If Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins think they have it tough in Toronto, they should take a minute to ponder the fate of the now ex-President of the Boston Red Sox, Dave Dombrowski, who was fired a mere 11 months after delivering a World Series championship to the city. That’s tough and, on the face of it, seems unreasonable given his recent success, as well as Dombrowski’s longstanding reputation as a good baseball man, who also brought World Series championships to Florida and helped the Detroit Tigers reach the Series twice during his tenure in Motown.
But to paraphrase Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager, Kyle Dubas, sometimes you get a good result even if the process is bad, and that seemed to be the case, particularly in regard to Dombrowski’s final stopping point in Boston. It’s not that his method dramatically changed, but that in the new analytics-driven world in which Major League Baseball exists today, Dombrowski’s process is becoming obsolete. His success was more a product of the team’s considerable balance sheet under the new ownership of John Henry, and the core of great young players bequeathed to him by former GM Ben Cherington (now with the Toronto Blue Jays).
Dombrowski’s typical MO was to aggressively spend on free agents front (see David Price or Nathan Eovaldi), or trade high end prospects for pitchers still in their prime and then re-signing them to bad extensions (see Chris Sale). These acquisitions now all look problematic, given the players’ recurrent injury history and the fact that all are now at an age where performance is more likely than not to deteriorate. At the same time, under Dombrowski, Boston’s farm system went from the upper echelons of MLB to near the bottom. This at a time when Toronto’s farm system raced up the MLB rankings.
By contrast, a figure like Brian Cashman has adapted superbly to the new ways, which is why he’ll likely remain the Yankees’ GM for a long time to come. In fact, he’s likely a future Hall of Famer, which is not the case for Dombrowski. The latter doesn’t fit the mold for where the Sox know they need to go.
Give John Henry credit, he’s decisive that way (perhaps too decisive at times, as Cherington seemed to be given the hook prematurely as the team aggressively pursued Dombrowski in the first place). Dombrowski’s future with the Red Sox WAS LIKELY DOOMED when they didn’t extend him last offseason. Unfortunately, too much damage was done in the interim. Dombrowski unloaded all Boston’s prospects and saddled them with Sale and Eovaldi before being terminated.
Boston’s problem today is that they are expected to do a quick turnaround as New York has done, but they don’t have the prospects to back it up as the Bronx Bombers did. The Yankees went into their rebuild in a unique position of holding 2 players who were extremely valuable to contenders so they got back what they wanted to augment an already stacked farm system. Those young stars now represent the core of a young team likely to be formidable World Series contenders for many years. And it’s not just a balance sheet phenomenon. That’s not how the Yankees operate these days (especially when one considers how well the team has played given the number of injuries sustained by their key players).
By contrast, the Red Sox today neither have the trade pieces, nor the system. So there is likely an unrealistic expectation for a fast turnaround. And once the Yankees are done, the young talent shifts to, yes, the Toronto Blue Jays, (assuming they can add pitching and Rogers doesn’t go all cheap on us).
This could be the end of the line for the Red Sox. Dave Dombrowski’s dismissal could portend more tough times ahead for the team. One less team for Toronto to worry about in the tough AL East. Blue Jays fans should rejoice.