Better hurry if you plan to say hello to Andrew Cashner, the cherry on top of Dave Dombrowski’s quarter-billion dollar garbage plate, because soon it will be time to say goodbye.
The same could be true for the man who brought Cashner to the first, ahem, pennant race of his career.
The lone gift under Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s tree before the trading deadline, Cashner basically threw two types of pitches during his brief eternity on the mound Sunday afternoon at sun-splashed Fenway Park: belt-high strikes over the middle of the plate and balls not all that close to the strike zone.
Cashner is on record as saying he’s “not much of a numbers guy.” Good thing because the numbers he’s put up for the Red Sox since the Orioles unloaded him have been more crooked than a sociopath politician.
Sure, the sweaty blond mullet that crawls down his neck is a good look and all, but it doesn’t seem to have a Sampson effect.
Cashner, Dombrowski’s hired gun, has fired blanks since coming to the Red Sox for a pair of teenagers. Making the changeup a bigger part of his approach, Cashner did the best work of his shaky career with the Orioles this season. The league adjusted to his new approach, it seemed, just as the Red Sox decided to trade for him. Timing is everything in life.
The Fenway faithful serenaded Cashner with boos on his way off the mound and to the showers in the middle of a particularly messy second inning Sunday. Or was Cashner just the target of animus aimed higher in the organizational chain?
Cashner’s first pitch, a straight 93 mph fastball, hit the bullseye. Angels leadoff hitter Brian Goodwin hammered it to right-center and it took a hard-hop over the fence for a ground-rule double.
By the time Cashner’s worst outing since Aug. 2, 2018 at Texas (seven hits, 10 earned runs in 1⅔ innings) ended with two outs and the bases loaded in the second, Cashner had more than earned the boos.
He was not involved in the decision in a series finale won by the Angels, 5-4, in 10 innings.
The Angels torched him for three earned runs on three hits, five walks and a hit batsman. He threw more balls (27) than strikes (24) and had Josh Taylor to thank for keeping his ERA from blowing up even worse, and it’s plenty unsightly as it is.
In six starts for the Red Sox, Cashner is 1-4 with an 8.02 ERA. He has served seven home runs in 30⅓ innings and has nearly as many walks (17) as strikeouts (21).
All those numbers, of course, go on Dombrowski’s scorecard. Cashner counts as the fresh coat of paint that Dombrowski, architect of the 2018 World Series champions, slapped on the club that went 108-54 in the regular season and 11-3 in the postseason.
With stakes as high as $240-million plus, the GM of the Red Sox floats in what-have-you-done-for-me lately air.
Dombrowski was in a tough spot in trying to improve a roster without triggering the highest luxury-tax plateau. He made it tougher by gambling on Nathan Eovaldi’s history and signing him to a four-year, $68-million contract, which left him no room to keep closer Craig Kimbrel. It backfired. Dombrowski also brought back World Series MVP Steve Pearce for $6 million, another backfire. Dombrowski gambled again by signing then-ace Chris Sale (6-11, 4.44 ERA) to a five-year, $145 million-extension that kicks in next season, the thinking being his market value would soar if the Sox waited until the end of the season. It doesn’t look as if that will be the case, although the GM does deserve credit for signing All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to a team-friendly extension.
Hired one week shy of four years ago, Dombrowksi’s contract extends through 2020. In coming to the Red Sox, Dombrowski reportedly received a small raise from his $3 million salary with the Tigers.
Should ownership decide to trust its massive payroll to another decision-maker, eating one year of the GM’s salary won’t be a concern because it doesn’t count against the luxury tax. Plus, it’s a drop of wine in the ocean compared to how much money GMs are entrusted with spending.
With each Cashner trip to the mound and every day that gets crossed off the calendar that shows the Sox with little chance of grabbing the second wild card, Dombrowski’s forced exit seems more likely.
If the Sox think they could pry Chris Antonetti from the Indians, that would be a nice place to start their clandestine search.
A former student manager for Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson during Allen Iverson’s time there, Antonetti received a degree in sports administration from UMass after graduating from Georgetown. A native of Orange, Conn., near New Haven, Antonetti was a tennis standout in high school.
He has been with the Indians for nearly two decades, resisting the temptation to leave when offered jobs by multiple organizations. Promoted to president of baseball operations in 2015, Antonetti has mastered the rare juggling act of winning cheaply. The Indians have roughly half the payroll of the Red Sox and entered the day nine games ahead of them in the race for the first wild card.
Dombrowski has earned a place of honor in club history as the man who built the 2018 Red Sox, maybe the greatest team the franchise ever has assembled. That speaks to the past, but doesn’t mean he’s the right man to steer the Red Sox into the future.
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