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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Boston Red Sox Team President Dave Dombrowski Fired

The Red Sox are at the top tier of payroll yet ticket demand was pretty soft this year. From what I read they still sold about 97%. What hasn’t been talked about is how soft the secondary market has been. It cost me a lot less money to attend games this year. I paid about 25% to 33% of what I’ve paid in past years for Red Sox tickets. I wasn’t alone. My friends and the people sitting next to me at games have as well. One usher wondered to me, “What happens when season ticket holders get tired of paying full price and sitting next to people paying a lot less for the same tickets?” At the same time NESN ratings are down.

Teams usually get a windfall for a few years after winning a World Series. That’s not the case in Boston right now.

A lot of Sox fans have become spoiled. Their expectations have become championship or bust. Many, many fans were calling for Dombrowski’s head this year. So, don’t underestimate the marketing side of this move.

The Red Sox and Dombrowski, briefly, flew in the face of this: In many ways, spending now and not building for the future to win now has become the new market inefficiency. They were the rusty nail in baseball, the new A’s, doing something the other 29 teams in baseball weren’t doing, trading like crazy, acting as if, insanely, the point of running a baseball team was to win as soon as possible. But when the Red Sox took a step back this year — and it’s worth noting they still have a better winning percentage in 2019 than the Mets have had in three years — the ownership group looked around, saw everyone else in baseball with a better profit margin than them (thanks to that looming luxury tax), despite not having that recent championship that they did, and decided it was the perfect opportunity to jettison Dombrowski and get with the program. Red Sox brass have been curiously quiet in publicly justifying the move, but Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reported that the team was looking for a “a process-oriented architect who can steer the franchise efficiently through a difficult transition toward its next championship team.” That sounds … that sounds like every team in baseball. It sounds like the Red Sox are getting with the program. Dombrowski wanted to win too fast. That’s no way to keep your job.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 12, 2019 at 06:56 AM | 42 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dave dombrowski, red sox

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   1. Nasty Nate Posted: September 12, 2019 at 08:27 AM (#5878595)
Jim, I'm not sure you read the threads and you have no obligation to defend your intro comments, but I'm curious about why you have this bugaboo about ownership's motivations for making moves. For most major Sox moves going back to the excellent "Punto" 2012 trade and maybe earlier, you always seem to suggest we think that we should never take things at face value and that the move was really being made for secret, more nefarious, reasons (especially the looming "impatient fan" premise). Why the strong interest in uncovering secret impurities of motivation? What evidence is there that the impatient fan has so much power over the team?
   2. Bote Man sez Davey is MoY Posted: September 12, 2019 at 08:31 AM (#5878596)
   3. Captain Supporter Posted: September 12, 2019 at 08:48 AM (#5878598)
you always seem to suggest we think that we should never take things at face value and that the move was really being made for secret, more nefarious, reasons


It's called 'clickbait'.
   4. Nasty Nate Posted: September 12, 2019 at 08:51 AM (#5878599)
In addition to my first post, even if ownership was basing their decisions on such things, the fan impatience level is pretty low this year compared to other years in the past 20 years. And I dispute that a significant part of the fanbase was vocal about firing Dombrowski. And people don't buy tickets or watch NESN based on who is the GM, and I doubt that ownership thinks people buy tickets based on the GM.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 09:06 AM (#5878602)
Jim, I'm not sure you read the threads and you have no obligation to defend your intro comments, but I'm curious about why you have this bugaboo about ownership's motivations for making moves. For most major Sox moves going back to the excellent "Punto" 2012 trade and maybe earlier, you always seem to suggest we think that we should never take things at face value and that the move was really being made for secret, more nefarious, reasons (especially the looming "impatient fan" premise). Why the strong interest in uncovering secret impurities of motivation?

To be fair, the assumption that a large corporation is lying when it says it's motivation isn't to make more money, is right 95% of the time.
   6. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: September 12, 2019 at 09:19 AM (#5878603)
I’m with Nate regarding the fanbase/Dombrowski. Admittedly I don’t listen to sports radio but I haven’t heard anyone I speak to; friends, family, co-workers, calling for Dombrowski’s head. People certainly have been upset about his inaction regarding the bullpen but that’s a far cry from “he’s terrible get rid of him!”
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 09:29 AM (#5878606)
I’m with Nate regarding the fanbase/Dombrowski. Admittedly I don’t listen to sports radio but I haven’t heard anyone I speak to; friends, family, co-workers, calling for Dombrowski’s head. People certainly have been upset about his inaction regarding the bullpen but that’s a far cry from “he’s terrible get rid of him!”

