Why this Dave Dombrowski firing isn't all that complicated

Rob Bradford
September 09, 2019 - 2:57 am
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When the subject of Dave Dombrowski's future with the Red Sox was broached the last few months it didn't seem cut-and-dried by any stretch of the imagination. Cases could be made for the president of baseball operations both staying and getting the boot. 

But in the end, this was far less complicated than many wanted to make it.

The Red Sox are headed into one of the most important offseasons in recent memory, with significant decisions to be made regarding Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., the starting rotation and the integration of a few soon-to-be major leaguers. Whoever was to make those choices better be the person at the helm for at least the next few years while we see how this whole thing unfolds. Dombrowski was headed into the final year of his contract.

Do the math.

If the Red Sox wanted Dombrowski to be the one pulling the strings following this sad trombone of a season than one would think they had to extend his contract beyond 2020. If they weren't willing to commit to the president of baseball operations beyond next season then you certainly couldn't have a lame-duck decision-maker guiding the future of the franchise, thereby necessitating a parting of the ways.

It wasn't complicated. Dombrowski wasn't going to be viewed by this ownership group as that long-term guy so it was time to move on.

No need to wait. Whether it was in early Sept. or after the regular season, this was the unavoidable reality. 

But there are some elements of this equation that need to be digested when realizing why John Henry, Tom Werner and Co. didn't choose to view Dombrowski as a guy who should be steering the ship for another three, four or five years.

Remember, it was Henry who said just a few days after the Red Sox won the World Series that his next order of business was to find a way to keep Dombrowski around for a while. So, when and how did that sentiment change?

Let's reflect back on the principal owner's comments to WEEI.com in London.

First, there was the remark regarding the best way to approach roster-building after winning it all.

"My take is that maybe it isn’t the best thing in the world to bring back the same team in its entirety every time," Henry said. "You don’t want to break a team down. But maybe a few changes wouldn’t hurt. But the feeling is always different after you win, apparently."

This, of course, was not the approach taken by Dombrowski, who used a good chunk of his offseason resources to bring back postseason heroes Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce. Both were more part of the problem than the solution throughout 2019.

Then came the money quote ... literally.

"It’s not a luxury tax issue, it’s a question of how much money do we want to lose," Henry explained. "We’re already over budget and we were substantially over our budget last year and this year. We’re not going to be looking to add a lot of payroll. And it’s hard to imagine fielding a better team. If we play up to our capabilities we’ll be fine. That’s the question: Will we? We’re halfway through and we haven’t. ... It’s a worthy team because we invested. Two years in a row we have the highest payroll. It’s not a matter of investment, it’s a matter of playing well. If we play up to our capabilities we will easily make the playoffs. That’s how I see it."

If you're looking to crack the code when it comes to Sunday night's decision start with those comments. 

Henry was basically saying, "You told us spending all this money would be worth it and it wasn't." That was it in a nutshell. That is the kind of thing that will get someone fired.

The easy narrative is that Dombrowski did what many expected he would do, win in the short-term while leaving the farm system barren. But considering the list of prospects he parted ways, this can't really be the impetus for the late-season transition to Eddie Romero, Zack Scott and Brian O'Halloran. Dombrowski did usually have an ability to identify the right minor-leaguers to include in deals. Perhaps there was a lack of creativity in getting some young talent back or too much of a willingness to add an extra body or two. But we have to be fair, here.

The organization was coming up to a crossroads, much like it was when Dombrowski was hired. It was the right move at that time, partly because the Red Sox needed one voice, a dynamic that the Red Sox were starving for after a series of questionable approaches toward the roster and contracts. Now there will be different priorities.

There is no question that the Red Sox are going to be digging out from a hole that was made in large part because of Dombrowski's allocation of resources. What the team's ownership wanted to make sure is that they weren't going to fall deeper into the abyss, as happened to the Tigers following their former general manager's departure.

Dombrowski's approach -- as viewed from both inside and outside the organization -- had come under growing criticism, and not making the postseason with this sort of payroll is always going to put a target on your back. But this isn't about keeping score when chronicling the good and the bad. This was more about what was to come than what had already taken place.

The future is now for these Red Sox, and that didn't bode well for the man who was still leaning on the past.