At 2 pm this afternoon, new President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski was introduced to the media. Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner as well as COO Sam Kennedy joined him on the dais to answer questions from the media. For those fans who didn’t have a chance to follow the presser live or follow it on Twitter, the following will give you an overview of what took place. The audio was not always the most clear so this writer was unable to record the source of the questions but it will be noted whenever possible here. If there are places where abbreviations are not written out, or syntax seems off, keep in mind this was being transcribed live on the fly.
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The conference began with John Henry making an introductory statement. Henry summarized his history with Dombrowski (DD) on the Marlins. Henry bought the Marlins after seeing how they had been dismantled after the 1997 World Championship and he wanted to stop that from happening again for those fans. Henry said his first trade with DD was for Mike Lowell. DD was responsible for signing talent like Miguel Cabrera and Josh Beckett. When DD became a free agent on August 4th, Ben Cherington did not object to their talking to him. The ownership understood there was a substantial risk that Ben would not stay if DD but they felt it was necessary for the good of the organization. “Boldness of purpose” has always characterized their time as owners and this was the right move for the owners who take seriously their obligation to field a competitive team for the city of Boston.
DD followed with his opening remarks, calling it an “extreme honor” to join one of the most “prestigious organizations in baseball and in all of professional sports”. Not many opportunities to work for such an organization exist with their level of talent and he wanted to get started right away. This way he can get a head start going into the offseason and become part of the community. He looks forward to adding to what has been build here.
A question and answer period followed his opening remarks. Quotes are indicated, otherwise responses are the thrust of what was said. Answers are by DD unless otherwise indicated.
Q from Jonny Miller: How will you rebuild the pitching staff?
A: “Find better pitching.” As I gather information, I will have a better idea of the best course to take. Over time, both the starting rotation and bullpen need to be better.
Q from Michael Silverman to owners: Is this a hire a change in philosophy?
A by Tom Werner (TW): Too much has been made of this being a change in philosophy. Analytics have been just one part of the process. DD has more in common with the analytics people than has been portrayed.
Q: Do you see yourself hiring a general manager and who might some of the candidates be?
A: We hoped Ben would stay on as GM. This job has huge responsibilities. The Red Sox pursue talent all over the world. The front office needs to all be on the same page. Since he has not gotten to know them yet and their philosophies, disagreements will happen and are to be expected. The GM decision will not be rushed into and will happen at the appropriate time
Q: How did discussions about Ben staying play out?
A: TW: We had conversations with Ben who decided it was best for organization if Ben stepped aside and work with him on transition. Ben was the chief architect of success in ’13, he has been with organization for 18 years and we are respectful of his decision to leave.
DD: We would love to have had Ben, but coming in as Pres of Baseball Operations, final decision would be mine on free agents and trades and player personnel.
Q: What about current players on the team?
A: As with any organization if a player is under contract, you honor that contract. I am ” not here to blow anything up.” In Detroit evaluation happened over time as it will here. Will take time to evaluate current people and hope people will stay with the front office.
Q Has there been too much made on sea change made in the organization? What are analytics role in decisions?
A: I will try to use all the information available, it is not black and white as to whether you are one or the other as far as analytics go. Has option of up to date analytics and people will be there to provide that here in Boston as they were in Detroit. You combine stats, scouts opinions, player work ethic and make best decision you possibly can. On field observations will also be a fact considered. Gave Detroit manager Brad Ausmus whatever he wanted and will do that here for John (Farrell) and Torey (Lovullo) to enable them to win on daily basis as well.
Q: Scott Lauber of Boston Herald: Have you talked to John Farrell yet?
A: I talked to Farrell last night. Don’t know him well but told hm to take care of his health. When you have chance to visit in person, they can get together, maybe by the end of the homestand to get his feeling on the ball club.
Q Worcester Telegram: Would someone else have been hired in this job if DD had not been available?
A: JH: would have discussed candidates, but discussed more when DD became available.
Q: Why would team with this payroll finish last?
A: I don’t have that total pulse yet, we all know what happened, I don’t know the answer yet.
Q: JH: You said you expected Ben to be here for long time, what changed in last 2 months about Ben?
A: JH: DD became free agent and wanted to see if he was a fit. Our job is to do everything we can to strengthen baseball side, as we talked to DD it became clear that it would strengthen us going forward. Though we knew there was a “substantial risk” Ben would leave but that this hire of DD would be in best interest in organization.
Q What is your philosophy on team building?
A: Everybody would say same thing. Need to be able to adjust on the run. Go into offseason with goals but players aren’t available. Would love to have power pitching, defense extremely important esp. up the middle, mix some power in there at the corner and speed is important in today’s game. Power is important at whatever position. Important to get info from scouts.
Q: Ian Browne from MLB.com: How much was it the fact it was the Red Sox or how much was it JH for DD to take the job?
