Will Dave Dombrowski Deliver?

By Gerard Lombardo – @wickedlinedrive

Ben Cherington wasn’t a bad general manager. But there were always questions as to who may be pulling the strings; him, or ownership. Bobby Valentine is a good example of someone that Cherington never publicly lobbied for, yet ended up being hired; only to manage the team to a dismal losing season.

“The right man at the right time,” John Henry referred to Bobby V as.

Big Ben and the boys were a part of constructing three time world champions, with Cherington being an integral part of the front office since 1999, as an area scout. Much like Tito, Cherington’s ship simply ran its course. He was relieved of his duties in favor of Dave Dombrowski when the Red Sox fell to 11 games below .500 in 2015, which was met with general satisfaction by the public, media, and organization.

Dombrowski came to Boston with a heck of a track record. He led the then-Florida Marlins to a 1997 World Series title, which concluded in a free agent fire sale, resulting in many consecutive losing seasons, and the subsequent firing of DD. But he recovered nicely, leading the Tigers to four straight division banners, just a few seasons removed from the organization losing a pathetic 119 games. But once again, the GM was given the heave-ho, after delivering a pair of pennants to the city of Detroit, but falling short in both World Series appearances.

The aforementioned moves have led the 61 year old Illinois native to his current role with the Boston Red Sox, as general manager/president of baseball operations. He’s been incredibly active on the transactions front, which has been his modus operandi throughout his executive career. What the team has done under him is well documented, as you’d be hard pressed to find a Red Sox fan who hasn’t been made aware of back to back division titles of identical records; with a whopping one playoff victory.

But if that isn’t sufficient enough to retain John’s job, why should it be allowed to save Dave’s? Certainly, his personality isn’t responsible for his job safety.

“That’s really something I’m going to keep to myself,” Dombrowski said, when pressed at his presser for reasons of firing Farrell.

“It went fine,” DD told the Boston Herald, in regards to Alex Cora’s managerial interview.

What is this guy, a fucking Roomba? Even Popovich throws the media an occasional bone; same with Belichick. Personality doesn’t win championships. It doesn’t hit a ball over the Monster, nor does it reduce time on a disabled list stint. But it’s not going to hurt your cause, either.

So here we are, Sox Nation, watching the championship series’ without a dog in the fight for the fourth consecutive season. This time, with significant weaknesses from both a leadership and talent standpoint. On top of no current manager, nary a cleanup hitter, and perhaps most significantly, much of a farm system.

How long, exactly, does the president of baseball ops have to build a championship here, in a region where we are finally used to winning? Forget the 86 year drought; the Red Sox of the 2000’s are expected to be annual championship contenders. That’s the result of three World Series’ since the dawn of the millennia. Yes, his trades and signings have brought good, if not great players to Boston. A true two this year, Drew Pomeranz, was acquired for a pitcher who’s now undergoing TJ surgery. Travis Shaw won’t be missed thanks to Rafy Devers, plus Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel are perennial all-stars. Even Doug Fister graced us with a one hitter.. but a majority of the transactions have been responsible for decimating the A level affiliates, leaving the upcoming decade in the hands of Devers, Jay Groome, and Michael Chavis, at least for the time being.

Has Dave Dombrowski benefited the organization, to the point of earning himself job security through the 2018, 2019, or even 2020 season? I don’t know. I’m personally not enamored with the direction the franchise is heading in. Boston is constantly in win-now, but continue to build for the future mode. The problem is, we’re not winning. We’re not building for the future. The front office is continuing to sign and acquire hefty contracts, while simultaneously failing to develop pitchers in the minor leagues, or make a deep playoff run. Yes, that is on the players, manager, and coaching staff. It’s also the responsibility of John Henry and the rest of the front office; but with the dismissal of Manager John, the organization is out of scapegoats.

If New York, Houston, Cleveland and the Cubs can win games, sign quality free agents, draft well, and play deep into October, Boston needs to as well if they want to compete not just today, but tomorrow too; I wouldn’t say Dave’s quite on the hot seat yet, but things might start to get toasty soon.

