Bradford: The real reason Dave Dombrowski fired John Farrell

Rob Bradford
October 11, 2017 - 3:58 pm

Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

It's not complicated. John Farrell wasn't Dave Dombrowski's guy, and only one of them was leaving town.

The Red Sox president of baseball operations fired his manager Wednesday morning, offering meager crumbs of explanation during a morning press conference. But talking to players who witnessed the dynamic between the two over the course of the last seven months, it became pretty clear how we got here.

Players believed Dombrowski and Farrell didn't get along. Whether their disagreements were worse than those between other president/GMs and managers, the clubhouse perception was that the head-butting had reached advanced levels. Once players form such a narrative among themselves, it becomes a problem. And it was.

Dombrowski might say he had a good working relationship with Farrell. Maybe he believed it in some sense. But between the clubhouse perception, the weirdly vague press conference, and the manager not mentioning his former boss by name in his post-firing statement (only thanking "two front office groups") saying the two saw eye to eye starts to sound like a stretch, particularly since we've got the most obvious evidence of all -- after three division titles and a World Series, Farrell was fired.

Deciphering exactly how Dombrowski viewed Farrell at the end isn't completely straightforward, however. Two discrepancies stand out.

The first was Dombrowski's recent proclamation that his manager had done "a great job" in 2017, only to turn around Wednesday and say "John did a nice job for us." (I heard at least one person in the know suggest this was the one question Farrell asked when Dombrowski summoned him to Fenway to reveal his fate on Wednesday.)

What had changed over the course of a couple of weeks? A reporter asked Dombrowski as much on Wednesday.

"I think you can do a great job and win the division," Dombrowski said. "I think we did do a great job collectively in winning the division. But again I think when you’re sitting in my situation at the end of the year, you combine a lot of different factors involved and you combine all those at a particular time and that’s why I thought it was a time for change."

Then there was the fact that Dombrowski chose to bring Farrell back after 2016, although the manager's extension wasn't cemented until weeks later. Did the Red Sox chief decision-maker view the success of that division title in the same way he saw the 2017 pennant race, with the timing not quite right for a change? Or did ownership have more of a say than this time around? Because little changed.

In one sense, it doesn't matter. Multiple Red Sox players believe the two were at odds, and in the clubhouse, there's little to distinguish perception from reality.

There was a sense that this was not the atmosphere of a first-place team for most of the year. And that's not coming from a media that only sees glimpses. This is from those on the inside. And, according to those who would know, this was at least in part because of the cloud hanging over the upper-management/manager relationship.

Except for a few outliers, the communication concerns that some had zeroed in on between Farrell and his players weren't a deal-breaker between the manager and the clubhouse. Farrell wasn't typically a jokester and wouldn't be classified as a manager who was going to lighten the clubhouse mood. But the players understood his strengths and weaknesses. That hadn't changed over the course of Farrell's five seasons. (Note: Players did go out of their way to note the importance of the coaches, with bullpen coach Dana LeVangie particularly being singled out.)

Farrell was caught in between. He never quite attained a my-way-or-the-highway bully pulpit, but he also failed to exude a come-in-for-coffee vibe. It occassionally cost the manager, and it may have played a role in his ouster. But it isn't the chief reason he was sent packing. Put it this way: If Ben Cherington or Mike Hazen were still around, Manager John would be as well.

The bottom line was that you had an intense manager and an omnipresent president who made more road trips than any of his predecessors. As the players can attest, it wasn't a good combination.

And that led us to the day Dombrowski officially put himself in the crosshairs. It's a moment those with a front-row seat had considered inevitable for some time.

Does pressure shift to Dombrowski now that Farrell is gone. 10-11-17

Mut is joined by Keefe in the 1st hour and they break down Dave Dombrowski's press conference and how the pressure is now on him. 

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