They’re not good at this, but no one is, and every major successful baseball franchise has some sort of spiritual wart attached. The Cubs are owned by certified lunatics, the Dodgers have blacked out their fans for years, the Cardinals spied on the Astros, the Astros tanked egregiously to get to respectability, the Sox aren’t great people-people and the Yankees, well, everything. So just know straight off I’m not terribly concerned with the purity of the enterprise, in that I consider this to be game among and for thieves at every level including the field of play, where it’s much harder because everyone is watching.
Now everyone is watching the Red Sox water their own little tree of liberty once again, four years after tossing Ben Cherington aside for a Merlot-drinking Dave Dombrowski, in person at the ballpark, a few hours later, the conquering king among his new subjects. The king was dead-slash-long live the king, and so it is now, unless it’s a queen, which would be even better but we simply don’t know. That has not stopped us from drawing conclusions, but no one said we were any good at it.
From the sounds of it, Dombrowski simply wore out his welcome with his essential Dombo-ness; the Brahman with the old-world connections to pull off the Chris Sale heist and push big money to big-time players, but running it out of a cigar bar with three broken lightbulbs and a clogged toilet, at least according to the wonderfully-positioned-to-shed-light-on-this-situation Evan Drellich, who gets typically Queens on the situation for The Athletic:
If that was bad, it got worse this year, when Dombrowski stonewalled ad infinitum about the teams obvious flaws, to the point that I wrote this in June:
The math has never worked on this Red Sox season, and not advanced math, either. Like, “do you have enough baseball players?” math. The answer was no when the season started, and it’s super-heckin’ no now.
Dombrowski wouldn’t be the first guy run out of town within a couple years of triumph, and he probably won’t be, but this is how the ends start. It’s not even with a whimper: it’s with inaction, and with the consequences of doing nothing at all, and letting nature have its way.
See! I was so right, I was able to use up 100 words simply restating it, and now explaining it. I suspect it’s for this reason that my overriding feeling Monday morning was of relief. Dombrowski’s tenure was always going to end this way, and there’s no reason it has to be bad, beyond the fact that a millionaire baseball executive might be unemployed for a few weeks. His goal was to mortgage some future assets for a World Series title, and he did it and then seemed to sort of give up. I have done the same thing after far lesser achievements, of which my life consists entirely, so I get it. It doesn’t often fly in pro sports.
The strangest part of the public reaction situation is similar to what I found odd about the catcher trinity saga of last season, in that otherwise smart people believe that the multibillion-dollar machine that is the Red Sox are acting against their own best interests on matters of considerable importance and where there is considerable public fog, because 2018. The argument will be presented to me that the Red Sox won the World Series last year like I am supposed to self-corncob, because I am just learning this information. It’s not that bad being old, people. Usually. Please understand I am working within the framework that the past happened, and cannot be changed.
I merely wanted it to be duplicated, Gatsby-style, and so did some others. The people on my side busted out the “He ruined the farm system argument!,” and I don’t care much for it, but I bet Henry wants to save money and can dovetail two initiatives by hiring a person or persons (for less money than Dombrowski) better suited to a more holistic, even slightly organized approach. I guess my biggest disappointment today is how little imagination people have in terms of how this could make the team better, when it’s all I can think of. The Sale deal was magical, the Nathan Eovaldi acquisition was obviously critical, as was everything about 2018, but it turns out magic is a bunch of work and sometimes unreliable even then. Dombrowki used up his magic, and whatever work toward making more went for naught. You actually hate to see it.
My takeaway, which is also the headline, is that the Red Sox are telling us who they are. If Dombrowski was let go for any sort of personnel reason — and the obviously leaked-by-management negotiating ploy that the team doesn’t plan to bring back both Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez hints, in a backhanded way, that the Red Sox want you to think this is the case — then it was something decided long ago. It’s news to us, but it’s not news. With Dombroswki out of the way, the news is coming, and at least we’ll start to get it in real time.