Last night, the Boston Red Sox made headlines by hiring Dave Dombrowski as their new president of baseball operations. Word of general manager Ben Cherington resigning after the recent hiring is very suggestive, not the least of which is that Dombrowski will be in charge regardless of whom he hires as the new general manager. And, knowing how Dombrowski operates, the surgery performed on the Red Sox roster should be of epic proportions.
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Sean Penney of BoSox Injection covered the news by saying, “Dombrowski has a history of making blockbuster trades and isn’t shy about trading away prized prospects. The Red Sox have one of the most loaded farm systems in baseball, so it will be interesting to see how he balances patience with developing young talent and packaging prospects to bring in established stars.” Judging by the quick response by Cherington to leave his post, many of the moves that were made in the past few years will be undone, as a number of Cherington’s big signings and trades have not worked out for Boston. Having so many changes made would likely have been too embarrassing for Cherington to stay on with the club and answer questions to the media, considering they were his decisions not too long ago.
Whatever the reason for Cherington’s exit, the entrance of a new GM should not take too long, as Dombrowski is known for moving quickly. Baseball insiders tweeted about Dombrowski’s possible moves at this point:
Steve Adams of MLBTradeRumors.com added to these proceedings by reporting, “There’s been speculation about Jerry Dipoto, who is working with the Sox on a temporary basis at the moment, but he, too, has a more analytical slant and wasn’t hired by Dombrowski.”
Before diving into the speculations, Red Sox Nation needs to remember one thing: Dombrowski was let go by the Detroit Tigers two weeks ago. Even with a World Series championship with the Florida Marlins and taking the Tigers to four American League Central division titles and two World Series appearances of their own, he couldn’t keep the Tigers from falling below .500. He may be the savior for the Red Sox, performing miracles in the front office, but dynasties are not built in a day. Right now, the Red Sox just want to stop looking cozy at home in the AL East cellar. And, Cherington had championships of his own in Boston, yet here we stand.
Red Sox owner John Henry has always spoken openly about the pride that the club has had in analytics. The philosophy even made its way into Brad Pitt’s movie adaptation of the book Moneyball. However, Tyler Kepner of The New York Times points out that Cherington followed “Theo Epstein, who left for the Chicago Cubs after the Red Sox collapsed down the stretch in 2011. Epstein, a protégé of Lucchino’s, had served the Red Sox well with a logical approach to analytics, coupled with a deep respect for scouts, and Cherington followed in that mold.” Is the move for Dombrowski a move away from that philosophy?
As Abraham pointed out in his tweet, it’s highly unlikely that the Red Sox ownership would feel safe without at least a blend of analytics in the club’s structure. Businessmen who have made a ton of cash by a particular way of thinking are not exactly big on change. Media studies guru Marshall McLuhan once said, “In big industry new ideas are invited to rear their heads so they can be clobbered at once. The idea department of a big firm is a sort of lab for isolating dangerous viruses.” The old, established money likes to keep things status quo, as they know how this way of thinking makes more money. Ironically, with baseball analytics being new compared to other business practices, the new has become the establishment in Boston.
Then again, they’ve changed their minds before.
Nightengale’s report that Wren would be the leading candidate flies parallel with a more traditional way of doing business. However, Wren was fired by the Atlanta Braves last year when their new president of baseball operations took over in September. Mark Polishuk covered the story at the time for MLBTradeRumors.com, stating that Wren’s biggest mistakes were “signing B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25MM free agent deal and signing Dan Uggla to a five-year, $62MM extension after acquiring the second baseman in a trade from the Marlins.”
Wait. An outfielder and an infielder signing blockbuster deals only to hit terribly at the plate, going on the disabled list a few times, and ultimately dooming a team, as well as their general manager? That story sounds familiar. Did someone just cough ‘Sandoval’? Pretty sure that Upton calls himself B.J. and not Han-Ram.
Aug 8, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez (13) watches from the dugout in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
If Wren made the same mistake that Cherington made about bringing in big names like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez with big contracts with little payoff, do Dombrowski and the Red Sox want to travel that same road? Has Wren already learned the lesson and will operate differently? It’s a question that may have an answer that the Fenway faithful won’t want to hear. Like what was said before, old money likes established ways of thinking. Will that be analytics or tradition? Was Cherington just slipping away from analytics and trying to throw money at the problems? Or does tradition work better in the hands of someone who has more experience with the approach?
One thing is for sure: Dombrowski knows talent on the field, himself. He drafted Cliff Floyd and Rondell White for the Montreal Expos, both having long careers and reached All-Star status. He brought in Ivan Rodriguez, the iconic catcher of his era, to play for the Tigers, as well as making deals for Triple-Crown hitter Miguel Cabrera, starting pitcher Matt Scherzer, and home run expert Prince Fielder. Although, it’s also worth noting that Cabrera is the only one still with the team.
With that said, does Dombrowski even need a general manager? If he’s in charge of all major deals, wouldn’t the general manager just be doing the grunt work for him? Wren wouldn’t be able to make his fatal mistake with the Braves twice with Dombrowski holding the leash. Maybe, with a president of baseball operations, big-name GMs like Wren may not even want the job, although his previous experience with Donbrowski would be evidence to the contrary.
Regardless, Dombrowski has a big set of assets to use between now and next season. Some of the veterans will be moved to free up spending on free agents Dombrowski will want to bring into the fold. He has a collection of prospects in the Red Sox farm system with whom to work his magic at the trading table. He has the experience in signing or trading for top talent, just as they hit their prime. Cherington had the same assets, but he also proved that it takes more than a boatload of cash to fix a team into a winner. The Red Sox need an overhaul, and Dombrowski looks like the man to do it. However, if he hires Wren or sticks to only one philosophy, the fireworks at the end of the 2016 season could be for another World Series championship or an explosion of anger flowing through the streets of Massachusetts.
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