(Craig Kimbrel in his time with the Red Sox)
After they suffered yet another loss to the rival Yankees on Sunday night, the Red Sox made the announcement that they have parted ways with President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski.
Dombrowski was notified of the club’s decision by Red Sox Principal Owner John Henry, Chairman Tom Werner, and President & CEO Sam Kennedy.
“Four years ago, we were faced with a critical decision about the direction of the franchise,” said Henry. “We were extraordinarily fortunate to be able to bring Dave in to lead baseball operations. With a World Series Championship and three consecutive American League East titles, he has cemented what was already a Hall of Fame career.”
This ends a four-year tenure at the helm for Dombrowski with the Red Sox, who named him president of baseball operations on August 18, 2015. He has worked in baseball for over 40 years, and is among a handful of executives who have constructed World Series winning teams in both the National and American Leagues.
“Dave will hold a special place in franchise history as a key architect of one of the greatest Red Sox teams ever assembled,” said Werner. “His willingness to make bold moves helped deliver our fourth World Series Championship in the 21st century.”
The Red Sox won the American League Eastern Division title in Dombrowski’s first two years (2016 and 2017), but lost both years in the Division Series.
In 2018, they broke through, winning a franchise-best 108 wins on their way to a World Championship, the franchise’s fourth in 15 seasons.
“Dave and I enjoyed a tremendous partnership these past four seasons,” said Kennedy. “His baseball acumen and relentless pursuit of winning produced a season that will long be remembered by all of us.”
In the aftermath of that historic season, it became clear that Dombrowski was not going to give a long-term contract to the team’s closer, Craig Kimbrel.
Though he struggled in the postseason, Kimbrel had 42 saves last season and 108 in his three years in Boston.
This was the one move that doomed this season from the start, as the other options to close – Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman – could not compare and Boston coughed up more games late than any other team in baseball.
Brasier started out as the closer, but it was clear he wasn’t up to the job, as he has pitched to a 5.55 ERA with just seven saves and a record of 2-4.
Barnes then took over the ninth, but he is only marginally better, with an ERA of 4.23, a record of 4-4 and four saves.
Workman became the closer in August after they threw in the towel on Nathan Eovaldi taking over the ninth inning instead of returning to the starting rotation after rehabbing an elbow injury.
In 64 games, Workman has a 2.14 ERA, and a record of 9-1 with 11 saves.
Other Dombrowski moves – such as the David Price signing, which has resulted in an up-and-down tenure in Boston and bringing back the often-injured Eovaldi after a sterling postseason run when he finally put it all together – can be debated many ways, but there is no debate that letting Kimbrel go was a colossal mistake.
However, this is consistent with how the Red Sox have operated after winning championships. They let their ace, Pedro Martinez, and reliable starter Derek Lowe, walk after the 2004 championship, and then fan favorite Johnny Damon walk to the Yankees a year later.
The thing is those moves did not cripple this team like losing Kimbrel did to this group, and how all the games they blew early put this team in a massive hole they could not dig out from under.
In a statement, the Red Sox announced that their search for the next baseball operations leader will begin immediately. During this process, the baseball operations department will be led by Assistant General Managers Brian O’Halloran, Eddie Romero and Zack Scott. In addition, Senior Vice President of Major and Minor League Operations Raquel Ferreira will take on an expanded role within the transition team.