A: Sox are a great organization, one of the best franchises. My relationship with ownership is as important as anything. It is a situation of comfort zone with people that is where it starts when I make a decision to take a job. If it was storied franchise but not comfortable with people would not have been as appealing.
Q: Providence Journal: How will you leverage the farm system to improve the team?
A: Sox farm system is one of best in games and there are good young players breaking in. Farm system used different in Detroit, pedal to metal to win it all every year. Traded good young talent for that goal and we were just starting to rebuild the farm system in Detroit. Will make trades, will use young guys and sign free agents. Farm system best place to build foundation to any organization.
Q: What is the time line for hiring a GM?
A: There is no time frame. Took lots of notes recently on team on things to do. Lot to be done, to be understood about organization of which GM hire is a part, so it is important not to rush it. Important GM on same page, good baseball person, but successful front office complements each other and need to build a group to cover all areas and that is the goal when making the GM decision.
Q: What are most pressing issues for the team?
A: I haven’t identified them yet. I will have to talk to people and we don’t have to decide that yet. Had to make Masterson decision on release waivers today and follow protocol, that was the decision I had to make today. It is important not to rush and make impulsive decisions. I have plenty of time to make decisions, collect info before going forward.
Q: Sam, how do you look forward to working with DD?
A: JH: This is our 2016 lineup, but Larry still runs the Red Sox though he has been away from the club lately.
A: Sam Kennedy (SK): I want to have best baseball operation on the planet. Learned from best mentor ever, Larry Lucchino. We have worked on transition plan for when he left. Everyone on Red Sox salute Larry and thank him for leadership, ready to honor ownership commitments to build good team, be active in community, competitive. I will makes sure owners have all they need.
DD: One thing important is that we work together. I’ve seen division between business and baseball operations, need to work closely together. Look forward to working collaboratively with SK but it will be fun, SK will run business, DD will run the baseball.
TW: Thinking about Jerry Remy and John Farrell and this is a great day to support the Jimmy Fund. It is the team’s civic responsibility is to raise money to strike out cancer.
Q: What is your personal philosophy JH of analytics?
A: JH: There has been an overemphasis in media about analytics b/c of Bill James hire. It is not overwhelming basis for our philosophy. Analytics go beyond being a tool when it drives you in a certain direction, but not the driving force in baseball operations and doubt if it will under Dave. It is very important in today’s world to have analytics and we have been talking last few weeks about strengthening that area.
A: TW: Analytics is going into new areas, like pitch framing, which wasn’t metric ten years ago but will be part of DD’s toolbox now.
Q What about the young kids in system available for trade? Should Red Sox Nation be nervous they will be traded?
A: We want to win next year, but we want to do it in a way we sustain that year in and year out. If your goal is winning at all costs you trade more players than normal. Bogaerts, Swihart, outfielders Betts and Castillo and Bradley and Rodriguez pitching are all important. We wish we could pitch him 162 games a year. Rodriguez has a great chance to be #1 starter. We want to grow young guys and supplement them with other guys. Fans need not be nervous. We have a great foundation to get it done and the young talent coming. Decisions need to be made on veterans to help them win to complement that young talent.
A: JH: We are very well set up with the future.
Q Rob Bradford WEEI: What is the philosophy on signing pitchers going into 30s? What is the Importance of having an ace on your staff?
A: It is important. You can have middle of rotation guys if bullpen strong, but a #1 guy takes pressure of rest of guys and takes pressure off bullpen and you can go far into postseason. You can win without it, though it is tougher. Free agency rout has pluses and minuses. At certain age, production can start to decline and paying them for past production. Philosophically we all know that which we will discuss. We also know that some guys age better than others but there are no certainties to pitching.
Q Did you interview any minority candidates for DD position?
A: TW: There was not any such interviewing because when DD available we signed him. If there had been search we would have done so.
A: JH: Minority candidates will be interviewed in GM process.
Dave Dombrowski has definite ideas about what he wants to do with the team. Building around the young players is a priority and getting a #1 starter is also important. There is no great hurry to hire a general manager, nor should there be with Dombrowski at the helm. Since it is still August, it was important for Dombrowski to get in the saddle so to speak, and start evaluating as a head start on the offseason.
We can expect that the Red Sox will do what they can to retain the core of young players as Dombrowski talked about. On the flip side, this will give him more leverage to squeeze more out of a trade partner if the right deal comes along. Since he is just coming in to this situation, he won’t be afraid to do what he thinks is right to better the team. That is what his job is. He isn’t going to play any favorites and put the best team on the field for next year, no matter whose toes might get stepped on. If he has to cut bait on past bad deals, he will do just that. For Red Sox fans, this is what we want them to do. We want the sustained excellence they had under Theo and Tito, at least from 2003 to 2009 in which they had six playoff appearances in seven seasons. We hope Dave Dombrowski is the man to accomplish that task.
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