Red Sox Players Departing Via Free Agency!

By Gerard Lombardo – @wickedlinedrive

Missouri isn’t my favorite destination… It’s actually at the bottom of the list of states I’ve lived in. St. Louis offers a fun tour of the Anheuser-Busch brewery, the Gateway Arch is good for a few photos, but its not referred to as ‘Misery’ by its inhabitants for its glee. But they do offer one thing Massachusetts can’t – other than oppressive heat and seasonal tornado threats – which is a pair of baseball teams. Why that state needs two, I’ll never know, but at least they’re not on Florida’s wavelength when it comes to homing unnecessary professional sport franchises.

The St. Louis Cardinals had a good run in the early 2000’s, but it’s been the Royals of Kansas City over the past decade who’s taken advantage of their worst place finishes to draft a solid nucleus of talent, and are now reaping their benefits in the major leagues. This is a franchise that darn near won back to back World Series titles in 2014-2015; but success in Major League Baseball is often short lived, and the 95 win team of 2015, (first Royals club to post 90 victories since 19 freaking 89) is getting ready to part ways with household names following consecutive third place finishes under Ned Yost.

So while the Kansas City general manager will be dealing with unfortunate subtractions, our president of baseball operations has his own agenda: are there any pending Boston free agents that are worthy of a resigning? You could argue that the answer is no, there simply isn’t one player that needs to return to the team in order to achieve success in 2018 or beyond. So let’s make an educated dissection of the dearly departing, and determine Dombrowski’s job for him. I’ve ranked the players from shortest to tallest, for no literal reason.

Rajai Davis, 5’10”- thanks for stealing three bases in four attempts; the pair of doubles were a welcome surprise as well. But Rajai’s are a dime a dozen, as late inning pinch base runners could be yanked out a college track team locker room.

Verdict: 394 career steals isn’t anything to scoff at, but speed can be bought for the league minimum, at any point in the calendar year. Hard pass.

Eduardo Nunez, 6’0″- if you had told me at the start of the season, that the Sox and Giants would swap hot corner starters in the unorthodox fashion of releasing the incumbent, and trading for the upgrade, I’d have given you a nice, firm handshake. Pablo was a freaking mess in a Sox uniform. Both physically and figuratively. Noonie gave the Sox an enormous lift in August, and had his health but a non factor, he could have made a significant contribution against the ‘Stros. But, health is a factor, both between him and the regular 2nd baseman that’s been here for nearly 15 years. Do you spend the money on Eduardo, given his track record of not succumbing to injury, and let the infield positions shake themselves out, or is that money best utilized improving the bullpen and offense? Let’s see what Dave has up his sleeve.

Verdict: I won’t be upset if he returns on a one year or multi year deal, but I’d be pretty disappointed if both him and Dustin spent significant time on the injury report, while tying up somewhere between $20-$25 million in resources. I’m giving Eddie a soft no.

Fernando Abad, 6’1″- middle relievers are like relationships; just when you think you’ve got a pretty good one, they show their true colors. Abad has been with five organizations in eight seasons. Why? Because he’s not that good.

Verdict: Bye boy.

Chris Young, 6’2″ – I don’t live and die by WAR, but when you’re in the negative, that’s saying one thing: you’ve been detrimental to the team’s success. Sadly, Young overperformed in ’16, and came back to Earth this year, accomplishing very little as the Sox number four outfielder.

Verdict: pack your bags utility man. As a 34 year old .235 hitter, you may be playing for a minor league contract now. $6.5M off the books.

Mitch Moreland, 6’2″- Mitchie Not-Enough-Four-Bags is a nice piece, and he provided the Sox with exactly what they thought he would: 125 H, 22 HR and 79 RBI, which are nearly identical to his career averages of 133/23/76. But the one position that can be upgraded without benching or trading away a starter is 1B, and Moreland would’ve had to greatly exceed expectations to earn a long term agreement.

