By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
As the Astros and the Yankees – the two teams the Red Sox pummeled on their way to dismantling the Dodgers in the World Series just a year ago – prepare for Game 6 of the ALCS in Houston on Saturday night, the club that calls Fenway Park home continues to resemble the headless horseman as Halloween rapidly approaches.
Over a month after ditching president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, the Olde Towne Team is seemingly adrift with the dangerous shoals of what is almost certainly to be a very rocky off-season for the soft-talking John Henry’s team.
Since the silent dismissal of Dealin’ Dave shortly after midnight on a Tuesday morning in early September following a loss against the Yankees and while all the sporting eyes in New England were squarely focused on the Patriots opening season win against the Steelers that began with a celebration of their sixth Super Bowl title, the Red Sox have acted like…well, the Red Sox.
Unwilling to address the media themselves regarding the move, they threw manager Alex Cora into the forefront of yet another public relations failure that has been a signature of the tone-deaf – yet championship filled – stewardship of Henry and his partners.
While stumbling through his enormously unfair press conference following yet another loss to the Yanks, the second-year skipper was clearly uncomfortable.
Unfair or fair, I don’t know, the team already sent a statement. They wanted to make sure we appreciated what Dave did as an organization,” said a surprised Cora.
“I know that for some people, it’s probably not enough. For others, maybe it is. …I don’t think they have to go into details. The organization just decided it was time to move on.
“You look at [Dombrowski’s] track record, and you’re like, ‘Wow, but ownership decided that’s where we’re going. And you’ve got to respect that,” was his response, as he most likely was considering his own status within the unstable organization.
When the Sox brass finally emerged from their seemingly soundproof bunker in late September – when their season was no longer circling the drain but flushed down the toilet and headed towards the nearest water treatment plant to the ancient park in the Fens – Henry and his cohort Tom Werner, made it clear that cost cuts were coming to a team that likely won’t contend for the foreseeable future because of the closing of their once open checkbook.
“This year we need to be under the CBT [competitive balance tax] and that was something we’ve known for more than a year now,” said Henry. “If you don’t reset, there are penalties, so we’ve known for some time now we needed to reset as other clubs have done.”
To that, I ask, why then would you allow the guy that was running your club at the time – and one that you said that “right after the World Series, I think it became clear to me that perhaps we weren’t going to be on the same wavelength going forward” – shell out the type of cash he did for two starting pitchers who have a history of breaking down?
I don’t care if your name is Branch Rickey, there is no way that ownership doesn’t sign off on a five year, $145 million extension for a guy who was a shadow of himself come September in the two years that you had him at – in MLB terms – was at a bargain-basement price.
And let’s not even talk about the foolishness that was in play with the resigning of Nathan Eovaldi.
Here are the hard, cold facts when it comes to the Red Sox ability to attract an experienced front office executive to right this sinking ship.
Given the payroll mandate handed down from Henry, Mookie Betts is as good as gone this winter. And given the fact that the rest of the baseball world knows this, the return you will get for a guy who has all but written in blood that he is going to the highest bidder in free agency next winter will be greatly compromised.
Add to that the ability – and willingness – for J. D. Martinez to exercise his option to become a free agent once the World Series ends in a couple of weeks is more likely than not, you will be fielding a team with no depth in its system and two of the most potent bats in their lineup playing somewhere else.
Do you think anyone with any kind of business savvy – or baseball savvy, for that matter – would sign up for that gig?
Welcome back to the future Red Sox fans. You are about to relive the days of being out of contention before the 4th of July fireworks have been even delivered to the barges in Boston Harbor for perhaps the next handful of baseball seasons.
But hey, what do you expect for the most expensive ballpark to watch your team play a game across the league? Then again, you will always have “Sweet Caroline” to belt out in a blowout loss.
Woe, woe, woe!