Calling it “a great day for the future of the Red Sox,” John Henry introduced Dave Dombrowski Wednesday as the new Red Sox President of Baseball Operations.
Dombrowski said he was honored to join the Boston ball club referring to it as “one of the most prestigious organizations in baseball and in profession sports.”
Henry acknowledged the move to hire Dombrowski represented a calculated risk that might mean General Manager Ben Cherington would leave the club, as he decided to do yesterday. “We hoped that Ben Cherington would remain as General Manager, but we knew there was a substantial risk he would not,” Henry said.
At the same time, Henry and Chairman Tom Werner expressed no regrets explaining, “This was our decision to make. Tom and I have an obligation to do everything we possibly can to win for the city of Boston and Red Sox fans everywhere. As owners, we are ultimately responsible for the poor results we’ve had over the last two years, and for results going forward.”
Henry said that he, Werner, and Fenway Sports Group president Michael Gordon, met with Dombrowski last Thursday in Chicago. Henry offered the job to Dombrowski on Sunday.
At a separate press conference later in the day Cherington said Henry stopped by his office Saturday with the news of the earlier meeting and plans to pursue Dombrowski. After learning later that Dombrowski would join the club, Cherington said he decided that what was best for Dombrowski, himself, and the club was the same thing, namely, “a clean break.”
“My adult life has been spent at Fenway Park,” Cherington said. “That’s been great, but it’s time to do something else.”
Henry, Werner, Dombrowski, and incoming business president Sam Kennedy went to great lengths to praise Cherington while expressing disappointment that he chose to step down rather than work under Dombrowski. Werner told reporters that Cherington “believes it’s best for the organization if he steps aside…John [Henry] and I are disappointed in his decision, but respect it. We think the world of Ben.”
On the subject of Cherington, however, Dombrowski was more direct, describing both his discussions with ownership and his own management philosophy:
“John and Tom had asked me about my thoughts with Ben,” Dombrowski said. “I said ‘I would love to have Ben, if he would want to remain.’ But I think it’s important in the transition to know that me coming in as the President of Baseball Operations, that the final decisions when it comes to trades or player personnel aspects, would fall into my hands.”
Dombrowski said he intends to hire a new General Manager, but that he has no one specific in mind and that he will take his time saying “I think it’s important to get the right person, rather than rush it.” He said the new GM would work with him on all aspects of baseball operations.
In the meantime, Dombrowski said, he’s going to use the remainder of the season to learn better how things work on Yawkey Way. “I’m not here to blow up the operation. I know there’s a lot of good people here. They have good reputations.”
Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner rejected the notion that Dombrowski’s hiring represented a change in the club’s view on the usefulness of data and advanced analytics.
“I think too much has been made about, perhaps, the sea change,” Werner said. “After all, our focus has always been about winning. We have used data as a part of our toolbox but, in the end, it’s all about player evaluation and data and character, and I think we’re all united that we’re giving Dave the responsibility of fielding a championship ball club.”
Werner suggested the media has stoked the notion of a disconnect between Dombrowski and what’s come to be known as the traditional Red Sox way. “There’s a lot more in common than, perhaps, has been suggested,” Werner said.
“You use all the information you possibly can to come to the best decision you can,” Dombrowski said. “When you’re in my spot, what you do is you combine all of this. You combine statistical information, your scout’s opinion, your own instincts on players, you find out about make up of players, their work ethic, and you make the best decision you possible can,…if there’s some edge you can get from a statistical perspective, then we should use it.”
Regarding his personal philosophy of running a successful club, Dombrowski said he values agility. “One of the keys for you as a successful baseball executive is you need to be able to adjust on the run, because a lot of times you can go into the offseason with particular goals but you’re in a position where those players aren’t available.”
He also said he values a situation where a good relationship exists between operations executives and team ownership. “For me, having done this for a long time, I think that my relationship with ownership is as important as anything,” then joking that doesn’t mean “John’s not going to get mad at me at times.”
Dombrowski said he spoke last night with Manager John Farrell, who started his chemotherapy regimen Tuesday for recently diagnosed Stage 1 lymphoma.
Dombrowski said he encouraged Farrell to focus on his health and that, when he feels well enough, the two would meet to get to know one another better and for Farrell to share his thoughts on the team. Farrell told Dombrowski he hopes to feel well enough to meet sometime after the current homestand.
New lineup for baseball and business
Current Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy attended Wednesday’s press conference. Kennedy will become Red Sox president when president and CEO Larry Lucchino leaves the club at the end of the season. While Dombrowski is the president of baseball operations, Kennedy explained his presidential mandate is focused squarely on the business saying his “primary focus is to support and provide resources so that we can have the best baseball operation on the planet.”
Kennedy said he’s learned “from the best mentor that anyone could ever, and that’s Larry Lucchino, our president and CEO” and that the club was now executing the transition plan to his new role that was developed with Henry, Werner, and Lucchino over the past several years.
“I think everyone, all the employees of the Red Sox, salute Larry for his incredible leadership, we thank him for that, and we are ready to continue to honor the fundamental obligations and commitments that John and Tom and Larry made back in 2002, which was to field a competitive team, preserve and protect Fenway Park, to enhance the customer experience here, and to be active participants in the community. Rest assured, that’s not going to change with new leadership moving forward.”