The 2019 Red Sox are not a good team. That much really isn’t up for debate after the team dropped yet another ugly loss. The Red Sox are all-but out of the playoff picture, which is obviously not ideal for the defending World Champions and their record-setting payroll. With such a disappointing season, it’s easy to throw all the blame at Dave Dombrowski. While Dombrowski certainly is responsible for a decent portion of this mess, it’s impossible to blame him for everything wrong with the 2019 Red Sox.
Dave Dombrowski Not Entirely At Fault For 2019 Red Sox
Let’s start by saying this: Dave Dombrowski had a terrible off-season. The only flaw with the 2018 Red Sox was their bullpen. The unit was streaky all season and lost Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly to free agency. Common sense dictated that the Red Sox should address this issue, and they didn’t. The only move they made was adding Colten Brewer via trade. This obviously wasn’t enough, as Boston’s bullpen has been a fatal flaw throughout the season.
The Red Sox were on a budget, as John Henry clearly told Dombrowski not to exceed the final luxury tax threshold. This may explain why the Red Sox didn’t chase an elite reliever like Adam Ottavino, but it can’t explain why the Red Sox didn’t go after a mid-inning arm. Quite frankly, you can’t afford to sign Steve Pearce for over $6 million and completely ignore a glaring flaw on the roster.
Maybe Dombrowski truly believed that Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Tyler Thornburg, and Steven Wright were good enough. If so, that’s his own fault. Barnes is great when he’s not overworked, but Brasier’s underlying numbers suggested a regression to the mean. Thornburg hadn’t been good since 2016 and Wright…well there are so many things wrong with trusting Wright. Perhaps he believed that Darwinzon Hernandez, Travis Lakins, Tanner Houck, and Durbin Feltman would be ready sooner rather than later. However, if that’s the case, it’s his own fault for putting that much stock into unproven commodities on a win-now roster.
What Isn’t Dombrowksi’s Fault
Dombrowski botched the bullpen, but nobody can blame him for the starting rotation. On paper, this should have been one of the top-three rotations in baseball. Chris Sale and David Price are both legitimate aces, Rick Porcello is typically a reliable mid-rotation arm, Nathan Eovaldi offered fantastic upside with his newfound cutter, and Eduardo Rodriguez was the best number five starter in baseball.
How things have changed. Chris Sale hasn’t been Chris Sale all year, as the lefty currently has a 4.68 ERA in 132.2 innings of work. Ditto for Price, who’s had a particularly ugly July. Eovaldi got hurt early in the season and is clearly pitching at less than 100%. Porcello has fallen off a cliff and owns a 5.54 ERA after 128.1 innings on the mound. Ironically, the enigmatic Eduardo Rodriguez has probably been the most consistent arm in the rotation.
Nobody could have predicted all of this going wrong, so it’s not fair to pin the starters’ woes on Dombrowski. At the end of the day, the blame lies with the pitching coach and, more importantly, the guys taking the mound every day. They have the talent to be an elite unit, but they’re not playing up to their ability.
The best thing Dombrowski did was knowing that he shouldn’t buy at the deadline. The Red Sox were still in contention for a playoff spot at the trade deadline, but Dombrowski wisely held onto his assets and didn’t go all-in on this team. This Red Sox team had too many holes to patch at the deadline, and no amount of wheeling and dealing could fix this mess of a pitching staff. Accepting it’s not your year is one of the hardest things in professional sports, yet Dombrowski handled the situation with self-restraint he hadn’t shown in previous seasons.