There’s a new man at the head of Boston’s baseball team.
In shocking fashion Tuesday night, weeks after stating their lack of interest, the Boston Red Sox have hired longtime baseball aficionado Dave Dombrowski as their President of Baseball Operations according to Jon Heyman on CBS Sports. The move comes in the midst of a wild month that has included the announcement that current President Larry Lucchino will step down at the end of the year and manager John Farrell will miss the rest of the season after being diagnosed with Lymphoma.
As part of the continued shakeup with the struggling Red Sox that started at the July 31 trade deadline, with the team stuck deep in the basement of the AL East a year after they also finished in last place in 2014, the Sox are finally making it official that a major change in philosophy is needed on Yawkey Way.
The other shocking side to the announcement is that current general manager Ben Cherington is done at the end of the season. Cherington will assist Dombrowski in the transition phase but will exit the job, which he assumed in the winter of 2011/2012 after Theo Epstein’s departure to Chicago, when the 2015 season comes to a close.
Cherington’s tenure with the team saw the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Despite his dismissiveness towards the idea, Lucchino went over his head in 2012 and infamously hired Bobby Valentine as manager. In the midst of the disastrous, controversy-filled year Cherington made the historic trade that freed up $250 million in salary through 2018 sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With that new freedom to spend an array of short-term deals by him clicked to perfection, along with the hiring of John Farrell to replace Valentine as manager, and the Red Sox went on a historically improbable run winning 97 games and cruising to a championship in 6 games over St. Louis in the World Series. The squad that Cherington assembled became famous for their camaraderie, clutch hitting, and determination to play for Boston in the wake of the 2013 Marathon Bombings that April.
But from that enormous height the Cherington tenure fell off a sharp cliff. 2014 opened with questions of the expiring contract of ace P Jon Lester, who offered to take a hometown discount but was lowballed even beyond that by the team. The veterans of 2013 faltered at the plate as the Sox sunk into mediocrity, leading to their top two pitchers being dealt away; Lester to Oakland and John Lackey to St. Louis. From there the rotation fell apart and the team finished in last place in the AL East.
Going into 2015, high expectations were placed upon Cherington to build a formidable rotation and put a contender on the field once again. In free agency the Red Sox were ultimately outbid by the Chicago Cubs in tumultuous negotiations with Lester, the trade return for Lester in talented OF Yoenis Cespedes was traded to the Detroit Tigers for P Rick Porcello, and Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval along with Dodgers IF Hanley Ramirez were brought aboard on large contracts.
Before the season Cherington made quite possibly the worst moves of his time in Boston assigning Ramirez, a longtime infielder, to play left field while Porcello was extended on a massive 4 year, $82.5-million extension before ever throwing a pitch with the team.
The seemingly spare-parts constructed rotation tore apart before the team’s eyes, headed by Porcello and his terrible 5.81 ERA. Sandoval has proved to be ineffective, while Ramirez has been an unadulterated disaster as an outfielder. All in all, attitude issues and a lack of cohesion largely due to poor team-building have the Red Sox on pace for their second straight season and in a heap of trouble with poor longterm contracts, like the ones Cherington dumped in 2012, on the books.
That’s the situation Dombrowski, the former general manger of the Detroit Tigers fired earlier this season, now assumes as he prepares to fix the Red Sox. After beginning his career in the MLB in the 80’s with Chicago and Montreal, Dombrowski helped build a powerful nucleus of veteran players with the Florida Marlins under current Red Sox owner John Henry that ultimately won a World Series in 1997. Afterwards a young core he assembled before departing in 2001 went on to win another championship in 2003.
Dombrowski would assume control of the Detroit Tigers after leaving Florida, where he embarked on a roller coaster tenure that saw him acquire big names from Miguel Cabrera to Ivan Rodriguez as well as make runs to the World Series in 2006 and 2012. Throughout his career Dombrowksi has shown a confidence in his abilities to gauge talent and aggressiveness to make moves he feels are necessary to put his teams in better positions, something the Red Sox desperately need in these troubling times.
As they hire Dombrowski the Sox currently sit at 53-66 with an array of their talented young core of prospects currently appearing in their lineup more often, the rotation that Cherington pieced together last winter is largely in shambles while the bullpen has been a complete train-wreck.
These are all problems Dombrowski knew he was walking into upon assuming the job, one he chose over several other offers, but the longtime baseball veteran expressed his excitement to work in an environment like Boston:
“Although I did have other potential options within baseball, there was no option that stood out as clearly as the chance to come to Boston and win with the Red Sox,” Dombrowski said in a Red Sox press release. “Boston is a baseball city like no other and its history and traditions are unique in our game. I expressed to John and Tom that Boston would be my absolute top choice.”
Dombrowski also added that he sees an enormous amount of potential in the talented minor league system that the Red Sox hold and is excited to get a head start on building a talented team for 2016 by joining now. He also made clear that he intends to hire a new general manager now that Cherington is out of the equation.
The Red Sox still have about a month and a half left of baseball for them to showcase their youth to the new management in place, shakeup the roster even more, and brainstorm ways to work around the bad contracts that Cherington has left in Boston as he departs. Dombrowski was not a perfect choice for the Red Sox, as shown by his firing from the spiraling Tigers last month, but as an established evaluator of baseball talent he brings a new and refreshing voice to the table in Boston on what direction this lost team should take and that is completely necessary.
It’s tough to admit you’re wrong in the wildly competitive world of sports, but sometimes it’s necessary to do so to move forward. The Red Sox boldly did so with the Dombrowski hiring and it just may end up shifting them back in the right direction.