Verdict: Hope that Mitch can land a three year deal somewhere, he deserves it. Solid hitter, good glove. Just not essential to Boston in 2018 and beyond.

Kyle Kendrick, 6’3″ – just… no.

Verdict: 74 career wins in Philly. Maybe they’ll want him?

Blaine Boyer, 6’3″ – Boyer has somehow worn 10 different numbers between MLB and Japanese ball on his back since his 2005 debut in Atlanta. Pitched decent at Fenway, 23 innings to just nine runs, but nobody will be bending over backwards to add the 36 year old to their club any time soon.

Verdict: arguably, the 3rd most important free agent Dombrowski needs to address. But he won’t be back for any foreseeable reason.

Addison Reed, 6’4″- the only Addison I want in a Sox uni is as Addison Russell. Reed is another shining example of a pitcher who thrives in the National League (2.98 ERA, 9.6 K/10) only to get bombed in the Junior Circuit, made apparent by his over 4 ERA and propensity to give up late in ding dongs here in Boston.

Verdict: Pass. He made nearly $8M last season, and even if he were to take a pay cut, those dollars are too valuable to spend on him.

Doug Fister, 6’8″- decent starter, just didn’t thrive in the AL East, like so many other hurlers. June and July weren’t kind to the former all star, as he went 1-5 with 33 innings spanning 8 games. September and October were frightening, as his ERA was nearly 6. He made some contributions, but there’s no room for him on the big league squad.

Verdict: look for Doug to hook up on a 1 year pact with a non playoff contender this offseason.

The main takeaway from this article is that the Red Sox front office duties have been simplified to the extent that they don’t need to stress over any significant goodbyes. Mitch, Nunez and Reed are the only legitimate candidates to start opening day on a major league roster, and none of them, barring maybe Nunez, would improve Boston (on paper) next year. How Dombrowski and the brass will spend the freed up money is essential to the franchises continued success.

How Powerful is David Price? And Will He Eventually Get Dombrowski Fired?

By Terry Cushman – @AVIDBOS_PODCAST

When David Price arrived in Boston, my immediate concern aside from his dismal post season record, was his potential to become as embattled with the local Boston media as Josh Beckett was.   Horrifically, he greatly exceeded even Beckett’s level.

David Price’s leadership of the Red Sox clubhouse wasn’t immediately apparent.  Fans across Red Sox Nation all assumed Dustin Pedroia was the heir to take over that very role from David Ortiz’, and the rest of the clubhouse would fall in line behind him.  It wasn’t until days after a brief spat between Price and Dennis Eckersley on a charter plane was it apparent that David Price was unequivocally the leader of this team.   The incident became an international embarrassment to Red Sox.   Even more shockingly, several high profile players applauded Price’s verbal assault on the highly respected hall of famer.

The critical question now is:  How powerful is David Price?   What makes it critical is that his power could go well beyond his title of “leader.”   Especially if the majority of the team ardently supports him and his actions over anyone in the front office, namely Dave Dombrowski.

Dombrowski is by now balls deep into his search for a new manager.  Unlike any other teams looking for a manager (Detroit, Philadelphia, NYM to name a few), the Red Sox have a distinct advantage in that they are built to win now.  They could conceivably win the 2018.   On the flip side however, the Red Sox are a complex team with group of big personalities who have been no strangers to controversy at one point or another.   The potential for things to “blow up” next year is very strong.  The possibility that this managerial job could be short lived for whoever takes it on is very real.  I have a couple candidates for this managerial opening that I really like.   But generally speaking, I am very open minded as to who Dombrowski chooses to hire.

The primary risk for whoever assumes this role, is will the Red Sox clubhouse reject him?  As an individual, David Price has never been one take accountability for his own actions.  He is highly combative, and does not receive criticism well at all.  If an entire team embraces his antics, it could make effectively managing this Red Sox team nearly impossible.   In about 16 weeks, that new manager will stroll into spring training with a brand new coaching staff.   All of Red Sox Nation will hone in to see how smooth the transition ends up being.

