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Scattered thoughts following Dave Dombrowski’s firing

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Still kind of shocked!

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Angels Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As I write this it is just after 8:00 AM on Monday, and I am still mostly just shocked about the Dave Dombrowski news. You all know what happened by now. (If you don’t, he was fired.) As I’ve done for the better part of a year now when big news drops, I’m going with the scattered thoughts format here. My brain just can’t focus on a single angle right now.

  • So, yeah. The first part of this is just shock. I guess I shouldn’t be as surprised as I am about this. There were rumors of this being possible going back to the summer when Dan Shaughnessy wrote about Dombrowski’s time possibly coming to a quick end in Boston. As many, including Sean McAdam, have pointed out since then, the lack of response to that speculation from ownership was very telling. Combine that with the fact that this ownership group has ripped the bandaid off at surprising times so many times in the past, it’s not totally out of nowhere. All that being said....the Red Sox are still less than a year removed from literally the best season in franchise history. I never saw this coming, and emphatically told people there was no way he’d be fired this year. Turns out I’m just dumb.
  • The timing of all this is really weird as well. Wouldn’t you think this all happens after the season ends? I suppose there is some advantage of starting the search for a new head of Baseball Ops as early as possible, but I can’t imagine it’s much of anything at this stage of the game rather than being three weeks from now. I’m curious to see if anything comes out about why this decision was made now.
  • I guess I should probably give my opinion on this, eh? I don’t like it. I think firing a guy who has won the division in all three of his full seasons here (obviously it wasn’t going to happen this year) and whose worst season will probably finish around 87-89 wins is good process. Dombrowski had a lot of pieces in place as he built the roster that eventually won 108 games and a championship, but he had a lot to do with it as well. Dombrowski added Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel and David Price, as well as many of the smaller pieces. He also held on to guys like Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi, something for which he doesn’t get 100 percent of the credit but certainly reflects well on him. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this would make candidates wary of coming to this situation seeing how quickly Dombrowski was discarded. Ultimately there are only 30 of these jobs so you have to take one when you can get it. That said, essentially firing a guy for one bad season after three extremely successful ones seems to be rash. I suppose that’s on brand with this ownership group, though.
  • Of course, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I don’t understand the arguments for him being let go. I understand that, because of his own moves, they were in an extreme win-now mode that demanded success every year in the short-term. That means you have to make the playoffs every year, and he didn’t get it done this year. The failure of this season was partially on him, too. It certainly wasn’t all on him — Alex Cora has had a rough year too, not to mention the players, who often weirdly skirt big-picture criticism in these situations — but he played a significant role. Even if you, rightfully, in my opinion, criticize ownership for hamstringing the budget this winter and trade deadline, Dombrowski was still open for criticism for a lack of creativity. He could have gone about addressing this roster differently for the same price, and his strategy of running it back did not work. There’s consequences to every failure, and while I think this particular consequence was too strong, I understand the rationale. Sort of.
  • Speaking of ownership, they did not handle things well at all last night. That is the thing I keep coming back to here, and frankly it is embarrassing. This news broke just minutes after Sunday’s game against the Yankees ended, shortly before media was entering the clubhouse for postgame availability. The players had just found out about the news and were tasked with facing the media immediately after learning about this. The least ownership could do, as the group who made this decision in the first place, is be there. I’ll have more on this later because I’m actually upset about this, but it sucks and it puts your employees in a shitty situation. They may not have expected it to break this early, but you still have to do better than this.
  • I think there’s also a conversation to be had about how this reflects on the league as a whole right now. For better or for worse, efficiency is really all that matters in the game right now. There just aren’t teams going all-out for wins right now, and Dombrowski is one of the last remnants of that style of GM’ing. That he was fired so shortly after a historically great roster had a historically great season shows how much long-term success is taking over the desire for short-term championship windows. I understand that, but cynically I think it’s hard to ignore how much of that also relates to padding the pockets of ownerships around the league. Long-term sustainability is a fancy way of saying lower payrolls and cheaper stars. It’s not the biggest takeaway here, but there’s something here with respect to the broken economic system of the game right now.
  • We should also mention that, while the team has a long-term decision to make at the top of its Baseball Operations department, they do have an interim group in place. Specifically, four people from the department are teaming up to head up the department right now in Eddie Romero, Brian O’Halloran, Zack Scott and Raquel Ferreira. These are all long-time members of the organization who all have different specialties and make for an interesting group to at least hold the fort until a new leader is in place. I’m not happy with the decision, as I said, but I’m thrilled for all four of them. It’s particularly cool to see Ferreira in this group. MLB is still waiting for their first women GM (or President of Baseball Ops), but her getting this chance is at least a step in the right direction.
  • With that in mind, there’s plenty of time to look forward but I’m curious to see what kind of direction they go in with this position. Presumably they are going to look for someone with more of a player development background as a counter to Dombrowski. For a team with this roster I’m not sure that’s the best move, but if you aren’t going in that direction you’d obviously just keep Dombrowski. At some point soon we’ll run down a list of potential candidates.
  • My big hope is that the Dombrowski legacy for fans is a positive one. Things obviously did not end well, but his tenure was overwhelmingly great. As I said above, there are debates to be had about how responsible he is for the success, but the fact is that he was in charge as they won three straight division titles, not to mention last season. He also was a phenomenal trader, with the Travis Shaw deal being the only clear loss. This is another topic I’ll tackle at some point (probably), but he never got enough credit for being terrific at choosing the right players to trade. There are valid criticisms to be had for Dombrowski, but his era in Boston was one of the best in franchise history from an on-field perspective.
  • As for how this affects Mookie Betts, I can’t imagine there is much of one. Perhaps there is a chance whoever comes in next would be more willing to trade the 2018 MVP, but I’m not trying to speak that into existence. Betts did address the media in the clubhouse Sunday night and said this was a reminder that this is a business. In other words, he’s going to free agency and at that point the Red Sox will have every chance to retain him. The same as it’s always been.