Why Dave Dombrowski stays close to his Red Sox
Dave Dombrowski is the only head of baseball operations who travels with his team all the time. Therefore, he has a unique, real-time look at the manager, the coaches, and the players that other executives don’t get because they spend most of their time in the office, with an occasional trip to the affiliates, when the team is on the road.
Dombrowski is in the field watching how people do their jobs, and with that comes a better view of what each person faces on a daily basis.
Does this help or hinder John Farrell’s quest to keep his job as manager of the Red Sox? More than likely, it helps.
Dombrowski sees the implementation of his manager’s game plan to make players better. He understands the challenges that everyone faces because he’s there living it rather than getting a second-hand report about what’s going on.
He understands how injuries affect a team. He understands how a manager has to make on-field moves based on pitching depth and the success or failure of the pitching staff. Dombrowski, who is in charge of personnel, probably understands his own shortcomings in putting together a roster and how hard he’s made it on the manager.
Dombrowski also sees the players every day. He can see for himself how they respond to the manager. Are they listening? Are they laying down? Are they resentful of the manager? Is the manager communicating well with the players?
What Dombrowski likely sees by being there is a manager who prepares very well for each game and who has the respect of the players. If he doesn’t see those things, then Farrell at some point will be fired. But Farrell gets checkmarks in every category that’s important.
Dombrowski is also able to watch how pitching coach Carl Willis, for instance, goes about trying to turn the staff around. So he gets a good sense by speaking to Willis, which he did last week in Tampa, of the talking points for each pitcher, and he has been able to see how Willis imparts his knowledge.
What’s interesting about Dombrowski is that even though he’s around every day, he doesn’t force his ideas on the manager. This is a little bit different than in other places, many of which have different levels of interference by the general manager. That interference occurs mostly on data-driven teams. Most GMs take strategic trips, but no team goes as far as Dombrowski in terms of on-site management.
Before Dombrowski arrived in Boston, GMs Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington had a rotation of front office officials represent management on the road. Allard Baird, Mike Hazen, Brian O’Halloran, Amiel Sawdaye, and Jarod Porter took turns as the management representative on trips, and they would report back to the GM. But it’s not the same as being there yourself.
As Tigers manager Brad Ausmus pointed out after seeing Dombrowski every day on the road, “He was great. Never interfered in the managing of the game. Never suggested who to play or where to put him in the batting order. He let me be a manager. I think that’s one of the reasons he’s so respected around the game.”
“It’s a tribute to Dave that he can travel with the team like that,” said one National League GM. “The job is so big these days that it’s difficult for a GM to get out like that. I feel I need to be in the office to get things done, but you definitely get a good view of how things work when you’re there.”
If the Red Sox fall off the map between now and the All-Star break, who knows how the Dombrowski-Farrell dynamic will change? Last year, Dombrowski got to know interim manager Torey Lovullo very well, and he got a good impression. Lovullo remains Farrell’s right-hand man, advising the manager on decisions. Lovullo is indeed an extension of Farrell.
In many cases when the manager is fired, the bench coach is fired with him because there’s too much similarity to the manager. While Lovullo has a high salary for a coach, more in line with a first-year manager, he was given that contract because at the time there was uncertainty about Farrell returning from cancer treatments.
A good thing about Dombrowski is that whatever decision he makes on Farrell, it won’t be driven by the talk shows, but rather by his own observations of being around the situation. Dombrowski has seen all this before. While he understands Boston is more intense than any place he’s ever worked, he’s simply not an irrational leader. His decision will be measured and analyzed.
So far, status quo seems to be the way Dombrowski is leaning. That doesn’t mean he won’t change his mind if the team drops into oblivion, but if he does, it will be because some dramatic shift has taken place to make the situation untenable.
And there’s one last, very important thing: It really comes down to whether the owners want Farrell in or out. At that point, it’s out of Dombrowski’s hands.
Keeping the fan base happy is a factor for the owners. Dombrowski needs to make the best baseball decision, while the owners need to make the best business decision. Normally, owners would feed off the recommendation of the person they hired to make the baseball calls.
