In the latest in a series of a stunning developments for the struggling Red Sox, team officials said Tuesday night they have hired Dave Dombrowski to run the baseball operations. Ben Cherington, who helped lead the team to the World Series only two seasons ago, declined to stay as general manager but agreed to assist during the transition.
Dombrowski will assume his duties immediately, according to the team's press release sent out during the Sox game against the Indians at Fenway Park.
Team president Sam Kennedy broke the news to the players after the game.
Dombrowski, who was replaced as the president and general manager of the Detroit Tigers earlier this month, worked for Red Sox owner John Henry when Henry (who also owns The Boston Globe) owned the Florida Marlins. The Marlins won the World Series in 1997 with Dombrowski as GM.
The move comes with the Red Sox in last place in the American League East. They have finished in last place in two of the past three seasons; the one season the Sox didn't was when they won the title in 2013.
Dombrowski is expected to hire a general manager to replace Cherington. USA Today speculated that former Braves GM Frank Wren could be a candidate because Dombrowski has known and trusted him for years. Most of Dombrowski's staff in Detroit has stayed with new Tigers GM Al Avila.
According to a team source, Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and Mike Gordon, president of Fenway Sports Group, met with Dombrowski in Chicago last week.
"I have known Dave very well for a long time,'' Henry said in a statement. "Tom and I have no doubts that Dave is the right person to strengthen our baseball operations group going forward.
Said Werner: "Although we have achieved tremendous success over the last 14 seasons, we had reached a clear internal consensus that we needed to enhance our baseball operation. In nearly four decades in the game, Dave is a proven winner and he can restore winning ways to Yawkey Way and help to fulfill the Red Sox goal, every year, to be playing meaningful games into October."
The move comes in a tumultuous month for the Red Sox. Manager John Farrell revealed last Friday that he has lymphoma and will miss the rest of the season. On Aug. 1, president and chief executive Larry Lucchino said he is stepping down at the end of the season, ending a remarkable 14-year run in which the team won three World Series titles in 10 years.
Dombrowski, who led the Tigers to two World Series appearances — but no Series title — during his 14-year tenure, said, "Although I did have other potential options within baseball, there was no option that stood out as clearly as the chance to come to Boston and win with the Red Sox.
"Boston is a baseball city like no other and its history and traditions are unique in our game. I expressed to John and Tom that Boston would be my absolute top choice and am honored to have the chance to serve Red Sox Nation."
Dombrowski said he was eager to start immediately.
"One of the advantages of joining the club now is that I get the opportunity to get a head start on the important job of roster construction for 2016,'' he said. "The Red Sox baseball operations group and Ben Cherington deserve extraordinary credit for the young, talented players that have broken through at the major league level, and I see outstanding potential in the talent still developing in our minor leagues."
Cherington had served as general manager for four years. In June, Henry said he expected him to remain as GM "for years to come."
In his statement Tuesday, Henry called him "one of the finest individuals I have ever worked with, possessing a maturity and integrity second to none.''
Werner added, "Ben put together a team that led the American League wire to wire in 2013, that scored more runs than any club in baseball, and that had the best run differential in the game. More importantly, he built a team that was embraced by the city of Boston in the midst of tragedy in a way that no city and championship club had ever had bonded together before.
"Ben's steady hand was at the tiller of that remarkable journey.''
The hiring of Dombrowski might signal a change from the analytical approach taken by Cherington and his staff to one more dependent on the viewpoints of scouts in the field.
Dombrowski, 59, started in baseball with the White Sox in 1978 and was 32 when he became general manager of the Montreal Expos in 1988 after being the team's farm director. In 1992, he became general manager of the Marlins, and during his tenure through 2001 he was responsible for the team construction of the Marlins' 1997 World Series championship.
From 2001 until earlier this month, Dombrowski served as president and GM of the Tigers, with World Series appearances in 2006 and 2012, an additional American League Championship Series appearance in 2013 (the Tigers lost to the Red Sox), and four consecutive AL Central Division titles from 2011-14.
Dombrowski and Henry were together in the late 1990s. Henry left the Marlins to form the Red Sox ownership group in 2002.
Dombrowski has not been afraid to give up young talent to obtain a superstar, as he did with Miguel Cabrera when he traded prospects, including former Sox relief pitcher Andrew Miller, for the star infielder. As for Cherington's future, he's now free to go after the available GM jobs that could include Philadelphia, Los Angeles Angels, and Milwaukee.
Cherington has taken the blame for the results of this season and last but also pointed out there was a lot to be proud of, namely the 2013 World Series title.
Cherington didn't say why he would step down. A few weeks ago he did say, "I've always reported to someone. I've reported to a boss, that was Larry [Lucchino]. I think I'll always have a boss, and those are details that will be worked out by John [Henry] and Tom [Werner] and Mike [Gordon] and others and do what's best for the Red Sox. I've always felt the Red Sox benefit and baseball operations benefits from strong senior leadership. I think that's good for baseball operations, and Larry has been in that role. We'll have to wait and see what the exact structural changes there are.
"Unless you're the owner, everyone's got a boss," said Cherington.
When Dombrowski was let go by the Tigers, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said, "That is one talented dude."
The Red Sox are about to find out how talented.