Well, Dave Dombrowski wasn't out of work for very long, as the Red Sox announced last night they had hired the respected former Tigers general manager as their new Director of Baseball Operations. In the fallout of his hiring, Ben Cherington has resigned and will be leaving the Sox organization, leaving Dombrowski free to remake the Red Sox front office in his image.
And it will be a very different image. Dombrowski and rumored GM candidate Frank Wren hue far closer to the old school, scouting-heavy front offices than the Sox's current analytics-heavy focus. That said, as with most executives in the game, both are familiar enough with advanced stats to get value out of the Sox's current collection of nerds. What's more important than his philosophical underpinning, however, is the level of respect that Dombrowski comes in with. This respect extends not just within the industry, but to the media and to fans as well, as Dombrowski was one of the highest rated executives in our GM confidence poll (in contrast, Cherington rated near the bottom). It will insulate him from the rest of the chaos and pressures that surround the Sox, and that led to Cherington's disappointing tenure. The Red Sox don't need a leader with an easy touch, but one who has the juice to push his or her vision through the organization and to block out the toxic Boston media machine.
After all, in spite of their 2013 World Series win, the Red Sox have proven to be a mess without Golden Child Theo Epstein, who has since remade the Chicago Cubs into a powerhouse. After helping the Sox win their historic 2004 championship, and then in winning his power struggle with Lucchino in 2005/2006, Epstein was given a wide swath and had the freedom to boldly take the Red Sox in his direction.
In elevating Cherington from assistant GM in the 2011-2012 offseason, Red Sox executives found themselves with a relatively powerless young GM to whom they could dictate terms. This led to the short-lived Bobby Valentine era, where players rebelled against their manager, and took their complaints directly over Cherington's head to John Henry and Larry Lucchino. Not that we can blame all of 2012 on Lucchino. Cherington made disastrous trades to bring Andrew Bailey and Mark Malancon in that first offseason, giving up Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick for what ultimately was 99 innings of a 5.00 ERA between the two of them.
Later that August, the Sox were lucky to find a suddenly flush Dodgers team willing to take on the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford for prospects and Cherington was able to essentially start from scratch. And he did, bringing in mid-range veterans who all unexpectedly stayed healthy and had excellent years. Everything broke right, and the Sox won the World Series, in spite of Cherington paying a high price for yet another broken reliever and giving up shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias for the competent stylings of Jake Peavy.
But then Cherington lost Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and got worse at every position. Plus a rash of injuries hit and the Sox were forced to patch holes at catcher, first base, in the rotation, and in the outfield. The bullpen was less effective. The young players brought up to fill roles struggled in their first extended exposure. Free agents Grady Sizemore and Drew were simply awful. So the Sox sold at the deadline and wound up losing 91 games. Cherington's decision to essentially stand pat with the club he had assembled the previous season, plus prospects, was a disaster.
Which brings us to 2015, where virtually all of Cherington's moves have backfired. Hanley Ramirez has been below average on offense and awful on defense. Pablo Sandoval has been awful. Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley, and Justin Masterson have all been huge disappointments. Jackie Bradley Jr and Rusney Castillo have not developed as expected. Blake Swihart was rushed because Christian Vazquez got hurt. Allen Craig has been broken.
With CEO Larry Lucchino set to retire, and the Sox in another tailspin, Cherington was never weaker. And while he was given an opportunity to stay, his decision to resign gives Dombrowski and (maybe) Wren the freedom they need to move forward unencumbered by the baggage of the previous administration. It allows them to cut through the chaos. And given Dombrowski's strengths (acquiring impact players in trades and retaining them) and the Red Sox financial restrictions (relatively few) the future of the Red Sox will likely look very different next year than it otherwise would have. I'm excited to see what it's going to look like.