In this case, whichever way Dombrowski goes, it will be a decision based on firsthand knowledge.
Yankees may be major players
One of the more interesting teams to watch between now and the Aug. 1 trade deadline will be the Yankees.
GM Brian Cashman is in a tough position in that deep down he knows he needs to turn over much of the roster and put the emphasis on younger players, much as the Red Sox did. Yet the Yankees aren’t far out of the wild-card hunt, hovering around .500.
Cashman has three bullpen arms any team would love to have and would likely pay top price for. He knows Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman can bring a haul of young players.
“Tis the season,” Cashman said when asked whether teams have approached him about his relievers. The Cubs spent serious time watching them, and other teams have salivated at the chance of acquiring Miller, for instance.
But do the Yankees really want to do that? They’ve assembled what could be the greatest back three in baseball history. Do they split them up now? Chapman can be a free agent at the end of the season, but so what? The Yankees have the financial means to re-sign a guy who has thrown consistently around 100 miles per hour all season. Miller, who may be the best reliever in baseball, is under control for the next two years, and Betances can’t be a free agent until 2020.
Meanwhile, Carlos Beltran has value because he’s having a good season. With so many teams needing a bat, Cashman would have no problem moving him for a good return. The other guy he could move, and we never thought this possible at this time a year ago, is lefthander CC Sabathia, who has had a very good season and whose contract is up after next season. He could also bring something of value.
It’s unlikely that Mark Teixeira, who has had an injury-filled season, as has Alex Rodriguez, could be moved, but Brett Gardner is another player who could be attractive to teams. Also, starters Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda, and catcher Brian McCann, could have value. Veteran third baseman Chase Headley is another trade possibility.
The Yankees made the postseason in 2015 but lost in the one-game playoff. They could very well be in the hunt again, but is maximizing this year the right thing to do?
It appears team president Randy Levine has all the answers, because he said last week, “I don’t pay any attention to any of that [trade deadline speculation]. That’s for you guys with nothing more important to write about than to write nonsense. When we decide to become sellers, if we become sellers, or if we decide to become buyers, you’ll know. The difference is that most of you guys have never run anything and we have a lot of history here of knowing what we’re doing.”
Am I getting a whiff of arrogance?
Apropos of nothing
1. The Astros and Blue Jays are up to something. Jays scouts are watching the Astros’ system closely.
2. The Ted Williams Foundation alumni and friends will gather July 16 at the former site of the Ted Williams Baseball Camp (28 Precinct Street, Lakeville) for a live auction and benefit for the Jimmy Fund. The event will run 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
3. Adrian Beltre and Cole Hamels have made for an interesting duo for the Rangers this season. When Hamels starts, Beltre is hitting .390 with three home runs in 59 at-bats. “I think we are all pushing each other emotionally and physically,” Hamels said. “That’s exciting to see.”
4. The Red Sox really messed up with their international violations, as five of their 2015 signings have been declared free agents, a huge blow to the development system. There was some talk by baseball executives concerning whether the Sox should be stripped of Yoan Moncada, who was signed to a $31.5 million bonus, in essence starting the issue of overcompensation for players. But the notion doesn’t seem to have much traction with the league. The Red Sox were not supposed to go over $300,000 on signing bonuses for their international pool for the next two years or signing periods, but in 2015 they maneuvered to get players signed.
5. The Marlins are being very aggressive in their pursuit of pitching, hoping they can fill a bullpen inning with Fernando Rodney, acquired Thursday from San Diego. They gave up one of their high-end pitchers in Chris Paddack, who is in Single A, so Padres GM A.J. Preller did a good job there. The Marlins are going for it, though they don’t have much to deal in terms of prospects. When Dee Gordon returns from his steroid suspension they feel they’ll have a full complement in their lineup. They’re trying to pick off a starting pitcher as well.
6. The Indians could be dangerous if they could pull off a deal for Jay Bruce or one of the good hitters available in the trade market. The Indians won’t part with any of their pitching except for someone such as Zach McAllister, who has pitched well out of the bullpen though he could be a starter for someone. There’s also the cost issue with the Indians, who always need to keep payroll down. It would be a shame if they wasted an opportunity to win the division with that pitching.
