least as it pertains to the single biggest decision that has faced the Red Sox in some time.
Specifically, who’s the boss?
Let’s not be naïve. With the possible exception of Theo Epstein, who has declared his loyalty to the Cubs, the Red Sox have probably had Friedman on their radar for a long, long time. In fact, at this stage, it’s probable Theo was nothing more than a smokescreen from the very beginning. (I, for one, took the cheese.) Red Sox owners and executives have always been adept at working the back channels, whether it was Larry Lucchino or Epstein. Lucchino showed no reluctance in trying to leverage Billy Beane out of Oakland. One of Epstein’s first moves, lest anyone forget, was to effectively steal Kevin Millar from both Japan and the then-Florida Marlins.
Friedman’s case isn’t nearly as controversial, if for no other reason than the fact that his contract is up. But that’s really the point. Friedman has been one the best executives in baseball for some time now – maybe the single best – and yet his contract has effectively expired. Why is that? The Dodgers have been one of the best teams in baseball during Friedman’s five years in Los Angeles – they have won more regular season games than any other franchise, averaging 97 wins a year – and their spending has gone down.
The absence of a World Series title? To you and I, that’s a big deal. To someone like Sox owner John Henry, who believe in probabilistic models and sample size – that’s a fluke.
Here’s what I’m getting at: knowing what we know now, look at the timeline. The Red Sox won the World Series last year, yet Dombrowski did not get a contract extension. Recently, Henry told us that immediately after the World Series, he and Dombrowski disagreed over the direction of the franchise. By August, word had leaked (courtesy of the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy) that Dombrowski’s goose was cooked, a curious bit of public news given there were two months left in the season.
Know what I think? I think the Red Sox knew a year ago – or more – that Friedman was entering the final year of his contract and that he might want to come to Boston. Heck, they probably talked to him – or someone close to him – while the Red Sox were cleaning up on the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series. And that is probably why Friedman hasn’t agreed to new terms with the Dodgers.
Again think about it: how the heck did the Dodgers allow Friedman to enter the final year of his contract in the first place?
The answer: Because Friedman resisted them.
And because, like any good decision-maker, he probably had his next move lined up already.