In an unexpected move, Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch released President and GM Dave Dombrowski from his contract which was due to expire at the end of the season.
Ilitch, who is also the founder of the restaurant chain Little Caesar’s, issued the following statement, “I have decided to release Dave from his contract in order to afford him the time to pursue other career opportunities.”
And what could those career opportunities be? ESPN baseball reporter Jayson Stark immediately speculated that Dombrowski could be headed to Boston. Over the weekend, it was announced that Larry Lucchino would be departing as Red Sox President and CEO at the end of the 2015 season. It was expected that the Red Sox would promote either Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy or Fenway Sports Group President Michael Gordon to succeed Lucchino. But Dombrowski’s sudden departure throws all that out the window.
Dombrowski worked with Red Sox principal owner John Henry when he owned the Florida Marlins after buying it from Wayne Huizenga. Dombrowski was the Marlins inaugural GM and was with the team when they won the 1997 World Series. He would leave the Marlins at the end of the 2001 season to join the Tigers. Dombrowski cut his baseball teeth with the Chicago White Sox and would get his first GM job with the Montreal Expos in 1988.
During his tenure with the Tigers, Dombrowski saw the best of times and the worst of times. In 2003, the Tigers would go 43-119 to finish with the worst record in MLB since the 1962 New York Mets. Three years later, Dombrowski would hire Jim Leyland who had managed the Marlins to the World Series in 1997. In 2006, the Tigers would win their first AL pennant since 1984 although they fell short in the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Tigers have been perennial contenders over the past decade winning a second AL pennant in 2012 (only to be swept by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series). They had won four consecutive AL Central titles and were heavily favored to do so again in 2015.
But the Tigers have been a major dissapointment. Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander have both been hurt and their bullpen has been awful. Although the Tigers are 51-55, they are only four games back of the second AL Wild Card spot. Still, Dombrowski was busy during the trade deadline sending away Yoenis Cespedes, David Price and Joakim Soria. And now Dombrowski is out the door.
As for the Tigers, Dombrowski has been succeeded by his longtime deputy Al Avila. If the name sounds familiar it should be. His son Alex is the team’s catcher. The last time I remember father-son GM-player combo were Haywood and Marc Sullivan of the Red Sox in the early ’80’s. I think Avila has earned his chance and I hope he makes the most of it.
If Dombrowski comes to Boston will Jim Leyland follow suit and come out of retirement?