It’s been less than a year since the Boston Red Sox finished off the greatest season in franchise history. 108 wins and a World Series title, all accomplished by a team with a strong core that wasn’t going anyplace for a while. That’s all that a baseball team can dream of, right?
So how did Dave Dombrowski go from presiding over that to being on the unemployment line in less than 11 months?
Some of it is the result of self-inflicted wounds. The Red Sox entered the offseason knowing that they’d probably lose Craig Kimbrel and would thus have to address their bullpen problems. They also had a couple of postseason heroes — Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce — hitting free agency. Dombrowski spent a good deal of money on Eovaldi and Pearce and almost no money on addressing the bullpen, figuring Alex Cora would work some magic with spare parts and that he’d fix it on the fly if need be. Both of those gambles failed pretty badly.
Those moves alone should not have ended Dombrowski’s tenure, though. And they didn’t, I don’t think. Some bad luck definitely contributed.
There has been some natural regression, obviously. No 108-win team isn’t going to see that. The rotation has been shaky, with said gamble on Eovaldi, perhaps not surprisingly, not working out, Chris Sale struggling, Rick Porcello cratering and David Price proving less effective than he was last year. It wasn’t the worst plan to enter 2019 like the Sox did, but the plan hasn’t survived engagement with the enemy. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have gone from MVP-caliber last year to merely good or, sometimes, very good this year. Some others have improved, but overall the offense has slid from best in the league to fourth-best and when your pitching betrays you, that’s gonna be felt. Championship teams sometimes experience hangovers and the Sox have experienced one in 2019.
What probably killed Dombrowski, though, was just how expensive this hangover happens to be and how expensive it would likely be for the Red Sox to cure it with Dombrowski at the helm.