I agree with that too.

I think the most likely scenarios are 1) the owners wanted someone willing to cut back on spending to get them closer to $200M than $250M, and at his age Dombrowski wanted no part of half-assed attempts to win, or 2) there was a big personal clash with one of the owners.
   8. Nasty Nate Posted: September 12, 2019 at 09:39 AM (#5878609)
To be fair, the assumption that a large corporation is lying when it says it's motivation isn't to make more money, is right 95% of the time.
And a skepticism towards MLB owners is a sensible default.

With this specific move, they will be paying 2 GMs next year so the path to making more money via the firing would be winning more games in the future.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 09:43 AM (#5878612)
With this specific move, they will be paying 2 GMs next year so the path to making more money via the firing would be winning more games in the future.

True. I think the simplest explanation is the Red Sox want to do what the Yankees have been doing lately: keep the payroll between $190-210M every year, and Dombrowski balked at that strategy.
   10. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: September 12, 2019 at 10:27 AM (#5878619)
Maybe I'm being oversimplistic as usual, but to me it seems pretty obvious that #9 is basically correct... the details are myriad and unknown, I'm sure, but the big picture is pretty obvious: Ownership wants to get under the tax, Dombrowski refuses to cooperate with that. It's basically as simple as that.

Dombrowski has been fantastically successful, but both in Detroit and Boston he has wanted to spend huge, and then huger, and then hugest (and after his Montreal and Florida experience, who can blame him?) Still--for some teams it makes a lot of sense to hire Billy Martin, if you know when to fire him. Dombrowski might be a milder GM version of that.
   11. Nasty Nate Posted: September 12, 2019 at 10:47 AM (#5878623)
Ownership wants to get under the tax, Dombrowski refuses to cooperate with that. It's basically as simple as that.
Their secret motivation for wanting to get under the tax is to appease the spoiled impatient fans!
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 10:52 AM (#5878624)
Their secret motivation for wanting to get under the tax is to appease the spoiled impatient fans!

Nah, they just want the money, probably to waste on soccer.
   13. jmurph Posted: September 12, 2019 at 10:59 AM (#5878626)
Nah, they just want the money, probably to waste on soccer.

As a fan of both the Red Sox and a non-Liverpool soccer team, I endorse this criticism. All FSG money should be shifted to the Red Sox immediately.
   14. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: September 12, 2019 at 11:31 AM (#5878632)
Nah, they just want the money, probably to waste on soccer.
Liverpool were supposedly the most profitable team in the world in 2018. They won the Champions League after that, so I suspect that the 2019 profits will still be high.

(All soccer financial disclosures should be taken with enormous grains of salt, of course.)
   15. villageidiom Posted: September 12, 2019 at 11:43 AM (#5878638)
True. I think the simplest explanation is the Red Sox want to do what the Yankees have been doing lately: keep the payroll between $190-210M every year, and Dombrowski balked at that strategy.
The funny thing is that that's pretty much been Boston ownership's strategy since 2002. This is not new. It wasn't new when they hired him.

Dombrowski's tactics brought him off that strategic path, and further off, and further off, each year. Now, wherever the strategy was supposed to have placed them by now, Dombrowski - to put it in traditional New England terms - can't get there from here.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 11:48 AM (#5878641)
The funny thing is that that's pretty much been Boston ownership's strategy since 2002. This is not new. It wasn't new when they hired him.

Dombrowski's tactics brought him off that strategic path, and further off, and further off, each year. Now, wherever the strategy was supposed to have placed them by now, Dombrowski - to put it in traditional New England terms - can't get there from here.


There is no way that the decision to go to $250M was Dombrowski's. Ownership has to sign off on things like that.
   17. Where have you gone Brady Anderson? Posted: September 12, 2019 at 11:52 AM (#5878644)
I’m sure ownership approved the $250 million dollar payroll, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a source of tension. If you want to get under the luxury tax, it’s a lot simpler if you have a GM who wants to get under the luxury tax, rather than one who is constantly pushing you to add payroll.
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 11:57 AM (#5878647)
I’m sure ownership approved the $250 million dollar payroll, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a source of tension. If you want to get under the luxury tax, it’s a lot simpler if you have a GM who wants to get under the luxury tax, rather than one who is constantly pushing you to add payroll.

