This will be one of the most fiercely debated questions when we look back at the 2018 World Series. Is Dave Dombrowski the smartest man alive for the way he built this team or is he just lucky?
Dave Dombrowski: I’M THE SMARTEST MAN IN THE WORLD! pic.twitter.com/J329fAaiDJ
— The 300s (@The300sBoston) October 29, 2018
Before the playoffs started everyone, myself included, ripped Dombrowski for not making the “big name” move and getting an arm for the bullpen at the trade deadline. And it was a completely justifiable question as this team’s relievers were struggling bad down the stretch. The only guy that you could trust was essentially Craig Kimbrel, who ironically enough you could not trust in the playoffs. Then the playoffs come and they turned into the ’98 Yankees. Some real Freaky Friday shit.
Ryan Brasier, formerly of the Japanese League, became a dominant 7th/8th inning guy out of absolutely nowhere. Joe Kelly went from blowing the first game of the year to excellent to benches clearing brawl spark plug back to awful during the season and almost didn’t even make the postseason roster. Kelly morphed into a triple digit hurling shutdown setup man. And Nathan Eovaldi, who was coming off his SECOND Tommy John Surgery and who the Sox acquired for the immortal Jalen Beeks(!), became “The Rover.” The ultimate weapon out of the bullpen. I honestly don’t know if the Sox win the Series without Eovaldi. For my money (literally) he should have been World Series MVP, which he probably would have won if the Sox took the 18 inning affair in Game 3.
Now my main point is whether we’ll look back at this championship and praise Dombrowski for being a genius with moves like adding Eovaldi and World Series MVP Steve Pearce. Incredible moves. Or will we look back and say wow I can’t believe that actually worked out.
I can’t help but imagine Dealer Dave as Happy Gilmore after this championship run though. Looootta luck involved.
Plus I would argue most, if not all, of the credit should go to Alex Cora. The way he managed that bullpen was absolutely flawless, if not dangerous. I heard Cora use the phrase “All in, all the time” and it just perfectly captures what this team was doing. From the very first game in the ALDS, Cora was bringing out starters rather than trust it to a traditional bullpen guy. He had David Price starting, relieving, or warming up in just about every single World Series game, then brought in their ace in Chris Sale to close it out. You just don’t see that.
So yes ultimately Dombrowski’s moves paid off in the end, but without Alex Cora and all the shrewd managerial moves he made, I think this team falters much earlier on and Dombrowski is on the hottest of hot seats.
PS – Jon Wallach made a great point on Toucher and Rich this morning. It looks like Cora may have established the new norm for how to manage a bullpen in the playoffs. You never see this habitual usage of starters in the playoffs outside of Game 7 scenarios. Now, as Wallach said, you could very easily wreck your staff by the sheer amount of usage, but hey it worked.