I have asked myself, “What happens if things go awry?  How can David Price be reigned in and held accountable?”   I’m not convinced the new manager and coaching staff can handle it.   I’m not even convinced the front office can intervene and restore order.   So who can?   Perhaps a past legend like David Ortiz?  Jason Varitek?  Pedro Martinez?  Surely the last thing they want to see is Price disgracing the same uniform they wore so proudly.  Any sharp criticism or condemnation will resonate very strong with Red Sox fans.   The other possibility is that an existing or incoming player can overthrow Price’s leadership.

The stakes are high for Dombrowski.   Trading David Price simply isn’t viable.  His health is too questionable, and his contract is too large.  Suspending him could blow up in Dombrowski’s face if it results in an uproar among his teammates.  Not to mention the negative optics for rival executives, or the national media on the outside looking in.  If the team under performs, or chemistry continues to be a hindrance to the point which the Red Sox miss the 2018 playoffs, it’s almost a guarantee Dombrowski will be fired by John Henry & Tom Werner.   Ben Cherington lost his job only a season and a half after winning the god damn World Series.   Dave Dombrowski will have been here almost a the same amount of time, decimated most of the farm system, and only won a single playoff game.  He will certainly be as good as gone.  So the stakes are indeed very high.

David Price had long voiced his disdain for Red Sox fans and the city of Boston before he ever signed here.  He has continued those tirades against us these last couple of years since signing that very contract.   And in a sick stroke of irony, he is now the LEADER of this team.    Nearly all Red Sox players, and a small faction of our fans are actually okay with it.  How fucked up is that?  How did this happen?

A Cautionary Tale Of Free Agency!

By Gerard Lombardo – @wickedlinedrive

Outside of the initial decade of my life, I’ve never lived in one place for more than four years. Ah..  to be the product of a broken home. My journeys from one house to another landed me in Cambridge from 2000-2003, where we still lived in the ancient times of gas lit lanterns and horse drawn buggies. So when the Manny Ramirez signing in late 2001 was announced, there weren’t iPhone alerts or tweets to spread the news. I simply found out the morning after, when I passed a Boston Herald kiosk on my walk to school.

If you remember, Mike Mussina was departing Baltimore the same year, and it was all but determined that Manny was a perfect fit for the Yankees, who had a whopping 9 homeruns from left fielder Chuck Knoblauch in ’01, and Moose would be the new 1A behind Pedro. Which, was made moot by the Derek Lowe 21-8 performance in 2002. Regardless, things shook out the way they did, New York moved onto Rondell White and Raul Mondesi as corner outfielders, and the previously mentioned pair of superstar free agents kept the rivalry aflame, peaking of course in the 2003 and 2004 playoffs.

Despite Manny’s $165 million price tag, annual shenanigans, and ultimate trade to Los Angeles after punching his ticket, he was a successful free agent signing. I determine that based on his 868 RBI over seven and a half seasons, protecting and grooming Ortiz for all of those years, and being an absolutely integral part of the drought destroying World Series championships. Argue what you will, Ramirez was a monster here, and one of the best right handed batters of the last 75 years. That is the definition of a quality free agent addition.

But free agency has been incredibly and frustratingly misconstrued over the course of it’s existence. It essentially was set in motion in 1969, when Curt Flood challenged Major League Baseball’s reserve clause, stating it violated his 13th Amendment rights. After a trade was agreed upon, which would move Flood from St. Louis to Philadelphia, Curt took his fight to baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, protesting the trade, essentially arguing that he should be allowed to consider contract offers from other teams. In 1972, the case went to the Supreme Court; ruling in favor of Kuhn and the MLB, five votes to three. Finally, in 1976, seven years after Flood’s initial letter to Kuhn, players with six years of major league service were now allowed to explore the brave new world of Free Agency.

