The Vagaries of Managing in the Major Leagues

After another bad season for a struggling Detroit Tigers’ roster, manager Brad Ausmus was fired. Almost immediately his name was among the first mentioned for each major league managerial opening, first with the New York Mets, and then for the now open job in Boston.

In Boston, manager John Farrell, who led the Red Sox to back-to-back division titles, who is the franchise’s only manager to win three division titles, and who led the team to the World Championship four short seasons ago, is today looking for new employment.

Boston General Manger Dave Dombrowski, who took that job with Farrell already established as manager, can now try to find someone who can waive a magic wand and

turn the mistakes made by Dombrowski into wins, and ultimately, into a World Series berth.

Since taking over the reins of the BoSox, Dombrowski’s emphasis has clearly been to build a championship caliber starting staff, and he in effect mortgaged the team’s present and future with high-priced acquisitions David Price and Chris Sale.

Sale has been a dominant pitcher for parts of a few seasons now, but both last year and this, his success dropped off the edge of the flat earth late in the season. Last year Sale compiled an impressive sounding 17-10 record with a bad White Sox team. But looking closer, one sees that on July 2, he stood at 14-2 and after that point he lost eight of his last eleven decisions, as his ERA rose from 2.93 to a final 3.34. A few days ago, I wrote about how Sale went from a shoe-in for the American League Cy Young Award to little more than an also ran as his record plummeted over the last two months of the 2017 season with a 4-4 record and 4.09 ERA over that period. Then came the 2017 post season and a start and a relief appearance that will take Sale years to live down. First, he lost the American League Division Series opener to Houston, allowing seven earned runs including three home runs in five innings, and then when the series was on the line, he relieved in game four, allowing two runs over four innings, but that included Alex Bregman’s game-tying, eighth-inning home run, and he set the stage for the Astros’ game winning and series-ending runs. For the post season, Sale’s ERA was 8.38.

Dombrowski’s other big pick-up a year earlier was the IMMENSELY overrated David Price, who failed as the team’s savior in 2016, but who did impress in a far different role in the 2017 post season. Price has had some great seasons and some very bad seasons. In his first year in Boston, he posted a seemingly impressive 17-9 won-lost record, but that was deceiving. He benefited from great run support and despite poor numbers otherwise, did


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post that gaudy won-lost record. This year, he spent much of the season on the Disabled List, managing only a 6-3 record, ending the season in the bullpen, where he spent the short post season. But, he came into the 2017 post season with a lifetime playoff record of 2-8 with an ERA of 5.53 over 15 appearances in seven post seasons. This year, he did very well in relief, lowering his lifetime post season ERA all the way down to 5.03.

Even more than his 1) Missed playing time, and 2) Poor performance when healthy, Price made a different mark on the Red Sox, and it was a very, very bad one, unlike any seen in recent seasons. In the spirt of such outstanding citizens as Jeff Kent and Ben Chapman, started a Boston media war with a totally unwarranted verbal assault on broadcaster Dennis Eckersley, followed by his refusal to adequately and properly apologize to anyone, and with separate antagonistic references to Farrell.

Last week, ESPN’s Scott Lauber wrote that the Red Sox were now Dombrowski’s mess. Quoting Dombrowski, he wrote:

“When you don’t play well, when you don’t win a world championship, it’s not all on the manager by any means,… Some of the players didn’t play as well. Could I have given them some better players? We all share in those responsibilities.”

Well, “those responsibilities” are now clearly all Dombrowski’s, from choosing “His” new manager, to determining who on the roster should go, and in the player moves that need to be done between now and spring training.

Will he be handing a potential pennant winner to his new manager, or will he be seting the guy up for defeat and that all-too-soon pink slip?

And then there are also the Mets and Tigers to think about. But right now, the drama is in Boston.


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