The Boston Red Sox haven’t had the season anyone imagined after winning the 2018 World Series as the most dominant team in baseball. With the regular season drawing to a close, they currently sit 17.5 games back of the New York Yankees in the A.L. East and eight games back of the second A.L. Wild Card spot.
They’re treading water at just above .500 after winning 108 games last season, and last night the team’s management decided to fire Dave Dombrowski, the man who put it all together, after another loss to the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball. Someone had to take a fall after the Sox went from championship contenders to most disappointing team in baseball in the span of six months, and it ended up being Dombrowski.
Given that this year’s iteration of the Red Sox is essentially the same as last season, it’s hard to see Dombrowski as the boogey-man responsible for 2019. He certainly deserves some blame for how they decided to go about their closer situation, and perhaps it’s on the president of baseball operations to shake things up at the trade deadline when a team was as obviously stagnant as Boston was in July this year. But a personnel man like Dombrowski can only put his players in a position to succeed, and despite being in a very similar situation as last year, the Red Sox simply did not succeed.
Mookie Betts regressed after an MVP campaign. Chris Sale struggled all season after signing a big extension, and the starting pitching as a whole took a big step back. Not having a closer clearly didn’t help matters, but more often than not the issue was having a lead in the first place, much less keeping it once they had one. J.D. Martinez remains as steady as they come, but otherwise this roster simply didn’t play as well as they did in 2018.
That’s not entirely on Dombrowski, but for a team with a payroll over $200 million, the current state of affairs wasn’t acceptable. Yet we’d be remiss to forget that Dombrowski was the architect of last year’s team that set these high expectations. He famously brought in Sale, but his deadline acquisitions were all huge; the Red Sox might not have a title at all if it weren’t for Steve Pearce or Eduardo Núñez.
Dombrowski didn’t deserve to be fired. He should have gotten one more year of breathing room, given he was the man behind the best team in baseball and one of the best Red Sox teams this century. Perhaps next year the pendulum will swing in the other direction as Sale takes a full offseason to heal up and guys like Michael Chavis and Rafael Devers continue to improve. But Dombrowski won’t be there to see it, because someone had to answer for what’s probably the most disappointing year of Red Sox baseball since 2011. Would things have been different if he wasn’t in charge? Will they automatically change because he’ll no longer be the decision maker? Probably not. But in the sports industry, a results-oriented business, it doesn’t always matter if it’s your fault. Dombrowski found that out the hard way.