BOSTON – It had to be done. The timing was somewhat surprising — in the middle of a game in August rather than at the end of the season — but it had to be done.
With the Red Sox stuck in last place, on their way to a last-place finish for the third time in four years, a move at the top had to be made. When Dave Dombrowski was released from his contract as president of the Tigers just a few days after the Red Sox announced CEO/president Larry Lucchino would be stepping aside at the end of the season, it seemed almost inevitable that Dombrowski would join the Red Sox.
So, when the Red Sox announced the hiring on Tuesday night it wasn?t a shocker. Nor was the news that general manager Ben Cherington would be stepping down.
It is difficult to see how the person who was the main architect for those last-place finishes could be part of the solution — even though he had been given the option by both Dombrowski and principal owner John Henry to stay on.
In a Wednesday afternoon press conference at Fenway Park, Cherington said several times he could not commit to being “all in” and “fully committed to that vision” with the new regime.
Henry and Werner met with Dombrowski at the owners meetings last week in Chicago. Cherington wasn?t told about the meeting or the possibility of Dombrowski joining the team until Saturday. With four days to digest the news — and perhaps see the writing on the wall — he opted to leave.
Cherington?s press conference in a private club on the first floor at Fenway began just a few minutes after Dombrowski?s press conference wrapped up in the EMC Club on the third floor.
The addition of Dombrowski and the subtraction of Cherington appear to represent a seismic shift in the team?s philosophy and way of doing business. Dombrowski, 59, enters with a reputation as a baseball lifer. He got his first GM job with the Expos at the age of 32. He is known as more of a scouting guy who is not afraid to pull the trigger on deals that send prospects away in exchange for proven major leaguers. Cherington, on the other hand, has followed the Sox? stat-driven operating system. Henry even praised him on Wednesday for protecting prospects rather than dealing them at the July 31 trade deadline.
?I think too much has been made about a sea change,” chairman Tom Werner said. “Our focus has always been about winning. We have used data as part of our toolbox, but in the end it?s all about player evaluation and data and character.”
(Character? Hanley Ramirez? But, anyway?)
Less than 24 hours after taking the job, Dombrowski said it?s too soon to tell what issues must be addressed first. he will use the remainder of the season to make assessments for potential offseason moves. He said he likes the outfield of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, JR., and Rusney Castillo. He also believes in the importance of a staff ace, someone who can set the tone for the rest of the staff. On Rick Porcello, whom Dombrowski signed with the 27th overall pick in 2009, he said “I?m very surprised he hasn?t been better and I?m not sure why.” He thinks power pitching and defense are necessary elements to building a solid team.
Dombrowski plans to hire a GM, but did not say who is the leading candidate, or if there is one, or what his timeline is. Bob Nightengale of USA Today said Frank Wren — who worked with Dombrowski in Montreal and Florida — could be the leading candidate. There will likely be other changes, too. But Dombrowski said “I?m not here to blow up the operation.”
It was a mutual admiration society, with all parties saying the right things, expressing respect for all the others. But Cherington, who will help in the transition, said he doesn?t have to be at Fenway to do that. He?s only a phone call away.
Cherington said it was too soon, too raw to fully assess his performance as Red Sox GM over the last four seasons. Raw, yes. But it also boggles the brain. Take out the team?s 97-65 record on its way to the 2013 World S