In defense of Dave Dombrowski: a trusty steed
Jake Elmslie, Sports Editor
Not all figures in the history of a team’s success are meant to last forever. There are scores of players, coaches and executives who’s short tenure with their teams should not be used as an inherent knock against their legacy within particular organizations. Sometimes people age, sometimes relationships shift, and as is the case with now former Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, sometimes circumstances by design simply change the type of individual best suited for a particular job.
For all of the criticisms one can levy against Dave Dombrowski he is at the very least, good at one fairly important aspect of running a Major League Baseball team; getting his teams to the World Series. The teams that Dombrowski have led, have reached the World Series four times since 1997, he crafted the championship Florida Marlins team in 1997, engineered a Detroit Tigers program that reached the apex of the baseball world in both 2006 and 2012 and last season, presided over the World Series winning Red Sox, a team that also managed to tally a franchise record 108 regular season victories.
Along the way, Dombrowski has gained a reputation for tearing down farm systems, morgating prospect pools to obtain high level MLB talent with an eye towards the present rather than the future. Detractors have tried to paint this as a simple way to win and one that anybody could do when gifted a deep farm system like the one the Red Sox had when Dombrowski took over the team in 2015, however this is unfair as it ignores the sharp eye for talent Dombrowski showcased during his time in Boston, one that allowed him to come out on top on both ends of nearly every major trade he made.
Dombrowski certainly traded a plethora of highly touted prospects over the last four years. However, once one looks deeper at the young players traded by Boston during this period, they’ll see very little in the way of Major League production. Manuel Margot and Javy Guerra, both once top 10 prospects in the Red Sox farm system, have seen next to no production since being flipped to the San Diego Padres closer Craig Kimbrell who made the all star team each of his three seasons in Boston. Anderson Espinoza once a top ranked pitching prospect league wide, has seen his career trajectory plummet in the wake of consecutive Tommy John surgeries, since also being traded to the Padres for now former Red Sox pitcher Drew Pomeranz. Even Yoan Moncada once the 7th ranked prospect in all of baseball and one of the few Dombrowski tradies to show promise since leaving the Boston system has been nowhere near as impactful as the player he was traded for in Red Sox ace Chris Sale.
Also packaged into the deal by Dombrowski was Michael Kopech, yet another once highly touted pitching prospect who has seen his career derailed by serious injury since being cast out. Even Travis Shaw who once looked like a player who was going to haunt the Red Sox after being dealt in the overwhelmingly successful Carson Smith trade has come back down to earth in nearly every statistical category batting .151in the 2019 season after two highly productive seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Inversely Dombrowski has shown a strong ability to identify the prospects worth keeping, Andrew Benintendi who was once considered by many to be a lesser prospect to then contemporary, Moncada, has morphed into a versatile and reliable part of the Red Sox outfield. Rafael Devers morphed into one of the Red Sox most reliable and powerful hitters this season, currently having 29 home runs to go alongside a .314 average. Michael Chavis who would have been an easy prospect to justify trading in the wake of a 2018 minor league suspension for performance enhancing drugs was very productive this season before nagging injuries forced him out of the lineup. Even Xander Boegarts who was signed to a roughly $20 million per year contract this past offseason looks like an absolute bargain in the wake of a career year that has seen him set personal bests in both home runs and OPS.
Overall, Domrbwoski was undone not by the moves he did make, but by the ones he did not. He did not commit enough resources to crafting a strong bullpen, he may of held on to players like Jackie Bradley Jr beyond the point where their trade value was at its highest, he should of moved on from highly productive rentals such as Nathan Eovaldi, Steve Pearce and Eduardo Núñez as opposed to signing them to what turned out to be far above market deals. However, as previously outlined Dombrowski hit on an overwhelming majority of the moves he did make. His firing is more a matter of putting in place a different style of personal head, someone more suited to the task of rebuilding the Red Sox now depleted farm system, someone right for job of ether negotiating a new deal with Mookie Betts or identifying the best trade partner and package for the long term health of the organization.
Dave Dombrowski did what he was brought to Boston to do. He did exactly what the best version of his reputation said he would do and how he would do it, and much like a thoroughbred racehorse while potentially spectacular, his shelf life was short and much like those majestic animals; once his usefulness was outgrown, the Red Sox brought him behind Fenway Park and told him “that’ll do Dave, that’ll do.”