After a bit of uncertainty, the Phillies hired the guy they wanted as the first-ever president of baseball operations in team history – and he just so happens to be the only GM ever to take three different teams to the World Series. Dave Dombrowski now aims to take a two-point lead on that score in Philadelphia. To his own admission, however, “no one thinks the Phillies are one player away.” So there’s work to do. What that means exactly makes for the nebulous, but substantive difference between Dombrowski and the what-might-have-been “other” guy.
The immediate assumption has been that Dombrowski’s appointment portends aggressive spending – either of dollars in free agency or of prospects via trades. Dombrowski has a reputation as a wheeler-and-dealer, and after three consecutive seasons of floating around .500, there’s some urgency to improve, directed largely by managing partner John Middleton. It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.
And yet, Dombrowski himself took a more measured stance in his first press conference with reporters yesterday. So, too, did Middleton and team president Andy MacPhail. As I wrote yesterday, a focus on system building rather than immediate contention during his introduction speaks volumes about the level of self-awareness inside Philadelphia’s leadership group. While they’re not going to disappear immediately into the mud, don’t wait for J.T. Realmuto to come waltzing in the door behind Dombrowski either.
As for the new headmaster, he’s taking some time to get to know his new operation. It’s going to be a lot of sleepless nights in the coming weeks as he makes his first moves in office, such as deciding whether or not to hire a general manager. Though there’s a lot of work to do, Middleton, Dombrowski, and the Phillies seem a harmonious fit. You can add manager Joe Girardi to that group as well, whose old-school blood hasn’t kept him from recognizing important evolutions in the game – much like Dombrowski. No, they’re not the poster-children for the sabremetric, biomechanic, new-school evangelists, but they’re hepper to what’s wise in this game than it may seem.
It’s time for you to weigh in. Dombrowski is said to have signed a four-year deal, so let’s keep our prognostication to that time frame. Say that at the end of these four years, coronavirus is a thing of the past, the MLB Draft League has ballooned interest in the sport, expansion is an inevitability, and Dombrowski wants to return to Nashville to run the Music City Stars. How are we going to feel about the Dombrowski era in Philly? Just for fun, let’s frame out answers in the form of Phillies of the past. Feel free to add your own in the comments. (Poll links for app users.)