GM Dave Dombowski Guides Phillies to Fifth World Series – Sportico.com
When the Philadelphia Phillies unraveled after the 2020 COVID-19 shortened season, they hired veteran Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations.
Dombrowski did not disappoint as Matt Klentak’s replacement, with an analytical drive. He is in his fifth World Series spread over four different organizations, winning two of them so far.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series against the Houston Astros it’s Monday night at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The teams are tied at one game apiece.
Dombrowski found success by signing big-name players for big money and letting coaches like Jim Leyland in Miami and Detroit, Alex Cora in Boston and Rob Thomson in Philadelphia do their jobs without interference.
Dombrowski said he has a simple philosophy: hire good people and get out.
“Whether it’s Alex or Rob Thomson, what you do is communicate with them on a daily basis. They always know I’m available when they need me,” he said in an interview on the field at Houston’s Minute Maid Park before Saturday night’s Game 2, won 5-2 by the Astros. “But it’s his job to distinguish the lineups and make in-game decisions. That’s why you hire them.”
At 66, Dombrowski is an old-school baseball executive with an analytical savvy. In Boston, where the Red Sox won the World Series in 2018, Cora said he would get the numbers from the front office, but the play on the field was his.
Same with Thomson, the 59-year-old hitting coach who replaced Joe Girardi this season when the team opened a disappointing 22-29.
“Absolutely. Yes. They give us all the information and all the analytics and then leave us alone,” Thomson said.
So Dombrowski knew when it was time to let Girardi go.
“When you’re around your team you realize something’s not clicking,” Dombrowski said. “They needed a new voice. You could just see it.”
The Phillies had spent big on Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto and Zack Wheeler, but Klentak’s club finished the expanded 16-team playoffs with a 28-32 record after the pandemic-shortened 60-game 2020 season, the Girardi’s first year. And as usual, Dombrowski continued that trend last offseason by adding free agents Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos.
Total price742 million dollars.
Phils general partner John Middleton made the right move when he hired Dombrowski. The Phillies are in position to win the Series for the first time since 2008, when another baseball veteran, Pat Gillick, came in and polished off the work that others in the organization had started.
“I’ve always believed in star players,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve been lucky everywhere I’ve been to have great players.”
Dombrowski has been in the business for 45 years, learning at a young age under the late great Roland Hemond with the Chicago White Sox, who taught him all the ins and outs of running a baseball club. Along the way, he has built World Series winning teams with the Marlins in 1997 and the Red Sox. Two of his Detroit Tigers teams lost in the 2006 and 2012 World Series.
And here he is again, trying to lead the Phillies to a title in just his second season.
That sudden success, which came as the 87-win Phillies clinched the sixth and final National League playoff spot, could be sustainable.
“I think we have a long-term chance to be pretty good,” Dombrowski said. “The NL East is tough, so you know you’re going to be in a situation where you’re going to have to be on top of your game.
“But that’s OK. One thing about our club is that we’re not old. And our best young players have just arrived.”
Dombrowski loves to spend property money.
Detroit signed Justin Verlander, added Miguel Cabrera in a trade with the Marlins and later signed Prince Fielder as a free agent. Boston signed JD Martinez to a five-year, $110 million contract that had just expired and traded to the White Sox for pitcher Chris Sale, signing him to a five-year, $145 million contract.
Star players, all of them.
The Phillies this year had MLB’s fourth-largest payroll of $255.2 million and already have $172.2 million committed through 2023, second only to the Mets at $219.5 million.
Dombrowski, who is sure to follow Gillick into the National Baseball Hall of Fame when his career ends, still has two years left on his current contract and doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon.
He is healthy and still loves what he is doing.
“John Middleton has talked me into staying here as long as I want,” Dombrowski said. “I’m very happy with what I’m doing and I hope it ends well.”
Dombrowski’s downside is that his spending ways very often cause conflicts with management.
In Florida and Montreal, ownership changed and Dombrowski was swept away as both franchises went through fire sales and reduced payroll. In Detroit, late owner Mike Ilitch grew tired of waiting for Dombrowski to deliver a World Series title.
In Boston, he took over the last-place Red Sox at the end of the 2015 season and led the American League East in first place the following three seasons, culminating in a five-game series victory World Series in 2018 over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ten months later, he was fired as the Red Sox fell to third place with a second in baseball payroll of $236.2 million.
The Red Sox wanted to cut costs and traded Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers after Dombrowski left. He wasn’t happy with the way he was treated there, but now it’s back in fashion to hire baseball people with long resumes.
While the Red Sox have struggled under Chaim Bloom, Dombrowski is doing what he does best: building a winning team.
Along the way it has engendered loyalty and respect.
“He means a lot to me,” Verlander said of Dombrowski, who selected the right-hander second overall in the 2005 freshman draft. “He was instrumental in me getting started in professional baseball. I was a draft pick high-risk reward draft coming out of Old Dominion. And I really appreciate him letting me be myself and raising me so quickly.”
Verlander has earned $317.5 million in his career, including $170 million with the Tigers, and has won 244 regular season games so far.
Almost done, Dombrowski walked into the media room as Verlander, now pitching for the Astros, held his pregame press conference 1. Verlander blew a 5-0 lead Friday night and the Phils win 6-5 in 10 innings with Realmuto’s home run. He remains winless in the World Series.
“Where did your career begin again?” Dombrowski asked jokingly before walking up to the podium to give Verlander a hug.
“By the way, he’s still wearing the same cologne,” Verlander said. “I can smell it. It’s very different. I remember that smell.”
This colony has served Dombrowski well throughout these World Series.
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