Updates on nine
1. Chris Archer, RHP, Rays — The Dodgers have been sniffing hard on Archer but have been rebuffed so far. Despite the fact that Archer has had a poor season, there are obvious ties with Andrew Friedman now in charge of the Dodgers’ front office. The Dodgers are considered one of the few teams that can pull off a major deal for a pitcher given their potential trade chips with a rich farm system. But right now the answer on Archer is no.
2. Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves — The Red Sox will be in this hunt when the time is right, having scouted Teheran extensively. Former Braves GM Frank Wren, who is now Dave Dombrowski’s right-hand man in Boston, is a big fan of Teheran. Wren was behind the Craig Kimbrel deal and could also fight for this one. Wren also traded for current Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Dunn, and Melky Cabrera from the Yankees for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan.
3. Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics — He’s active again so watch the speculation begin regarding his power lefthanded bat. The Dodgers could be a prime spot, as the A’s don’t appear likely to re-sign Reddick, who can become a free agent. Plus, everyone wants to trade with the Dodgers because of their prospect list. The Braves recently had few teams interested in Bud Norris, but the Dodgers stepped up with two decent minor league pitchers.
4. Danny Valencia, 3B, Athletics — He’s killing lefthanded pitching at a .389 clip with a 1.181 OPS, and is not too shabby vs. righthanders with a .304 average and .810 OPS. Valencia has reinvented himself in Oakland and now becomes a target for teams such as Cleveland that need offense.
5. Matt Moore, LHP, Rays — His outstanding performance against the Red Sox Wednesday was witnessed by a lot of scouts. He’s become a name on the top of the list of many teams if the Rays decide to part with him. The Red Sox, Rangers, Dodgers, Yankees, Orioles, Astros, and Royals are all interested in Moore. The Rays may consider this as they get closer to seeing Alex Cobb come back from Tommy John surgery.
6. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays — One of the many veteran scouts on hand for the Red Sox-Rays series last week predicted Longoria would get traded. “He’s got to be sick of the situation here and I’m sure he wants to win before he gets too old,” the scout said. “He could help them replenish their farm system. He’s an attractive player.” Now the downside: Longoria has a six-year, $100 million extension that starts next season. He is the face of the Rays, but that hasn’t got them very far in terms of attendance. Would Joe Maddon’s Cubs be a fit?
7. Patrick Corbin, LHP, Diamondbacks — Corbin is starting to make his way onto go-see lists, according to one National League scout. Corbin has had a few stinkers but has also pitched a few good games. Consistency has been a problem, but he could fill a back-end role in a rotation.
8. Robbie Ray, LHP, Diamondbacks — Another Diamondbacks pitcher garnering interest, Ray, 24, got off to slow start but has pitched better as the season has progressed. Ray has had a high rate of swings and misses on his fastball, which has raised the eyebrows of scouts who feel he could turn into something decent.
9. Marco Estrada, RHP, Blue Jays — Estrada leads the majors with a .168 opponents’ batting average, ahead of second-place Jake Arrieta (.178). It’s the fifth-lowest average through 15 starts since 1970, trailing only Hideo Nomo of the Dodgers (.153 in 1995), Nolan Ryan of the Rangers (.162 in 1991), and Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox (.167 in 2000).
From Bill Arnold’s goodie bag: “Through Thursday, Noah Syndergaard of the Mets led all pitchers having thrown 810 pitches this season that were clocked at 95 miles per hour or higher, leading closest rival Danny Salazar of the Indians (756).” . . . Happy birthday, Danny Heep (59) and Frank Tanana (63).
Last month Clint Hurdle of the Pirates became the sixth active manager to record 1,000 wins. Next challenge to be met: Win a World Series. He made it to a Fall Classic with the Rockies in 2007, losing to the Red Sox in four games. And no, none of the active guys are close to all-time leader Connie Mack and his 3,731 wins. How Hurdle rates with his fellow active 1,000-game winners, and others fast approaching the milestone: