The Boston Red Sox were a well-oiled machine last season. They won 108 games and pummeled their way to win their fourth World Series title in the last 15 years.
The mechanic that made the machine run effectively over the past few seasons? Dave Dombrowski.
No more, though.
After the Red Sox 10-5 loss to the New York Yankees two nights ago, Dombrowski was relieved of his duties, with senior vice president Raquel Ferreira and assistant general managers Eddie Romero, Brian O’Halloran and Zack Scott all being promoted to jointly lead the baseball operations together.
A shocking turn of events, to say the least. However, one major factor can be seen as to why this happened. But what, exactly?
Unfortunately for Dombrowski, that culprit was his own blueprint that shaped the Red Sox into a consistent playoff and World Series contender over the past three seasons.
Let’s wind the clocks back to four years ago. The Red Sox, in the middle of another down season after winning the World Series two years prior, announced Dombrowski as new president of baseball operations. In the offseason, Dombrowski got to work. He traded for young closer Craig Kimbrel in exchange for four prospects and signed left-handed ace David Price to seven years and over $200 million.
The Red Sox record in 2016? 93-69 and a division title. Unfortunately, the Red Sox would promptly get swept by eventual American League pennant-winning Cleveland Indians.
Back to the drawing board.
In the corresponding offseason Dombrowski traded for Chris Sale, and in the trade gave up the number one overall prospect in baseball at the time in Yoan Moncada.
Yet again, the Red Sox would finish 93-69 but suffer another loss in the division series against the would-be World Series champion Houston Astros.
Back to work again. A brand-new coaching staff was brought in, spearheaded by the addition of World Series-winning bench coach Alex Cora. Mitch Moreland was re-signed to a two-year deal for $13 million. And then there was the splash in netting J.D. Martinez for five years and over $100 million.
And so, the 2018 season unfolded. We all know the story. Great starting pitching, a solid bullpen and an electric offense, led by MVP Mookie Betts, carried Boston to another successful postseason run, with them hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Then, this season. Contract extensions for over $100 million were given to Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts over the past six months, further showing the Red Sox were spending to keep the World Series core together.
Back to Dombrowski. He implemented the plan he wanted. He got the coaching staff and players he wanted. He gave Boston another ring. How could his own blueprint be seen as his downfall?
To get the players he wanted he had to make some trades; big trades. A farm system that was deep in high-ceiling prospects several years ago is now super thin due to getting the likes of Sale and Kimbrel. Sacrifices had to be made, and Dombrowski made them.
Then, there is the payroll. From 2016 through 2019, the Boston Red Sox were top three in payroll, varying from $209 million to nearly $230 million. The luxury tax threshold is worse with the Red Sox being over it during Dombrowski’s entire tenure, thus forcing the organization to not only pay fees to offset this but also having to give up draft position. With the money tied up to big-time players such as Price, Bogaerts and Sale, along with arbitration raises to Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., the Red Sox have had and will continue to have little room to maneuver financially.
Everything comes to fruition in September, with the Red Sox having to bite and claw their way to even get a sniff of a playoff spot. For other teams in this position, they could trade for a player to hopefully take them over the hump, but the Red Sox have neither the prospects to trade for such a player, nor do they have the payroll flexibility to even take on the salary of one.
When you add this to David Price not performing to his contract, Chris Sale having injury issues and narrowly missing Tommy John surgery, a bullpen which has not been able to adjust with no Craig Kimbrel, a competitive division in having to deal with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, along with having to deal with the pressure of the Boston market expecting their sports teams to compete for championships year after year, you have a blueprint that is coming back to bite.
Dave Dombrowski should be celebrated by Boston fans for being the mechanic that assembled another championship season for their city. The process to get there was all him. The blueprint had his fingers all over it.
Despite this, that process would, for better or worse, make him lose his job.
Photo via AP/Michael Dwyer