Ex-Detroit Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski didn’t deserve to get the axe, but clearly he was the most likely head to be chopped off in Detroit this season.
The unfortunate situation in “the D” came to a head in 2015, as the Tigers constantly teetered on the edge of contender and pretender, making Dombrowski’s job ever more difficult at this season’s non-waiver trade deadine. When decision time came along, Dombrowski opted to sell, sending ace starter David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays and star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who he acquired just eight months ago, to the New York Mets. The decision to push the red button and blow up the Tigers for good was the right one, but it still didn’t save Dombrowski’s job.
That said, let’s make one thing clear: there isn’t anything more he could have done with the Tigers to bring a championship trophy to Michigan.
Since Dombrowski assumed the team’s general manager duties in 2002, the Tigers have changed their stripes, transforming from a historically-bad 119-game loser in 2003 to a 95-win American League champion just three seasons later. The quick turnaround can all be credited to Dombrowski, too.
Detroit did not have the patience to take the long route and rebuild through their farm system, so Dombrowski hit the free agency and trade markets instead, sticking to his guns when analysts questioned the team’s lack of MLB-ready prospects and the additions of aging stars like 31-year-olds Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. Dombrowski also made the less-sexy shrewd moves, most notably with the acquisition of 41-year-old starter Kenny Rogers.
The 2006 team’s success was just the appetizer for his main course, however.
In 2007, he traded for first baseman Miguel Cabrera, giving up a few players who, aside from current Yankees closer Andrew Miller, have had little impact as major leaguers and none for the Marlins. Cabrera, on the other hand, is one of the greatest hitters baseball fans have ever witnessed. It wasn’t completely rosy from the start, though. Dombrowski doesn’t get enough credit for sticking with Cabrera when off-the-field issues nearly derailed his career. Some GMs would have panicked, Dombrowski believed in Cabrera and a just one year after he was arrested for drunken driving and resisting arrest, he won the first Triple Crown in 45 years.
A few years later, Dombrowski cemented the Tigers’ recent string of success by making one of those deals that was mind-boggling at the time, but turns out to be absolutely brilliant. Armed with a 28-year-old All-Star outfielder in Curtis Granderson and 25-year-old All-Star pitcher in Edwin Jackson, Dombrowski called up the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks and swapped his proven commodities for a young pitcher by the name of Max Scherzer who had just went 9-11 with a 4.12 ERA for Arizona and an outfield prospect named Austin Jackson. The move, as you know, worked out quite well for Detroit.
Like they say, there’s a fine line between genius and insanity.
Dombrowski was the architect behind one of the greatest rosters we’ve ever seen that failed to win a World Series. How a team that features Cy Young winners in Scherzer and Justin Verlander, along with a transcendent talent in Cabrera and All-Stars like Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, didn’t win at least one title is a mystery — bullpen issues aside.
However, at just 59-years-old, Dombrowski still has plenty of time to get it done somewhere else. He’ll have all the resources he needs, too.
The Boston Red Sox are in need of a president of baseball operations and the Los Angeles Angels have an opening for a GM. The Blue Jays, who are looking for a president/CEO, also look like a good fit.
Boston would appear to be the best option, but with GM Ben Cherington still around, the Angels may provide the landing spot where he’ll have the most control over the franchise’s assets and enough money to do what he does best. The franchise already has a few superstars, but needs a push in the right direction to steal the fire away from the Dodgers and take hold of southern California.
Wherever he goes, Dombrowski will be willing to make the decisions others will not that could turn a good team into a great one. This time around, he should be able to bring home the hardware fitting of his resume, too.