Will Dombrowski Hold Anyone Accountable?

So the Red Sox season is over after another disappointing first-round exit. Not much can be said that hasn’t been said already. In fact, perhaps everybody is just talking too much. Not even 24 hours since Boston’s season ended, and everyone is playing general manager, myself included. It’s what we do as Sox fans.

Each and every one of us, at one time or another, feel we know what’s best for the club. A ton of us want John Farrell to be banished to a baseball-free civilization where he won’t have a single chance to screw up his team’s chances of winning. An island that knows only of wild pastures filled with euphemisms about how the talent was there but the execution was not. A beautiful world where no half-witted, slightly above-average pitching coach could be given a chance to lead a team as prominent as the Red Sox.

It’s almost like Farrell watched Grady Little 2003 highlights and took notes.  Using what little shred of baseball IQ he has left to completely mismanage countless baseball situations and offering zero accountability, John Farrell hasn’t been able to win over a large part of the Sox fan base – despite back-to-back 93-win seasons & A.L. East Division titles – and a World Series victory in 2013. But perhaps Manager John should eat all of the blame we’re feeding him.

Another large portion of Red Sox fans want to point the finger at Dave Dombrowski. Dealin’ Davey should openly accept some of the blame, but the Red Sox don’t make a habit of admitting their shortcomings (the word shortcomings will ALWAYS make me laugh. ALWAYS.). It’s been widely discussed how many prospects Dave Dombrowski traded away since his arrival in 2015. Prospects like White Sox 2B Yoan Moncada, P Michael Kopech, San Diego Padres pitcher Anderson Espinoza, and CF Manuel Margot to name a few of the promising players the Red Sox have dealt away for big names. Sure, he brought in Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz, who were as good as any pitching duo in the Majors this season. Dombrowski acquired Craig Kimbrel to replace Koji, who has been very good for the Sox, mildly inconsistent, but he’s still one of the best closers in all of baseball. Davey signed Mitch Moreland in free agency and Moreland quickly became a fan favorite while setting career marks in several offensive categories. Even the mid-season trade that brought Eduardo “The Identity” Nunez to Boston was a good one. Nunez became a catalyst the Sox desperately need all year, providing a spark and a little bit of swagger to the team. He won over fans with his hustle and clutch hitting but was ineffective down the stretch due to a bum knee, ultimately leaving the ALDS at the start of Game 1.

HOWEVER, before we start praising him for all the good he’s done, Dombrowski hasn’t won over everyone.

Regardless of your feelings about David Price, there is no denying he is a great pitcher. If you can’t admit that much, I don’t know where you’ve been for the last decade. Please don’t use the “He’s not worth $31M per year,” argument, because it’s not your money. Save the “He was an asshole to Eck,” because Eck has been known to ruffle a few feathers from time-to-time and it’s not like none of us have ever been an asshole before; we just don’t have a spotlight on us to show our mistakes to the world.

If you’re still using the “Price can’t pitch in October” line, you can definitely stop now; Price was the best 2017 Red Sox playoff pitcher – THAT you can’t deny. Dave Dombrowski and that $217M were the main reasons that David Price came to Boston, no question, but a World Series ring is still his goal. After an injury-prone season in 2017 following a tumultuous debut in 2016, I anticipate Price being a major key for the Sox in 2018, or it could be his last with the Red Sox.

Relying on Pablo Sandoval for the 2017 season was an egregious, unforgivable offense. Thinking for a second Pablo was going to turn it around after openly admitting he wasn’t ready for the 2016 season, that he didn’t put forth his best efforts, was very irresponsible thinking on Dombrowski’s part. Trading away Travis Shaw, who tore it up with Milwaukee this season while the Sox struggled at third-base in all areas of the game, is also something that will dirty up a fan’s view of the GM. What makes the Travis Shaw trade even worse is when you remember who the Sox acquired in the process — Tyler Thornburg. Before having thrown a pitch for them, the Sox lost Thornburg to season-ending surgery — due to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and no, that doesn’t give you the ability to pick up mythical hammers.

The questionable decisions don’t stop there for Dombrowski. We all appreciate what was done to bring Chris Sale to Boston. Not many of us were super sad to see Moncada go (Benintendi is way better) and nobody was able to get attached to Kopech or even Espinoza, when taking the Pomeranz trade into consideration, to feel any real displeasure. Now that the 2017 season is complete, there’s still the obvious, gaping hole the Red Sox weren’t able to fill in the lineup following David Ortiz’s retirement. Dombrowski felt by adding high-quality starting pitching and revamping the bullpen that the Sox would be able to make up the inefficiencies of the offense with pitching, BUT YOU STILL HAVE TO SCORE RUNS TO WIN GAMES. If only there were a power-hitting free agent whose agent completely screwed up his market value that Dombrowski could’ve thrown some money at last offseason…

Wait — what? There was? Who? Oh, Edwin Encarnacion? WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL DAVEY D THAT!?

I’m not going to sit here and say Encarnacion was going to provide the Red Sox what David Ortiz provided the Red Sox, but he definitely could’ve helped more than not even trying to add a power hitter to the lineup at all. The Sox finished dead last in home runs for the A.L., not one grand slam among them, and Mookie finished the season with 24 homers, the most in the club. Hanley Ramirez, who was counted on to provide power, seemed lost at the plate a large portion of the season, and batted in the low 100s in September. A lot of that had to do with the immense pressure that fell on Hanley when Papi hung ‘em up, even though Papi groomed him to take over. Ramirez is at his peak when there are other guys in the lineup to protect him, or at the very least ONE other power bat. Encarnacion could’ve been that guy, no, he SHOULD’VE been that guy. Apparently, Dave Dombrowski couldn’t compete with the 3-year, $60M deal Cleveland gave him, and E.E. went on to mash 37 homers with 107 RBIs in 157 games. Power, production, health and by the way, the Indians are still playing baseball.

