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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MLB Rumors: Here's where investigation into 2018 Red Sox stands

MLB Rumors: Here's where investigation into 2018 Red Sox stands

Boston Red Sox fans may have to reserve judgment for quite some time.

Major League Baseball may take "a while" to determine punishment for the Red Sox as it continues to investigate the 2018 team, The Athletic's Peter Gammons reported Friday morning.

Gammons added the league hasn't even interviewed former Red Sox manager Alex Cora, whom the club parted ways with Tuesday.

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MLB is investigating the Red Sox for allegedly using a video replay room to illegally relay signs to hitters during the 2018 regular season.

The league announced the investigation back on Jan. 7, but seemingly prioritized its discipline of the 2017 Houston Astros, who were severely punished Monday for their own illegal sign-stealing operation.

This timeline obviously puts the manager-less Red Sox in a tough spot. Boston has several intriguing internal candidates who could replace Cora, but may want to wait until MLB completes its investigation in case any of those candidates are punished.

If the Red Sox pursue an external candidate, they'll have to compete with the Astros and New York Mets on a ticking clock, as pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than a month.

According to reports, widespread punishments could be a possibility. Cora is expected to be suspended at least one year for his role in both Houston and Boston's sign-stealing operations, while Gary Tanguay reported Thursday on NBC Sports Boston's Early Edition that Red Sox principal owner John Henry fears the franchise may be stripped of its 2018 World Series title.

The Red Sox will remain in a holding pattern until MLB sorts this out ... and may have to scramble to deal with the fallout.

Patriots provided one blueprint for handling Alex Cora, but Red Sox ignored it

Patriots provided one blueprint for handling Alex Cora, but Red Sox ignored it

Let us imagine, for a moment, a scenario.

It's 2007, and the Patriots have just been nailed for stealing opposing signals despite an explicit league directive banning the practice. With national reporters swarming Foxboro like the Zerg, owner Robert Kraft assesses the damage to his brand, the importance of integrity to his family, and makes a heart-rending decision -- he must fire Bill Belichick.

Who can blame him? Belichick broke the rules and brought shame to the organization. Not even a pile of Lombardi Trophies justifies the long-term damage to the team's reputation. And so with vampires at his gate demanding blood, Kraft gives it to them and sacrifices his Hall of Fame coach.

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We now know two things, of course. One is that Kraft did not fire Belichick. The other is that it was inarguably the right decision, one that continues to pay dividends more than a decade later. While there's not much the Patriots can do about taunts that they're cheaters, there's also little doubt that they're the NFL's greatest dynasty.

There's a reason Belichick guest-hosted the NFL Network's series on the league's top 100 players, and there's a reason why when all is said and done, the dominant impression of this 20-year run won't be Spygate or Deflategate, but the unprecedented, record-breaking partnership between Belichick and Tom Brady.

None of that happens if Kraft pulls the plug in 2007. But he stood his ground despite intense public pressure, and has since reaped the rewards.

This alternate history, this road not taken, feels relevant today, given a very different choice made by Red Sox ownership in response to a remarkably similar scandal.

On Tuesday, the club and manager Alex Cora "mutually agreed to part ways," which is corporate jargon for, "we have unilaterally decided to part ways." A bombshell MLB report had just fingered Cora as the mastermind of a sign-stealing scheme in Houston involving replay cameras, dugout monitors, and one resonant trash can.

The Red Sox digested this report for a day before announcing Cora's departure. They based their decision, according to ownership, solely on his actions in Houston and what was laid out in the report. It doubtlessly didn't help his cause that he's facing a lengthy suspension, probably at least a year, and maybe longer.

It's hard to criticize the Red Sox for acting decisively; Cora's actions embarrassed the organization. And far be it from me to suggest that anyone, in any sport, belongs in the same sentence as Belichick.

But I'm coming to believe the Red Sox should've stood by their man à la the Patriots, especially since the behavior they found so egregious occurred while he worked as a subordinate for another franchise.

Add their strangely smug confidence that the commissioner's investigation into their own championship season of 2018 will exonerate them (and therefore Cora, too, to a degree), and a case can be made that they fired him out of expediency at the expense of their long-term interests.

"They had no choice!" many have argued. And to that I say, why?

I don't buy for a second that Cora had lost his clubhouse. My guess is the players were well aware of his actions in Houston -- he didn't try to hide his admiration for co-conspirator Carlos Beltran and his ability to decipher signs by any means possible. Whatever Cora oversaw in Boston, it doesn't sound like there was much clubhouse dissent.

It's hard to overstate Cora's importance to the organization. He united disparate departments and communities like no one before him. He's the rare ex-player who embraces and understands new-school analytics. He's bilingual, which allows him to bridge gaps in a melting-pot clubhouse.

I've had half a dozen people at all levels of the organization tell me how much he'll be missed, all with a similar story -- he made everyone feel important, even the junior nobodies. He spent some of his last hours as a Red Sox employee consulting with player development about the farm system. He is personable, passionate, and driven, and he had a hand in everything.

Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts didn't waste words when asked what kind of manager the Red Sox should hire next.

"Someone like him," he said.

As scandalous and raw as this feels now, time has a way of smoothing edges and soothing nerves. A year from now, after a lengthy contrition tour, Cora might've been able to resume his duties. We'll never know if he could've survived the fallout, because the Red Sox never gave him the chance.

That's certainly their right, but imagine how different the Patriots would look today if they had reached the same conclusion more than a decade ago.