BOSTON — Mired in mediocrity only less than 11 months after setting a team record in victories and winning a World Series, the Red Sox on Sunday night fired Dave Dombrowski, their president of baseball operations.
A formal announcement was expected on Monday, but players were told of the news late Sunday after a 10-5 loss to the Yankees.
Manager Alex Cora called the team together in the clubhouse at Fenway Park after the game and shared the team owners’ decision on Dombrowski, a longtime baseball executive who is one of the few general managers to lead three franchises to the World Series.
“Surprise and shock,” Cora told reporters after the game. He added later: “This is a guy that gave me a chance to come here and be a big-league manager. It’s one of those that caught me. They just told me. So I’m not ready to talk about it.”
The Red Sox (76-67) had been expected to contend again this season, but they have been maddeningly inconsistent and are unlikely to reach the playoffs. After their 13th loss in 18 games against the Yankees this season, the Red Sox sat eight games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second American League wild-card spot with 19 games left to play.
Despite possessing one of the best offenses in baseball, the Red Sox have been hampered by a subpar pitching staff, which ranks 19th in the major leagues with a 4.65 earned run average.
The Red Sox opened the season with the largest payroll in baseball at $236 million and were relatively quiet at the July 31 trade deadline in addressing a pitching staff saddled with injuries and poor performances by stars such as David Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello.
“We had a good team,” the Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez said after Sunday’s game. “And ownership has their reasons. It’s a business. It’s their call.”
Doubts about Dombrowski’s future had been growing in recent weeks. With a lot of money committed to the current major league team and a farm system depleted by trades, the Red Sox faced difficult decisions about how to solve their flaws.
Not long ago, the Red Sox seemed destined to keep Dombrowski, 63, who was under contract through the 2020 season. In February, the Red Sox’ majority owner, John Henry, indicated that the team was likely to extend Dombrowski’s contract.
“This day and age, it probably doesn’t make sense for your general manager to go into his final year without a contract, so that would mean something should happen this year,” Henry said then.
That did not happen. And instead of waiting until the end of the regular season to let Dombrowski go, the Red Sox’ leadership made a change now. According to news reports, the team will be guided for the remainder of the season by the senior vice president Raquel Ferreira and the assistant general managers Zack Scott, Eddie Romero and Brian O’Halloran.
Known through his career for making big trades and big free-agent signings to build a contender, Dombrowski did just that in Boston. He took over during the 2015 season for General Manager Ben Cherington, who guided the Red Sox to a 2013 World Series title but resigned after two subsequent losing seasons.
Under Dombrowski, the Red Sox won three straight A.L. East titles from 2016 to 2018, which culminated with a World Series win. It was Dombrowski’s second World Series title; the first came in 1997 as the general manager of the Florida Marlins. He previously held the same title with the Montreal Expos and the Detroit Tigers, who made two World Series appearances during his tenure.
“Sad to see something like that happen,” Porcello said. “At the end of the day, the players on the field are the ones that can make or break a lot of things. And ultimately the onus comes on us. It’s unfortunate to see him have to take some of it.”