The Red Sox are now Dave Dombrowski’s team.
While most of the headlines Wednesday centered around the so-called 17 percent body fat of Pablo Sandoval, the real story from John Henry’s media session was how much power Dombrowski has achieved.
Henry made his billions by knowing how to crunch the numbers. He is a numbers man. But the Red Sox principal owner admitted that his team had become too reliant on the stat guys and their sophisticated analytical observations.
“Baseball is a complex, dynamic living thing that has to really be nurtured on a day-to-day basis 12 months out of the year,” Henry said. “I think we were relying too heavily on analytics.”
This is a startling admission from Henry. He is saying that the stat nerds, Bill James, and Carmine the Computer are not the be all end all.
And why is he saying it now? Well, three last place finishes in four years is one reason, but the main reason is Dombrowski. The Red Sox president of baseball operations is more of an old school baseball guy. He values scouting over numbers.
Henry had no choice but to give Dombrowski the power that he has. The Red Sox baseball ops department was a mess. Give Ben Cherington credit for the World Series win in 2013, but in his other three years at the helm, the team finished in last place. And Cherington’s prospects were untouchable as he refused to part with them in trade discussions.
Dombrowski is just the opposite. He wants to win and win now. In Detroit — and now in Boston — he uses prospects as trade chips. He gave up two high value minor leaguers in the trade for closer Craig Kimbrel. Cherington would never have made that deal.
Henry talked about Dombrowski being a more “hands on” baseball executive. That’s code for someone being less married to the computer and more reliant on what he sees.
So why did Henry give so much power to Dombrowski while refusing to do the same for the great Theo Epstein?
Because the Red Sox brand has been tarnished and diminished by the team’s poor performance over the last several years. NESN has lost more than half of their TV audience on Red Sox games since the heyday of 2007. Attendance — once thought to be bullet proof — is down at Fenway. Baseball talk used to dominate sports talk radio during the early part of Red Sox spring training but now all you hear about is how fat the overpaid third baseman is. More talk time has been devoted to the Bruins, Celtics and yes, the NFL draft combine than ever before.
Boston was once a Red Sox town. It has now become a Patriots town and the Olde Town Team is lumped together with the Bruins and Celtics. Why is that? The Patriots win and the Red Sox have not.
So Henry had no choice but to hand the reigns of power — and a big checkbook — over to Dombrowski. Henry realized what they had been doing was no longer working.
Here’s hoping that Henry and Tom Werner stay out of the way and let Dombrowski do his job. The summer is much more fun when the Red Sox are on the Boston sports radar.