Henning: Dombrowski up to challenge of Fenway's fantacism

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

There might be better jobs for Dave Dombrowski than taking control of the Red Sox.

But it’s difficult to imagine one.

Payroll? Check. He’ll have freedom that exceeds even the bank vault Mike Ilitch awarded him during his Tigers days.

Talent? Oh boy. The Sox are loaded with it. Young position players, emerging arms, a bumper crop in the farm system. Dombrowski knew what he was doing saying yes to Red Sox part-owner John Henry.

Pitching? Uh, that’s where life has gone to pieces at Fenway Park. But we know who has the reputation for crafting pitching staffs, even if his 2015 gang in Detroit unraveled. Dombrowski has the tools to fix a Red Sox rotation ahead of 2016 and, of course, in advance of those July trades that now will be an annual rite in Boston.

Dombrowski probably will win a World Series with the Red Sox. That’s ironic, given it was Boston that smashed his and Ilitch’s — and a Tigers galaxy’s — hearts two years ago with an eighth-inning, ALCS comeback when the Tigers were within a few outs of very likely setting up a flag-raising in Detroit.

It’s also somewhat ironic that Dombrowski would end up in Boston. Upper-tier politics and in-fighting made people close to Dombrowski and to the Red Sox doubt this marriage would ever take place.

But just as Dombrowski was talking seriously with the Blue Jays, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported, the Red Sox went for broke. Henry, who took on the Marlins after Wayne Huizenga’s going-out-of-business sale drove Dombrowski to Detroit in 2001, decided Dombrowski was the guy to fix a temporary mess at Fenway Park.

He probably is.

GQ front-office style

As long as Dombrowski has the authority obviously promised by Henry, Tom Lerner, et al, he will run the Red Sox rigidly, in a manner designed to purge politics from Fenway’s environs and bring another World Series parade to Beantown.

Dombrowski is good at this, very good. His time in Detroit and with Ilitch had frayed after 14 years. But there is no doubt his CEO style, and his sharp ways with personnel, festooned with big budgets and with so much latent talent, could not have been a better match for a team president who was out of work for all of 14 days.

Dombrowski has won a championship in the National League, with the Marlins, and came within a whisker in 2013 of landing one for Ilitch and Detroit in the American League.

He knows what can happen to executives who win World Series in both spheres. They can end up in Cooperstown. With a nice plaque detailing their four decades or so of significant baseball triumphs.

Adjustments will be in order for a man who likes to do business his way. The town is tough, even more demanding than was the culture in Detroit. He will have much more media to handle and, make no mistake, Dombrowski’s appetite for media distractions is limited.

But if a baseball businessman’s goal and focus is to tighten a ship and win ballgames begging to be won, Dombrowski and the Red Sox were right to have hooked up.

Dombrowski knew two weeks ago he would be back to work quickly. He wasn’t sure where. But he can be sure today that the best chance to win, for however many years he and the Red Sox are together, arrived the minute Henry gave him the keys and handed him what could be the drive of his life.