By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
In the six full seasons since Theo Epstein departed the city of Boston and set out to reverse another daunting curse, two other GM/Presidents have occupied the office Epstein once held. The first successor, Ben Cherington, was able to parlay many of his former boss’ signings with some personal touches of his own to capture another World Series. Once the magic evaporated, the next successor, Dave Dombrowski was hired to wheel and deal prospects from the booming Red Sox farm system in search top flight talent to once again make the Boston Red Sox a juggernaut.
It’s fair to say both execs have experienced monumental failure. It’s ironic, because both Cherington and Dombrowski are polar opposites in how they manage their rosters, and could never quite find a steady balance. Perhaps the Red Sox as a team, has suffered as a whole, due to a constant chance in philosophy every few years. Or maybe even worse, it has an identity crisis.
We Red Sox fans will never know exactly how instrumental Ben Cherington was to the construction of the team from 2012-2015 while at the helm. Despite his title as General Manager, Cherington always had Larry Lucchino and Bill James breathing down his neck. Probably twisting his arm in different directions. Cherington’s legacy will be marred by terrible contracts. Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, and Rusney Castillo to name a few. However, with his robust farm system, the Red Sox always had a future.
Dombrowski hasn’t had his book closed in Boston quite yet. He got off to a terrible start by signing a notorious October choke artist in David Price, not to mention the epic media meltdowns before and after that signing. He acquired Craig Kimbrel who struggled at various points of the 2016 season, and had a meltdown of his own in the series ending loss in game four of the 2017 ALDS against the Houston Astros.
Once known as a shrewd trader, Dombrowski has gotten terrible value on most of his trades. Carson Smith was acquired in 2015, and has pitched a small sample size coming into 2018. Tyler Thornburg has yet to throw a pitch in a major league game for Boston. Even more painful, we gave up Travis Shaw in that deal, who happens to be the type of power hitter the Red Sox desperately need in the middle of their order. Clearly selling off most of the Red Sox farm has not come to fruition. Dombrowski has failed to live up to his reputation for reeling in strong returns of talent.
Halfway through this bizarre hot stove season, I will put the blame entirely on Dombrowski should the Red Sox fail this upcoming season. Hanley Ramirez, Rick Porcello, and Pablo Sandoval account for $51M annually for the Red Sox, and all three will be off the books this season or next. If the Red Sox REALLY hit the jackpot, David Price will opt out of his seven year contract this year saving an extra $31M ($82M annually overall). What this translates to is that Dombrowski is in a unique position of being able to spend his way out of the bad contracts which are currently on the books. The big contracts the Red Sox take on this current off season will have little consequence over the next two years when the other contracts expire. For instance, if Dombrowski ultimately signs J.D. Martinez for 5/$125M, that particular contract will essentially replace Hanley Ramirez’ contract next season. There’s no reason not to be aggressive these next few weeks.
Over the past decade and a half, Boston has taken on the nickname “Title Town USA.” We have been fortunate to live in a region where winning is simply a culture, all across the board, in every mainstream sport. The two general managers before Dombrowski (Epstein & Cherington) delievered three World Series trophies to Fenway between them. Ironically Cherington did it at Dombrowski’s expense.
Dombrowski is chasing a ghost. If he fails to catch it this year, after depleting a once great farm system, getting out slicked by the Yankees front office, he will likely be outright rejected universally by Red Sox Nation. Don’t believe me? Who in their right mind would have believed Ben Cherington would be fired only a year and a half after hoisting up the 2013 World Series trophy?
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