Most of us were frustrated with the product we saw on the field, and rightfully so. Boston fans are used to high-powered offenses coupled with intensely clutch moments – sixteen years of Big Papi had us holding this team to a different standard. We’re used to seeing opposing teams get throttled at Fenway and opposing stadiums radiate loud “Let’s Go Red Sox” chants. But when your team has no “It” factor or constantly load the bases and fails to push runs across the board, there isn’t a lot of exciting shit to cheer about. Can’t tell you how many fastballs right over the plate Sox batters just stared at this season — it’s pretty insufferable to watch. It’s not exciting; it’s barely worth writing about. Sure, they won a bunch of games in extras this season, going 15-3. That’s remarkable — those wins tied a franchise record, even. But let’s consider who they beat. The 3 losses came against NYY, OAK & SEA. Gross. The wins came against some bad baseball teams. Two wins against the Phillies, four against Toronto, and wins against Oakland, Pittsburgh and the White Sox pretty much mold that record together. Perhaps they weren’t as resilient as they appeared to be. The Red Sox beat one eventual playoff team (NYY) in extras this year — those wins can be argued that they should’ve been won in 9. 

I could write about how little each player did offensively. There were times this season when Christian Vazquez looked like the Red Sox’s best hitter. Times when we questioned whether Bryce Brentz or Sam Travis were better options at DH and first-base than Hanley and Moreland. Xander Bogaerts, who was always among the players discussed when speaking of up-and-coming shortstops, has been eclipsed by the successes of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa. Battling a hand injury much of the summer, Bogey appeared to regress in a tragic way this season. I don’t know how much of it was the hand, but a large part of it seemed to be mental. Bogaerts still has tremendous trade value & the Sox will definitely be listening if another team calls. Not saying the kid can’t bounce back, he’s incredibly talented, but Dombrowski would be foolish to not at least hear offers. In one step further, if packaging Bogaerts up in a deal to land a big bat (Stanton) is possible, Dombrowski should probably do it.

Dustin Pedroia looked like he aged at least a decade this season. After knee surgery last October and new injuries to the same knee early this year, Pedey will battle chronic knee problems for the remainder of his life. I’m not ready to speculate how much baseball The Laser Show has left in him, but this is the first year where Pedroia’s leadership was questioned. When Orioles’ 3B Manny Machado slid late into second-base injuring Pedroia, Matt Barnes came to Pedey’s defense by throwing at Machado. That sparked some ferocity into the rivalry developing between the two teams, but Pedroia came out and said he wouldn’t condone Barnes throwing at Machado. Whether Pedey meant the location of the throw (up by Manny’s dome) or the throw in the first place, it wasn’t a great look.

Pedroia was also rumored to be part of the crowd on the team plane when David Price and Dennis Eckersley got into it. It was reported that Pedroia was yelling at Eckersley and doing nothing to de-escalate the situation. That wasn’t the Dustin Pedroia I was used to hearing about, but his lack of denial or comment on the situation at all is a telling sign.

As dumb and little of a story as it was, the whole Apple Watch nonsense directly implicated Pedroia. Pedroia was just a link in the communication chain to get the signs to the players that needed them, and we all know sign stealing is nothing new, but it was another bad look for Pedroia. It was a tough season for him on and off the field, which is something that’s never been said about him.

The Red Sox are a unique team. They’re very young, yet still have a ton of experience. Their best players are still learning how to become big leaguers while trying to help the team compete for a World Series Championship. Star pitchers are fighting with beat writers and pitching their balls off in the playoffs. It really is an interesting time to be a Red Sox fan. A lot of that is because the Red Sox are an interesting team. No matter how their season finishes, they still {electronically steal} a ton of attention. Despite the product they put on the field, no matter the distaste in the clubhouse or how emotionless Farrell gives his pressers, the Red Sox are always prominently involved in offseason talk — this year will be no different. 

It’s still unknown if Farrell will be back next season. My gut says he will be. But what better way for Dombrowski to mask his own shortcomings (there it is again!) than to fire the manager? I feel it’s just too difficult to fire a manager who has been as successful as Farrell has been for the last 5 seasons. The Sox have said that their season-ending presser will be held later this week. Dombrowski has always been a very informative interviewee, so Red Sox Nation should be looking forward to what he has to say. Regardless of what he says during his presser, D.D.’s going have to do more to get a power bat inserted into the Sox lineup. The obvious choice is J.D. Martinez, who was dealt from Detroit to Arizona around the trade deadline. The Diamondbacks were eliminated by the Dodgers, but Martinez had a strong series and he was great all season, too. Eric Hosmer is another player the Sox will have on their radar, but I think Logan Morrison could be the player Davey has his eyes on. Giancarlo Stanton has been a name on everybody’s lips, and the Red Sox could package up a deal for him, I just don’t see it as a likely option. Dombrowski has never been hesitant to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal before, though, so I wouldn’t rule it out; I just believe Miami’s asking price will be too high. It’s also just way too early to know anything.

So whether you blame Farrell, Dombrowski, Fenway Sports Group, global warming or violent video games, there is still plenty to be proud of, and we all should be looking forward to next season. Chris Sale is still on the team. Mookie Betts isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Kimbrel is still going to strike out half the batters he faces. Rafael Devers looks like the real deal, and Andrew Benintendi could end up being the best player on the team in a couple years. 

Fenway is still the best place on [Kyrie’s flat] Earth, and there is no better city than Boston, Massachusetts. Despite who you blame, how you feel and what you want or think the Red Sox should do, there is no denying that.

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