Agreed, but vi is acting like Dombrowski went rogue, and caught the poor helpless owners by surprise.

The difficult part is the Red Sox got exactly what I'm sure Dombrowski promised. I'm sure he said some version of "Let me increase payroll, and we've got a really good chance at a Championship". Well, they increased payroll, and won a Championship.
   19. PreservedFish Posted: September 12, 2019 at 11:57 AM (#5878648)
I’m sure ownership approved the $250 million dollar payroll, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a source of tension.

"Source of tension" is fine. But villageidiom keeps portraying it as if Dombrowski hijacked the team.
   20. villageidiom Posted: September 12, 2019 at 11:59 AM (#5878650)
Again, they've made clear they're OK with things like that in the short term, but not long term. If his long term plan was "hey, the long run is just a series of short runs" that's clearly not what they meant.
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 12:02 PM (#5878652)
Again, they've made clear they're OK with things like that in the short term, but not long term. If his long term plan was "hey, the long run is just a series of short runs" that's clearly not what they meant.

Right, the owners are prioritizing profit over maximizing the chances of winning, and it's likely Dombrowski wasn't on board with that. That's fine, it's ownership's prerogative to do that within reason.

Just stop acting like this was somehow Dombrowski's fault, and the innocent lambs in ownership had no choice in the matter.
   22. villageidiom Posted: September 12, 2019 at 12:32 PM (#5878664)
But villageidiom keeps portraying it as if Dombrowski hijacked the team.
He was the President of Baseball Operations. Pilots have no need to hijack.
   23. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 12, 2019 at 12:37 PM (#5878666)
The owners shifting on the budget/finances is almost certainly what caused them to sour on Dombrowski, not extend him, and then let him go. The chance of it being something else and not leak from either side would seem quite low, not withstanding the conspiracy theorists out there. The only question is whether ownership will opt for a hard landing, prioritizing getting under the luxury tax threshold ASAP, or a softer one that takes several years to reach that goal and doesn’t allow it to interfere with re-signing Mookie Betts even if it impacts lesser players.
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 12:53 PM (#5878668)
He was the President of Baseball Operations. Pilots have no need to hijack.

The pilot doesn't decide what plane he gets to fly. Overall budget is an ownership decision.
   25. Nasty Nate Posted: September 12, 2019 at 12:58 PM (#5878670)
OK, airplane passengers, there's a group that is spoiled and impatient...
   26. villageidiom Posted: September 12, 2019 at 01:02 PM (#5878673)
Right, the owners are prioritizing profit over maximizing the chances of winning, and it's likely Dombrowski wasn't on board with that.
That's the job he took. If he had expressed he wasn't on board with it BITD he wouldn't have gotten the job. If he gave lip service to it but wasn't on board with it he shouldn't have taken the job. If he was on board with it in principle but his actions never aligned, or if he abandoned that principle once it got too hard for him to do, then he should be fired. Like, the most kind to Dombrowski of these - which all follow from what you say is likely - is that he should be fired.

Their current financial position is Dombrowski's fault. He piloted the plane toward the mountain so the passengers could get a better view of soemthing, and kept course to a point where a copilot has to take over, and it will be an uncomfortable flight for a bit as they make some drastic course corrections. Stop acting like it was the airline CEO's responsibility to move the mountain out of the way.

It is also ownership's fault, for giving Dombrowski responsibility he couldn't handle, and for approving his short-term requests and trusting he would eventually course-correct. To the extent that this stems from the PBO structure they set up for him, it's their fault for choosing that structure and for hiring him into it.

FWIW I think to some degree it does stem from that. I think Lucchino & Cherington were aligned on strategy but wildly incompatible on tactics, so they had different transactions that didn't mesh well to achieve that strategy. By consolidating into a PBO they thought they'd get consistent tactics - which I think they did - but by putting full authority in that role they trusted that the strategy would not change.
   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 01:03 PM (#5878674)
OK, airplane passengers, there's a group that is spoiled and impatient...

