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Volume 26 No. 179
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John Henry Says Red Sox, Dave Dombrowski Weren't On Same Page

Red Sox Owner John Henry and Chair Tom Werner "outlined the reasoning behind their decision" to part with former President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski while "acknowledging their hope to get payroll under" the $208M luxury tax threshold in '20, according to Alex Speier of the BOSTON GLOBE. Henry and Werner said Dombrowski had been the "right choice at the right time” when brought to the Red Sox in '15. In fact, Henry said that "immediately after" the '18 World Series, he "anticipated hammering out a long-term deal with Dombrowski." But Henry added that it "quickly became clear he and Dombrowski did not share the same long-term outlook." Henry said, "There was a difference, I think, in how we thought we should move forward.” Meanwhile, Henry said in '20, the Red Sox "need to be under the (luxury-tax threshold of $208 million) and that was something we’ve known for more than a year now.” Werner later "clarified that it was a strong preference rather than an absolute." Henry: "We’ve known for some time now we needed to reset (the penalties by staying under the threshold), as other clubs have done." Werner said, "There are teams that make the postseason with half the payroll the Red Sox have. Our real intention is to be competitive every year and we’ll do whatever we have to to do that" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/28).

FITTING THE BILL: The AP's Kyle Hightower noted the Red Sox have had baseball’s highest payroll for two straight seasons, and they are "on track to pay" a $13M luxury tax this year on a payroll of $243M for "purposes of the competitive balance tax." That is $37M "over the tax threshold." If the Red Sox "exceed the threshold for a third straight season" in '20, their base tax rate "would rise from 30% to 50% and they would face surcharges that would raise" the rate to 62% at $228M and 95% at $248M (AP, 9/27). In Boston, Sean McAdam noted Henry "didn’t get too specific about the exact issues, but it seems rather obvious that a big part of the gulf was future spending." Henry was "willing to spend" $200M or more in '20 -- but not $240M "for the third straight season." And "just as obviously, it’s logical to conclude, Dombrowski wanted to keep spending at or near the level to which he had become accustomed, pouring resources into the major league roster rather than depending on internal development" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 9/28).

FIGURING IT OUT: In Boston, Tom Keegan wrote to "credit Henry for being honest about just what a complex juggling act the next GM faces" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/28). Also in Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote the 26 minutes the execs spoke on Friday were a "tad confusing and intentionally ambiguous." Shaughnessy: "These guys rarely talk to us and, when they do, sometimes it feels like they are speaking a foreign language. It was an awkward, sometimes bizarre press conference" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/28). The GLOBE'S Speier wrote under the header, "A Complete Explanation Of The Red Sox’ Luxury Tax And Payroll Situation" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/29).

MUM'S THE WORD: Asked why there was no press conference when Dombrowski was fired, Red Sox President & CEO Sam Kennedy said, "Right or wrong we felt we weren’t going to answer questions about Dave’s departure. It was going to be a situation where we’d be asked a lot of questions about blame and what he did wrong, and we felt very strongly as a group that the right thing was to thank him for his time and his service. That was the decision, and it’s fair to disagree with it" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/28).

RATINGS GAME: In Boston, Michael Silverman notes Red Sox ratings on NESN "plunged this season," as average household ratings "went down approximately" 23% from last season. There is "no guarantee ratings or attendance can’t slip farther next season, but neither does a specter of fear emanate" from the front office that advertisers and corporate sponsors are "about to abandon ship." Kennedy said, "I don’t know how the market will react to the 2019 season, we haven’t had a year where we finished eight or nine games above .500 or wherever we’ll finish recently -- we’ve kind of been either in first place or last place. So this will be unique" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/30).