Since, countless players have filed for, received, and benefited from free agent contracts. Obviously with inflation, popularity, marketing and poor money management, contractual agreements have made unprecedented leaps. Early on, it was incredibly modest; Nolan Ryan pitched for a million bucks in 1980. Fast forward 20 years, and Mike Hampton goes to Colorado for a then-astronomical $142 million. $300 mil was shelled out for whine bag David Price. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will undoubtedly seek $400M next offseason, will probably get it, and there’s absolutely no reason not to expect an athlete to be signed to half a billion dollars by 2025. Meanwhile, here I am, selling an old bureau on the Letgo app for twelve dead presidents.

As we witness every offseason, there are players signed to terrific value, (Mark Bellhorn in 2004 had 80+ RBI/R; made $480K) as well as polar opposites, a la Allen Craig who earned $750,000 per base hit in Boston. Speaking of Allen, he represents just one of many front office contracts acquired that prove big money players are never a sure thing, and should be approached with caution. Rusney Castillo, earned $70M based on a WBC performance. Carl Crawford, Edgar Renteria, Pablo Sandoval, and Tony Clark also represent major Boston busts.

This can be damaging to a franchise, and the Sox fell victim to it in 2017. How much money was tied up this year between Craig, Rusney, and Pablo? Just 40 million dollars, no big deal. Not as if that hindered the Red Sox from a legitimate mid season blockbuster trade, or has caused Dave Dombrowski to dance around hot lava, also known as the luxury tax.

The sticky situation is only made stickier, however, as the Sox need a power bat. A cleanup hitter, to me, is a higher priority this offseason than a manager. If John Farrell can win back to back divisions, so can Alex Cora, Gabe Kapler, or Gary Disarcina. But Boston can’t hit 168 home runs and expect to outslug the competition in 2018. And with the outfield youth, a third base rookie phenom, the middle infield locked up and a strong pair of catchers, we must turn to the 1B/DH areas. Sure, the front office can and should get creative, maybe by moving an outfielder and prospects for Stanton, or attempt to pry Nelson Cruz loose from Seattle. But currently, the focus is preemptively on Eric Hosmer, and I do not want.

The fact is, many a free agent have came to the great city of Boston only to flame out or falter under the bright light banks of Fenway. And that trend will continue, as the current general manager has a deep baseball acumen, and an even deeper pockets. Money will be thrown around, money will be wasted. Two, three, four or five seasons from now, the Sox will be dealing with the familiar problem of trading steady contributors to free up money, sitting on dead cash, and watching the GM’s head spin in circles, not understanding why he can’t improve the club that is littered with garbage contractual obligations.

I’m not the president of baseball operations. Honestly, I’m lucky I even graduated high school. But I don’t think I’d want to be in DD’s position right now; does he throw money at players who have no guarantee of panning out/thriving in a Sox uniform, or get Billy Beane-ish and start looking to create more value out of each position, whilst competing for a championship? What is clear to me, is that our hometown club lucked the hell out with contracts given to players like Johnny Damon, Adrian Beltre, and Man-Ram. I’d add more examples, but there simply aren’t any. JD Drew was hated, Pedroia is taking heat for the $56M owed through the 2021 season, and Crawford is literally still being paid to chill at home, watching the game he once was a part of.

Could Hosmer be the missing piece? Yeah, absolutely. He should put together, at minimum, 28 homers and 95 driven in annually over the next five seasons. Might even earn a nice ring if he signs here. However the cookie crumbles, dollars are going to be spent, earned, and wasted. But as long as it delivers championships to the city, we can’t really complain; just win, Red Sox, because that fixes everything.

Hosmer to the Red Sox?

By Jack Corsi – @jcorsi11

Oh man, here we go.  Two days into the offseason and Dealing Dave is already hinting at major moves.  A new man taking the position of first base has been hinted at already.  So let’s not waste any more time, and let me clear my throat.

