Red Sox

Dave Dombrowski built last great Red Sox team, but next one will be up to someone else

Dave Dombrowski built last great Red Sox team, but next one will be up to someone else

The Red Sox simply couldn't entrust what comes next to a lame duck.

The approaching offseason will reshape the organization for years. Sign or trade Mookie Betts? Find a taker for David Price, Chris Sale, and/or Nathan Eovaldi? Acquire young pitching despite a maxed-out payroll? Lock down J.D. Martinez before he tests the market?

Any one of those items could be franchise-altering. Taken together, they're a job for someone whose contract doesn't expire in 2020.

We now know that person won't be Dave Dombrowski. The midnight news dump that the Red Sox had fired their president of baseball operations could legitimately be portrayed as unfair — three division titles and a World Series crown don't buy much in the way of job security anymore.

But let's not kid ourselves. Building the next great Red Sox team was always going to fall to someone else, so the Red Sox decided to get a jump on the project.

Dombrowski did more with more, which isn't as easy it sounds, but doing more with less hasn't been his forte in two decades. This isn't 1997, and these aren't the Marlins. The Red Sox decided they needed a president of baseball operations (or, for simplicity's sake, general manager) who could serpentine his way through a transitional offseason without forcing questionable moves simply to save his job.

That's why the Red Sox turned over the baseball operations for the time being to the four-headed monster of longtime execs Eddie Romero, Brian O'Halloran, Zack Scott, and Raquel Ferreira. They largely represent the skills that Dombrowski doesn't necessarily feature, whether it's international scouting (Romero), picayune CBA knowledge (O'Halloran), analytics (Scott), or player development (Ferreira). Those are the areas an organization must lean on once it has maxed out its payroll if it wants to remain competitive.

They're the only way to solve problems when the cash spigot runs dry, and no ownership group spends more on its roster than John Henry and Co. Sadly, that's not sustainable.

That's not to say Dombrowski lacked strengths. He arrived in August of 2015 to do one job — spin one of the game's best farm systems into a champion. Predecessor Ben Cherington used to joke that he was leaving incredible talent for his successor, and he was right. Dombrowski knew what to do from there.

He spent money (David Price), traded prospects (Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale), and waited out the market (J.D. Martinez) to build a juggernaut. The 2018 Red Sox raced to 108 wins and the team's first championship since 2013, and they bore Dombrowski's stamp up and down the roster. A shrewd evaluator of big-league talent, he turned seemingly minor acquisitions like Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi into breakout postseason stars.

That doesn't mean the Red Sox were built to last. The starters broke down. The bullpen wilted without the security blanket of Kimbrel. Even the offense, so good the previous fall, found itself struggling to overcome the lack of superstar production from defending MVP Mookie Betts and Triple Crown candidate J.D. Martinez.

The 2019 Red Sox played consistently below the sum of their parts, and for that Dombrowski deserves his share of the blame, especially since he has left the franchise in a tenuous position. Megabucks contracts to David Price (8 years, $217 million), Chris Sale (5 years, $145 million), and Eovaldi (4 years, $68 million), could potentially hamstring the club in 2020. That's over $400 million committed to a trio of pitchers with serious injury concerns, which isn't the kind of detail a GM would necessarily highlight on his résumé.

The Red Sox must walk the high-wire where they augment their young contending core without sacrificing future pieces. That's not an easy needle to thread, which is why on Sunday night they made a change, just as they did four years ago when they replaced Cherington with Dombrowski.

Back then, Dombrowski was the right man for the job. He has since transformed prospects into talent, and it's hard to argue with the results. But it's also true that new challenges await, and with them comes the need for new leadership.

It is the way of the world in a brutal business. Surely the hyper-aggressive Dombrowski can appreciate that ownership decided not to mess around.

Mookie's thoughts on contract talks with new GM>>>>>

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How Red Sox coaches pranked Kyle Hart before summoning him to big leagues

How Red Sox coaches pranked Kyle Hart before summoning him to big leagues

Kyle Hart got called into the manager's office at Pawtucket on Tuesday, and the news wasn't good -- Major League Baseball planned to fine him for not wearing a mask.

Manager Billy McMillon and pitching coaches Shawn Haviland and Paul Abbott waited a beat alongside farm director Ben Crockett. Then they broke the real news.

"I was a little worried at first," Hart said, "but then they told me, you can go pay your fine at Fenway Park tomorrow."

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And so it is that Hart, a 19th-round selection in the 2016 draft, will make his debut on Thursday when he starts the finale of a four-game set with the Rays.

It's the culmination of a journey that began in college at Indiana, where Hart spent five years, his career interrupted by Tommy John surgery. The 6-foot-5 lefty has never lit up radar guns or blown away scouts with his pure stuff, but he has gotten results at every stop along the way, posting a 3.13 ERA in 77 minor league appearances.

"My mindset going into tomorrow is the same as it has been my entire career," Hart said. "Every year, I started a level lower than what I thought I should be at. I thought I should be in Greenville, they started me in extended. I thought I should be in Salem, they started me in Greenville, and so on and so forth. This year I thought maybe I had a chance of starting with the big league team and they put me at the alternate site.

"Honestly, I appreciated it, because that's how every year has gone. And every year I've kind of sought out success. I'm comfortable in the position I'm in right now, of being a midseason callup, and kind of fulfilling that need. My mindset is they're giving me an opportunity tomorrow, I need to go pitch to earn another one. That's going to be my mindset as long as I play this game. Hopefully you look back and you've got six, eight, 10 years in this league. Right now I need to go out and earn every single start, opportunity to pitch, whatever it is, every single night."

And guess what? He doesn't owe any fines.

"They told me that I was actually getting fined by Major League Baseball for not wearing my mask. That's kind of a real scenario that's going to happen and probably has happened," Hart said. "Luckily it was just a prank and they were pulling my leg."

Daniel Bard's remarkable comeback story, summed up in one incredible number

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USA TODAY Sports photo

Daniel Bard's remarkable comeback story, summed up in one incredible number

Daniel Bard's comeback story for the ages took another improbable step on Tuesday night when he recorded his first save since 2011.

Summoned with two outs in the ninth and runners on the corners of a wild game vs. the Diamondbacks, Bard nailed down Colorado's 12th win by striking out Stephen Vogt looking with a backdoor slider that painted the black.

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The Rockies needed it, too, because Arizona had clawed back from an 8-2 deficit with five runs in the ninth before Bard replaced Jairo Diaz to record the biggest out of the game.

It continued a comeback tale that's almost impossible to believe. Until making Colorado's opening day roster, Bard hadn't thrown a pitch in the big leagues since 2013 with the Red Sox. He hadn't won a game since 2012, and he hadn't saved one since 2011.

He spent the intervening years trying to solve a case of the yips that had transformed him from fireballing future closer to broken and retired. He underwent surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome, pitched in Puerto Rico, attempted comebacks with the Rangers, Mets and Cardinals that saw him walk 46 batters in just 13 minor-league innings, and finally left the game to become a player mentor with the Diamondbacks in 2018 and 2019.

He never gave up on his dream of returning to baseball, however, and the Rockies gave him a shot this spring.

Now 35 years old, he has rewarded them with a 3.00 ERA in eight appearances. And here's his most astonishing statistic: in nine innings pitched, he has recorded 12 strikeouts and ZERO walks. From 46 walks against Single- and Double-A hitters to none in the big leagues. He's one of only three pitchers with at least nine innings pitched and no walks.

Baseball's best story of 2020 just keeps getting better.