Boy, I'd love airlines to be re-regulated by the FAA. I'd gladly pay double the fare to get the experience back to what it was in the 1970s.
   28. karlmagnus Posted: September 12, 2019 at 02:35 PM (#5878701)
Dombrowski did exactly what he was expected to do, which is why I objected when he was hired. He cannibalized the farm system in order to get a higher probability of a pennant in the short-term. The cost of that was shortening the window of success, which given what they had in the farm system when Cherington was fired, should have stretched well into the 2020s. Under Dombrowski, 2019 was always likely to be the last good year and, as it turned out, we have missed out on that because the pitching got injured/fell apart (which can always happen in any given year.) We get one championship out of it; could have been 2016 or 2017, but was actually 2018. Slight overkill in that year; you don't need to win 108 games (probably about 112 if they hadn't taken foot off gas in the last couple of weeks.)

Personally, I would much rather have continued with Cherington; chances are, we would still have got one flag, though possibly without winning 108 games. We would be looking at a much better future now, in that case.

I would not re-sign Mookie unless he's prepared to do a below-market deal like 8-200. WaR overrates him, and many of his skills will decline faster with age than those of a big bopper. He's likely to be very overpriced. Devers is the key to keep for the long term.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 02:43 PM (#5878705)
Dombrowski did exactly what he was expected to do, which is why I objected when he was hired....

I would not re-sign Mookie unless he's prepared to do a below-market deal like 8-200.


So, in summary, you like Henry making money more than you like the Red Sox winning?
   30. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: September 12, 2019 at 02:48 PM (#5878710)
1) As #28 says, Dombrowski did exactly what the team wanted him to do - win a ring now, worry about the long-term consequences later. It may be that once the team realized it did not have the assets to strengthen the 2019-2020 teams, then the job becomes rebuilding the farm system ASAP to try to avoid a nasty down period in the next couple of years.

2) As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I have to say - we are spoiled, and it is not the same as it was pre-2004 (or even pre-2007). Once we won the first title, it took the maniacal "every game matters!" desperation; upon winning the second one in 2007, even the feeling of "was that a once-in-a-generation feeling?" went away. Then we win a couple more? Hard to get intense about the regular season, and if we aren't fighting for a World Series, it doesn't feel very interesting right now. That is spoiled.

Also, the Patriots' unparalleled success plays into this. There really is no run in football history like this, especially in the salary cap era. The 49ers of the 80s and 90s were similar, but the Patriots have now won more Super Bowls, more overall wins, way more Super Bowl appearances, etc. In the last 18 years, the Patriots have finished first in their division all 18 times! The two times they didn't make the playoffs, they won 11 and 9 games, tied for the division title, but then missed the playoffs on tiebreakers. (11 wins is the most for a non-playoff team in history.) So when you are the baseball team in a market like that, how can you compete? Winning the division means nothing to Red Sox fans at this point, and the last time we went to the World Series without winning it was 1986 - we are 16-4 in World Series games since 2004.
   31. jmurph Posted: September 12, 2019 at 02:53 PM (#5878712)
I would not re-sign Mookie unless he's prepared to do a below-market deal like 8-200. WaR overrates him, and many of his skills will decline faster with age than those of a big bopper. He's likely to be very overpriced.

Not that this is really worth responding to, but Mookie is a power hitter. It's just that he's also fast, and a great defender, and a good OBP guy, etc.
   32. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: September 12, 2019 at 02:53 PM (#5878713)
So, in summary, you like Henry making money more than you like the Red Sox winning?


He’s Karl, there is no evidence he likes the Red Sox winning.
   33. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 02:57 PM (#5878714)
He’s Karl, there is no evidence he likes the Red Sox winning.

He should just become a Yankee fan then :-)
   34. Nasty Nate Posted: September 12, 2019 at 02:58 PM (#5878716)
we are 16-4 in World Series games since 2004.
sir ... sir ... SIR! 16-3

that long game last year only counts as 1...
   35. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: September 12, 2019 at 03:09 PM (#5878721)
He should just become a Yankee fan then :-)


One can hope.
   36. villageidiom Posted: September 12, 2019 at 04:37 PM (#5878770)
So, in summary, you like Henry making money more than you like the Red Sox winning?
In a hypothetical where he's the ownership, he supports the ownership making money. I fail to see the mystery here.
   37. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 04:44 PM (#5878775)
In a hypothetical where he's the ownership, he supports the ownership making money. I fail to see the mystery here.

