He built one World Series champion and created the framework for another. Later he molded two more World Series teams.

So what can the Boston Red Sox expect from Dave Dombrowski, 59, introduced Wednesday as the team’s president of baseball operations?

He will make trades.

And he will spend money.

And most likely, Dombrowski will win. But can Dombrowski win enough and can he win it all – something he did not do in 14 years with the Detroit Tigers – to please a demanding ownership group and fan base?

This is an ownership group that just dumped General Manager Ben Cherington, who crafted a World Series champion in 2013 in his second of four seasons. But two other seasons were last-place finishes and this 2015 team looks certain to remain at the bottom.

“He went 1 for 4 with a home run,” said ESPN analyst (and former Red Sox infielder) Alex Cora. “A lot of GMs will take that home run.”

But Cherington made miscalculations heading into this season, relying on free agents Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to bolster the lineup, assembling a rotation without an ace and a bullpen with too many questions.

If everything went well, then Cherington would still be in Boston. But most everything went sour and nearly all hopes for 2015 faded early.

For the record, the Red Sox did not technically fire Cherington; they hired someone above him. In these days of movable titles, Cherington could have stayed on as the GM but he would have served as Dombrowski’s assistant.

Yes, the team’s majority owner, John Henry, said only two months ago that Cherington would have his job “for a very long time.” That thought changed, Henry said Wednesday, “when Dave became available.”

Henry’s first gig as owner was with the Marlins from 1999 to 2001. Dombrowski was the GM. (Back then the Portland Sea Dogs were a Marlins affiliate; Henry and Dombrowski appeared at Hadlock Field together in 2000 when the major league team played Portland in an exhibition game.)

Henry has always appreciated Dombrowski’s talent – his first trade under Henry was obtaining a little-known third baseman from the Yankees named Mike Lowell. And while Dombrowski has made his mistakes, he has a record of success more substantial than Cherington’s.

Henry offered an indirect compliment to Cherington, saying, “We’re very well set up for the future,” but it’s obvious he wanted more than potential for his $187 million payroll – third-highest in the majors.

The hope is Dombrowski will spend Henry’s money well.


Dombrowski began as boy wonder general manager, taking over the low-payroll Montreal Expos in 1988 at age 32. Dombrowski tried to build a winner through trades. In one deal he sent three unknown pitchers to Seattle for pitcher Mark Langston in 1989. One of the pitchers he sent away was Randy Johnson. Montreal finished 81-81. Johnson began a Hall of Fame career.

In 1992, Dombrowski moved to another small market, the expansion Florida Marlins, who would not actually begin play until ’93.

Dombrowski began building through the draft (Charles Johnson), the expansion draft (Jeff Conine), international free agents (Luis Castillo. Edgar Renteria, Livan Hernandez) and trades (Gary Sheffield, Jay Powell).

But the Marlins had a low payroll (even with the signing of free-agent pitchers Kevin Brown and Al Leiter) – $25 million in 1996, ranking 20th – and finished 80-82.

In 1997, Dombrowski got the go-ahead to spend. With a $52 million payroll (ranking fifth in the majors), Dombrowski got free agents Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou and Devon White, while later trading for veterans Craig Counsell and Darren Daulton (sending an outfielder named Billy McMillon to Philadelphia to get Daulton).

The Marlins won the World Series. But they could not afford the stars and Dombrowski was ordered to gut the team – to a $19 million payroll (27th) in 1998.

Henry came aboard the next year and, with Dombrowski, began building again. It may have been Dombrowski’s most creative time because he didn’t have a big payroll. He traded for players like Lowell, first baseman Derrick Lee and pitcher Brad Penny. He drafted pitcher Josh Beckett and signed two promising international free agents: shortstop Alex Gonzalez and Miguel Cabrera.

When Henry got the chance to buy the Red Sox after the 2001 season, he jumped at it. Dombrowski also left, taking the Tigers job.

The Marlins, meanwhile, built on what Dombrowski started and won the 2003 World Series with Beckett as the Series MVP.


Dombrowski took over a terrible Tigers team (66-96 in 2001) with a payroll ranked 20th in the majors. But with draft picks (Justin Verlander, Curtis Granderson), free-agent signings (including Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez) and trades (like Sean Casey), he built a team that reached the 2006 World Series, losing to the Cardinals in five games.

Dombrowski then opened owner Mike Ilitch’s checkbook wide. Detroit’s 2008 payroll reached $137 million, ranked third in the majors and above the Tigers’ Central Division rivals (the White Sox, Indians, Twins and Royals).

But the Tigers didn’t reach the playoffs again until 2011, winning the first of four straight division titles. Dombrowski had a dynamo, making some slick trades (landing Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez, Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister). Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder came over as free agents.

The Tigers made one more World Series appearance in 2012, when they were swept by the Giants.

Detroit entered 2015 with a $173 million payroll (fourth in the majors), but the production decreased. The Tigers’ farm system was little help, thinned from all of Dombrowski’s trading. Top prospect Devon Travis was dealt to Toronto for outfielder Anthony Gose. Travis played second base for the Blue Jays, batting .304 with a .859 OPS until he injured his shoulder in late July. Gose is batting .257/.670.

Verlander, 32, has been injured and is only 1-5 with a 4.11 ERA this season. And he’s making $28 million a year though 2019.

The Tigers were in need of a fix and Ilitch didn’t think Dombrowski had the answers, firing him on Aug. 4.


Dombrowski comes to Boston with a chance to win right away, assuming he makes the right moves. He gave few specifics Wednesday, except to say, “I guess we need to find some better pitching.”

Cherington was criticized for not obtaining an ace for the rotation (although it was Henry who initially low-balled Jon Lester, who eventually opted for free agency and the Cubs). Dombrowski said, “Ideally, you want a top-of-the-rotation guy.”

Dombrowski praised Boston’s core young players – pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez – “He has a chance to be a No. 1-type pitcher” – as well as shortstop Xander Bogaerts, catcher Blake Swihart and “the three young guys in the outfield” (Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo – purposely leaving out left fielder Hanley Ramirez?).

But Boston needs more production. Ben Cherington could not deliver that the past two years.

Now John Henry hands the controls – and his checkbook – to Dombrowski.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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