Dombrowski out of touch on Ohtani recruitment process

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When it comes to the Shohei Ohtani pursuit, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski sounds out of touch.

Dombrowski said at the winter meetings Tuesday he was surprised that the Red Sox did not become a finalist to meet with Ohtani, after all 30 teams had an opportunity to submit a presentation to convince Ohtani to then have a face to face meeting. The Sox were not granted a face to face meeting, and he signed with the Angels.

“It was something the organization worked on for a long time and a couple of people that really focused on it for years,” Dombrowski said. “Our presentation, we made a very thorough presentation, a very strong presentation, one that I looked at, I didn’t do the work myself, but people showed me. I thought the presentation was outstanding. So we were very invested.”

He didn't do the work himself? Delegation is one thing (and a good thing). But Dombrowski misread the field here.

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No East Coast team was a finalist. There likely was nothing the Red Sox could have done to convince Ohtani to gain a meeting. That's an important point here.

But as a matter of principle, as a vehicle for understanding Dombrowski's savvy and how it compares to his peers, it may be telling that Dombrowski thought he didn't have time to put together the Ohtani presentation — and that he thought all other GMs felt the same way.

“Well, I don't think that the time consumption of putting together that presentation, I mean, we had those guys spend over a couple weeks on that,” Dombrowski said. “I wouldn't think that any general manager would've put that together. In fact, I don't think anyone could. It was just way, way too much time spent on only that situation. Now, if we were making a presentation personally, I would've been there. 

"But to send a presentation — that's what they wanted; they wanted the presentation sent to them. Now, I was aware of what was in there and was shown there, but it would be way too much work for, I think, any general manager. In fact, I know there's not a general manager in the game that put that presentation together.”

Dombrowski is incorrect. 

One finalist team's GM told NBC Sports Boston they worked personally on their presentation and essay and felt the quality of the presentation, which was collaborative, helped land them the meeting, separating them from the pack. Another finalist team had their GM directly help put it together as well, and all of them may have.

But it wasn't just finalist teams that had GMs involved.

"We'd be emailing the presentation and they'd send it to me at 10 o'clock at night. I'd work on it for a couple hours and I'd send them comments at midnight," Reds general manager Dick Williams said, via MLB.com. "As it got closer and we knew we were going to have to send something, we really ramped it up.”

The people Dombrowski delegated the work to are highly respected and diligent. Among them, Allard Baird is a former general manager, Jared Banner is a future general manager. They followed Ohtani incredibly closely, devoting great time and effort well before any presentation was created. 

But why wouldn’t Dombrowski want to add to the man power of that great team, to prioritize this project himself once it came time to send the presentation? Leadership is about delegation, and it's also about knowing the right time to push full steam ahead with all available resources.

The Reds, of course, were not a finalist either, meeting the same fate as the Red Sox.

"We tried a few things. Didn't work," Williams said. "Those of us close to it that worked on it convinced ourselves that we had a very good case. We really wanted him to hear it and feel the same way we did."

But it was worth it.

The pursuit of Ohtani was an effort to convince a pitcher who could have been worth $200 million on the open market to sign with a club for roughly one tenth of that. Ohtani is an incredible bargain and rare talent that deserved every bit of focus and energy from the top of the organization.

As one GM put it recently regarding Ohtani, “It starts at the top.”

"We're not going to leave a stone unturned in the efforts to do it again if the opportunity arises,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in his podcast in late November. "We'll be responsible in how we do it, but we understand this is a one-time buying opportunity and you have to be prepared.

"To me, the worst thing we can be is sitting on the sideline being too conservative, sitting on our hands when an opportunity to change the history of the organization comes along. Because this is what this might be.”

What GM would have time for that?

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