Another Red Sox Shake-Up as Dave Dombrowski Is Hired


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Dave Dombrowski in March. Let go by the Detroit Tigers two weeks ago, he was hired as Boston’s president of baseball operations.

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Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Say this for the Boston Red Sox: When a season turns sour, they do not stand still. As they lurch to the finish of a third wretched season in the last four years, the Red Sox on Tuesday hired Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations. It was only the latest seismic shake-up for the franchise.

Dombrowski, who was fired as the Detroit Tigers’ president and general manager this month, replaces Ben Cherington, who declined the chance to stay on as general manager, as the team’s baseball decision maker. The title would have been hollow, anyway — Dombrowski, who has built three World Series teams in a long executive career, is in charge.

Cherington’s 2013 Red Sox beat Dombrowki’s Tigers in the American League Championship Series, then went on to win the World Series. But Boston’s 2012 and 2014 teams finished last in the A.L. East, and this year’s team is buried there, too.

The Red Sox have reacted swiftly to each letdown. In 2012, they unloaded more than $260 million in salary commitments by trading Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They fired their manager, Bobby Valentine, at season’s end.

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Ben Cherington on Friday. He declined the opportunity to continue as general manager under Dombrowski, the Red Sox said.

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Winslow Townson/Associated Press

Last summer they dismantled the rotation of the 2013 champions, trading Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy in July. Lester, a homegrown stalwart who wanted to stay in Boston, brought Yoenis Cespedes, who was quickly peddled to the Tigers for Rick Porcello, who has been a high-priced disaster in a flop of a starting rotation.

Now comes the hiring of Dombrowski, who could not quite deliver a championship to Detroit but lifted the team from laughingstock to powerhouse with a knack for astute deals. Dombrowski traded for Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer, just as they were hitting their primes, among many shrewd moves.

Before working for the Tigers, Dombrowski built the Marlins into champions in 1997. Then — in a teardown ordered by the owner Wayne Huizenga — he engineered a rebuilding effort that led to another title in 2003, after his departure. The Marlins’ owner, as Dombrowski reconstructed that roster, was John Henry.

Henry now owns the Red Sox, and has presided over three championships with his top lieutenants Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. On Aug. 2, Lucchino announced he would resign at the end of the season, naming Sam Kennedy as his successor.

Cherington, meanwhile, had followed Theo Epstein, who left for the Chicago Cubs after the Red Sox collapsed down the stretch in 2011. Epstein, a protégé of Lucchino’s, had served the Red Sox well with a logical approach to analytics, coupled with a deep respect for scouts, and Cherington followed in that mold.

He succeeded wildly in 2013, largely with value-priced free agents who complemented a core of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Lester. But the mess of 2014, followed by an encore this season after a steep spending spree, was too much.

Publicly, the Red Sox emphasized Dombrowski’s credentials over any particular failure by Cherington or his staff, who has committed more than $350 million to a quartet of disappointing players — Rusney Castillo, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Porcello — since last August.

“I have no doubts that Dave is the right person to strengthen our baseball operations group going forward,” Henry said in a statement. “He is one of the most highly regarded executives in all of baseball, and had options to go with other clubs. We feel very fortunate that he wanted to come to Boston, and wanted to further his career — now with the Red Sox — as one of the great architects of winning baseball clubs.”

While Henry also cited his familiarity with Dombrowski, it is significant that Dombrowski had no previous ties to the Red Sox. Cherington replaced Epstein after spending more than a decade with the franchise. Manager John Farrell, who has taken a leave of absence as he receives treatment for lymphoma, had previously worked as the team’s pitching coach.

Under Henry, the Red Sox front office had operated with a clear sense of pride and self-assurance that it was progressive, principled and bold. Now Lucchino is stepping aside, Cherington is gone, the payroll is bloated and the roster is dubious.

Dombrowski has tackled bigger challenges. But reviving the flawed Red Sox amid the intensity of Boston — where the fan base now seems as entitled as any outside of the Bronx — might be his most ambitious project yet.



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