BOSTON -- Shortly after midnight on Monday, the Red Sox revealed that they’ve parted ways with president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
Team spokesman Kevin Gregg informed the media of the news roughly 10 minutes after the underachieving defending World Series champions took a 10-5 loss to the Yankees.
Eddie Romero, Brian O'Halloran and Zack Scott will share leadership of baseball operations for the rest of the season. The trio had been assistant general managers under Dombrowski.
That trio will be joined by Raquel Ferreira, the club’s senior vice president of Major and Minor League operations. She is in her 21st year with the organization and if she is elevated by the club she will become the highest-ranking woman ever in an MLB team’s baseball operations department.
“Four years ago, we were faced with a critical decision about the direction of the franchise,” Red Sox principal owner John Henry said in a statement. “We were extraordinarily fortunate to be able to bring Dave in to lead baseball operations. With a World Series championship and three consecutive American League East titles, he has cemented what was already a Hall of Fame career.”
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Red Sox manager Alex Cora told his players about the news in a team meeting right after Sunday’s defeat, which dropped the team to 76-67, and eight games behind the Athletics for the second Wild Card spot.
“I mean, I just found out,” Cora said. “Surprised. I’m shocked, honestly. Right now, I don’t have too much to say. We’ll talk about it tomorrow. This is a guy that gave me a chance to come here and be a big league manager. It’s one of those that they just told me, so I’m not ready to talk about it.”
The players were similarly trying to process the early morning development.
“Probably the same reaction you guys had,” said Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez. “Just a shock. We’re trying to think about the game and stuff and then we just get hit with that so it’s just, you know, wild.”
It was under similar circumstances -- in the late stages of a game at Fenway Park -- that Dombrowski’s hiring was announced on Aug. 18, 2015.
At that point, Dombrowski was tasked with putting an underachieving yet talented team over the top. The Red Sox finished in first place in the AL East the next three seasons, winning the World Series title in 2018, but this season has been marred by inconsistency.
"It's a new year,” said Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts. “Got to turn the page on that, and a lot of different things happened. A lot of things can change within the year and this is one."
However, Martinez admitted that the news on Dombrowski was jarring considering it came just 10 months after the club had a World Series parade.
“We had a good team and, I guess, like I said, ownership has their reasons,” Martinez said. “It’s a business. That’s their call. We’re here, we have a job to do, we have to just keep chugging away.”
While Dombrowski made fruitful offseason moves after the 2015, ’16 and ’17 seasons, the same was not true this past winter.
Dombrowski opted to let key relievers Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly sign elsewhere as free agents in the months after the championship celebration in Los Angeles. Aside from that, the veteran executive brought back the entire cast that fueled Boston to a franchise-record 108 wins in 2018.
This included the decision to re-sign Nathan Eovaldi (four years, $68 million) and World Series MVP Steve Pearce (one year, $6.25 million). Both those players have spent most of 2019 injured.
In Spring Training, the Sox gave ace Chris Sale a five-year, $145 million extension that starts next season. Sale had the worst season of his career (6-11, 4.40 ERA) before being lost for the season due to left elbow woes. On the plus side, Dombrowski also signed Xander Bogaerts to a six-year, $120 million extension, and the shortstop has responded with the best season of his career.
“Obviously I’ve played for Dave for a long time and I think the world of him and it’s just sad to see something like that happen,” said Red Sox righty Rick Porcello. “At the end of the day, we’re the players that are on the field and the ones that can make or break a lot of things, and ultimately the onus comes on us and it’s unfortunate to see him take some of it. But that’s the decision ownership made and it is what it is.”
With the Red Sox struggling to live up to expectations in the days leading up to the July 31 Trade Deadline, Dombrowski decided to stand pat rather than make a move to try to put the team over the top, as he had done in each of the previous three seasons.
Coincidence or not, Boston went on an eight-game losing streak from July 28-Aug. 4. The club was just 2 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race the day of the Trade Deadline.
While Dombrowski wound up being the perfect leader to put a talented team over the top prior to this season, the franchise is in a place now where it needs to bolster the farm system.
The Red Sox also need to make some big decisions, including what to do with Betts, who is eligible for free agency after the ’20 season. Betts has been steadfast in his desire to become a free agent rather than sign an extension. This could lead the club to at least explore trading last year’s American League Most Valuable Player during the offseason.
Betts said the decision ownership made with Dombrowski will have no bearing on his future.
"It doesn't really matter who's there, it's going to be the same answer,” Betts said. “Nothing's gonna change. This is proof that this is a business. Like I said, I love it here, but definitely this is still a business."
With 19 games to go and in need of a miracle to get back to the playoffs, the players will try to keep their focus on the field.
“Keep playing. Keep playing ball -- that’s why we’re here,” Porcello said. “There’s no question about that; obviously we’d like to be playing a lot better than we have been the entire year, but keep going out there and grinding.”
The Red Sox let Dombrowski go with one year left on his contract. Dombrowski ran front offices for the Expos, Marlins and Tigers before coming to the Red Sox, and he started his career with the White Sox in 1978.
“Dave will hold a special place in franchise history as a key architect of one of the greatest Red Sox teams ever assembled,” said chairman Tom Werner in a statement. “His willingness to make bold moves helped deliver our fourth World Series championship in the 21st century."
President & CEO Sam Kennedy added: “Dave and I enjoyed a tremendous partnership these past four seasons. His baseball acumen and relentless pursuit of winning produced a season that will long be remembered by all of us."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.