The name at first base that is the cream of the crop, is the Royals Eric Hosmer. Hosmer has had back to back 25 home runs which are career highs for the 27 year old.  If a prime aged 27 player just doesn’t jump out at you then look at the personality he brings to the table. Hosmer could flourish in the big city of Boston.  Still at a relatively young age he is hitting his stride.  I liked Mitch Moreland, but sorry Mitch, I will take the man who took home in the World Series any day of the week.

If you can’t get choice A, then I say choice B is JD Martinez.  Martinez will be the eye of the prize for the teams who can’t quite reach the Hosmer pay scale.  But I wouldn’t be shocked to see Dave go after him.  But at 30, I would be appalled at any offer beyond four years.  Do you really want to be tied down to a guy who doesn’t play the first base position, and is going to be on the wrong side of 30 next August?

Stanton doesn’t play first. But watch out for Dave to attempt to go in on a trade for him, and go big.  Dave is known for it, and I wouldn’t be shocked.

At the end of thr day, I’m on the Hosmer wagon like never before.  Dombrowski keeps saying he needs the to beef up the first base position, and eluded to it in an artice written by Matt Dolloff of CBS Boston.  He said something like he didn’t provide the team with the guys who put the runs on the board.  He is looking for the guy to be the next Ortiz. Now you will certainly never find that. But you add Hosmer then you have the guy who could be somewhere close to it.

Am I beating a dead horse here?  I sure hope so.  I am all in.  Hosmer or bust for Boston next season.  You get him and a manager like Alex Cora(my pick for next manager), I think that makes Boston a World Series favorite.

7:05pm

By Gerard Lombardo – @wickedlinedrive

Baseball is especially important to New Englanders; it represents the end of misery. Day in and day out, with the end seemingly never in sight, we battle the dreary precipitation, and menacing threats of an ever looming Nor’Easter. Costco shovels break expediently, dirty snow is eaten by dogs and children alike, and deductibles are negotiated in many “it wasn’t my fault, there was a sheet of ice” auto collisions. The sun is laughing, giving us the middle finger, as 21 year olds awaken at sunset after long nights of “college,” and I find myself making dinner at 4:30 PM, feeling as if the day is already over.

Winter.

Snowbirds flock to the home states of Grapefruit and Cactus League baseball, smartly, while us younger generational folk stick out the rare – but expected – sub zero nights. Sure, the Bruins and Celtics are capable of holding us over, or for some, are looked forward to instead of the baseball season. And there’s no discounting the nearly guaranteed 19 Patriots games, albeit only on a once a week basis. But it’s just not enough.

The glitz of baseball partly comes from the insane schedule they play. For me, the All Star Break is like a shitty vacation; great time of the year for a few days off, but what am I actually doing with my time? After watching games for upwards of 15 nights in a row, three days off seems never ending. Even dealing with the rare off day baseballers look forward to can be difficult. The routine of waking up, going about your day, but knowing that Sox baseball awaits you that evening, is both calming and hopeful at the same time. The media and social networking ensure we never miss a beat, or have to endure even a minute without Red Sox banter, news, or analysis.

Then it ends.

And now, for four months, we wait. With patience. The Hot Stove isn’t burning, but the cooks are getting their pots and pans out. The team has already canned the manager, and hinted that the 2017 power outage will be addressed. Minor league free agents will be invited to spring training, Giancarlo Stanton blockbusters will be discussed, and stories of Farrell’s demise will leak out eventually.

But for now, for Sox Nation, 7:05 PM is meaningless. It doesn’t represent the end of a long work day that is forgotten during a Sale start, or the start of a last second barbecue, intertwining with Joe and Tim on the mic. On some nights, we won’t have a basketball, football, or hockey game to tune into. The summer season, Red Sox season, is  on hiatus.

Fortunately, time never stops, time never slows down. Every day without baseball is a day closer to the March 29th season opener (thank you, MLB, for ensuring more early season rain outs), to the end of 5 o’clock sunsets, and to the end of pre season speculation. Personally, the off season has already gone long enough. I’m ready to be enthralled in storylines, scores, and hot starts by cold clubs. For the next 169 days, the virtue of patience is my new best friend.