He's not the owner, he's a fan, and he supports letting Betts go, making the team worse, so the owners can make more money. That's odd.
   38. karlmagnus Posted: September 12, 2019 at 04:58 PM (#5878782)
No, I accept the reality that the owners will not want to pay large amounts of luxury tax, year after year. Therefore the long-term budget is limited, even if it can spike for a year or two. Since money spent on the farm system does not count against the luxury tax calculation, I would rather spend money on the farm system. Players at their peak who become free agents are almost all overpaid; in addition Betts' skills are more likely to decline with age (and are in my view overweighted by WaR.)

So I'd rather have lots of new Deverses, even at the cost of refusing to overbid for Mookie. 8/200 yes, but not a Harper/Machado/Stanton, all three of which are albatrosses for their respective teams (and all three were younger when signed than Mookie will be.)

I'm a Sox fan since 1971, although I haven't lived in their catchment area since '73 (and am also fairly ancient, therefore.)
   39. Walt Davis Posted: September 12, 2019 at 05:23 PM (#5878787)
which given what they had in the farm system when Cherington was fired, should have stretched well into the 2020s.

He traded away Manny Margot, an average defense-first CF. And Moncada, a good-hitting, poor-fielding 3B. In return for Moncada (and the injured Kopech), he got 15 WAR out of Chris Sale.

The farm system he "gutted" produced very little. The notion those two players plus whatever Kopech might accomplish post-recovery would have fueled the Red Sox into the 2020s is patently absurd. It's one thing to complain about something like the Sale trade in real time -- to whine about it after he's given your team 15 WAR in 3 seasons is whiny privelege of the highest order.
   40. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2019 at 05:45 PM (#5878792)
No, I accept the reality that the owners will not want to pay large amounts of luxury tax, year after year. Therefore the long-term budget is limited, even if it can spike for a year or two. Since money spent on the farm system does not count against the luxury tax calculation, I would rather spend money on the farm system. Players at their peak who become free agents are almost all overpaid; in addition Betts' skills are more likely to decline with age (and are in my view overweighted by WaR.)

You can't spend more money on the farm system, both draft bonuses and Int'l FA signings are capped. The only way to use their financial resources is to spend on major leaguers.

So I'd rather have lots of new Deverses, even at the cost of refusing to overbid for Mookie.

There's no way to invest $200M to get more "Deverses". It's simply not possible under the current rules.

And 10/300 for Betts is far from an overpay. The man has averaged 8 WAR over his 5 full seasons. Even if you knock that down to 5, he's worth $30M p.a.

The farm system he "gutted" produced very little. The notion those two players plus whatever Kopech might accomplish post-recovery would have fueled the Red Sox into the 2020s is patently absurd. It's one thing to complain about something like the Sale trade in real time -- to whine about it after he's given your team 15 WAR in 3 seasons is whiny privelege of the highest order.

Concur.
   41. Textbook Editor Posted: September 12, 2019 at 10:42 PM (#5878833)
As I outlined in the other thread, I think there's definitely room to pay Betts $30 mil next season in arb and going forward, and $35 isn't much different. Sign the guy.

The keys for the 2020 payroll are: (a) does JD opt out and (b) are they OK with going between $208-$228 mil (i.e., between $0 and $20 mil over) next season and maybe a bit beyond? I can see them (under current rules) wanting to stay in the "$20 mil or less over the cap" scenario.

If JD doesn't opt out, the cap thing gets tricky, but man trading Betts on a 1/$30 arb contract isn't going to get you much (in terms of restocking the system)--such deals never seem to. So you might as well keep him, take the hit in 2020 and--if you really have $ concerns past next season, hope for a Price/Sale bounceback and ship one of those guys off instead of Betts to help save the $ for 2021 so you give Betts the 10/$350 or 10/$375 he's gonna get from somewhere.

What I'm going to be really, truly curious about is whether or not they try to do a AA/AAA-shuttle situation for the 4/5 spots in the rotation in 2021 and go to an opener, etc. Because they're not going to have $ to spend to get a starter, and even if Price/Sale bounce back you have basically only 3 starters (incl. EdRod) before you get into the B. Johnsons and S. Wrights of the world, and I don't know you can lean on those guys to fill 2 full, 150-175 IP roles in the rotation... I have to think some of what they've been doing the last few weeks is a dry run for that option in 2020.
   42. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 13, 2019 at 11:28 PM (#5879075)
The Diamondbacks have extended GM Mike Hazen, who had been mentioned as a possible Dombrowski replacement.

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