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Hired Mike Hazen as General Manager. [9/24]

Since the hiring of Dave Dombrowski to head the Red Sox baseball operations department led to the departure of now ex-GM Ben Cherington, we’ve been waiting to see who would fill that role. Many rumors swirled, as rumors tend to do, concerning who Dombrowski might tap for Cherington’s vacant chair, from Frank Wren to Quinton McCracken, to [gulp] Jim Bowden. Yes, someone actually suggested Jim Bowden.

Yesterday it was announced the Red Sox had hired a new GM. The answer we’ve all been waiting for arrived and, good news, it is an answer we should all be happy to hear. New GM Mike Hazen won’t have the same kind of power as the previous GMs working under John Henry’s ownership group. He’ll be working under Dave Dombrowski, who will set the tone for the organization, as well as pull the trigger on trades, free agent signings, and the like. The significance in this hiring isn’t who will hold the power. We already know Dombrowski holds the power. The significance isn’t Hazen. It’s Dombrowski and whether he recognizes, appreciates, and intends to perpetuate what the organization he’s joined does well.

Dave Dombrowski took over a team and an organization that, more than anything, was down on its luck. GM Ben Cherington was (and still is) just two measly years off of winning a World Series. The organization was routinely ranked among the best if not the best when it comes to minor league talent. There were certainly potholes to fix, but this was hardly a broken situation, and hardly comparable to the one Dombrowski took over when he inherited a Tigers club bereft of talent both on the major league roster as well as all throughout the organization. That organization required a complete overhaul of the way business was conducted and the people who conducted that business. This is not that.

But me writing that sentence doesn’t mean Dombrowski agrees with it. Many new bosses come in to a new job and instinctively want to change everything, move the plants around, get new furniture in the lunch room, and fire everyone. The instinct isn’t necessarily a bad one, either.

I was put in a similar situation once, where I took control of an office staffed with people who weren’t performing as they should have been. I interviewed the out-going boss and he, quite candidly I thought, said, “Yeah, you’re going to have to get some new people in here.” He meant that over time I was going to have to get rid of everyone and bring in new people, people who would be my people, who would be loyal to me, who wouldn’t see me as an outsider who did things differently or wrong, but as the person who gave them a job.

In many ways the Red Sox aren’t a comparable situation to the one I experienced. They do things well, many things in fact, but it would be easy, understandable, reflexive even, if Dombrowski stepped in and instinctively wanted to blow the whole thing up, from players, to front office executives, to scouts, to the janitorial staff. Sweep it all out, bring in new people who weren’t familiar with the old ways, who when asked to do something wouldn’t think, “this isn’t as good as it was back when Ben was running things.”

Hazen’s hire also says something else about Dombrowski; that he is willing to learn. Hazen is 39 years old. He’s a baby in terms of baseball executives. But with that newness comes a different way of looking at things. The Red Sox have been, since John Henry bought the club, an organization that put a heavy emphasis on analytics. The hiring of Dave Dombrowski put that continued emphasis into some doubt. Had Dombrowski hired Wren or Bowden or someone of that ilk, that would have represented the organization stepping back away from analytics. Hazen isn’t some quant from a back room with eight pocket protectors and calluses built up from punching numbers into a spreadsheet, but he is a guy who has worked with the Red Sox since 2006. He knows the Red Sox ways, and promoting him is an implicit endorsement of those ways, one of which is using analytics to give a certain perspective in decision making.

There is another aspect to it all though, a more personal one. Hazen grew up rooting for the Red Sox. He grew up loving the team as a kid, just like the men who sat in his chair before him, Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington, did. He understands Boston and Red Sox fans because he’s from here. He is one. But that’s just a story. It’s a beautiful story, and one that’s enduring, but narrative won’t help the organization make better decisions or make the team better on the field. What makes the hiring of Hazen an exciting hire has little to do with Hazen himself, who is likely a smart, go-getter, full of vigor and bright ideas, and what have you. That all might be true. Or not! We can’t say for sure since we’ve never seen Hazen perform at this level before, though his resume is promising.

We might not know Hazen well, but if there is one aspect of Hazen’s personality Boston fans can all get behind, it’s his loyalty. The word keeps coming up in others’ descriptions of him. He has had, it seems, many chances to further his career by leaving Boston, but he has repeatedly opted to stay despite that. The Red Sox are in his blood, and if you’re reading this, you can probably relate to that. If not, it’s still understandable that that’s an easy thing to root for, as fan. It’s one of the reasons Theo Epstein was so beloved (the other being that whole 2004 thing).

It’s an exciting day because we fans are still learning about the man who runs our franchise, who will guide us through what promises to be a tumultuous off-season. We are still learning about him and learning to trust him. So hiring Mike Hazen as GM is exciting because of what it says about Dombrowski. Dombrowski isn’t insecure in his position, he’s willing to listen to the opinions of others, and that he’s strong enough that he doesn’t need to change things in Boston just to make them different than they were. Evaluate everything, but if it was working before, that’s great, keep it working that way.

Hazen’s tenure as GM will likely rise or fall on the strength of Dave Dombrowski’s choices, so it’s relieving to see what this hire says about him as a man, as a boss, and as the head of the Boston Red Sox baseball operations staff. Change is never easy, but with Hazen in the fold, Dave Dombrowski’s Red Sox are off to a fine start.

Thank you for reading

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Hazen is 'Assistant General Manager' in everything but title, no?
Well, sort of, because of course Dombrowski (the President of Baseball Operations) did hire Frank Wren, just not as "GM". Wren's official title is "Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations." Hazen's official title is "Senior Vice President/General Manager". Both report directly to Dombrowski, who is clearly calling the shots.

No clue what the difference between "Baseball Operations" and "General Manager" is, though.

And the man who replaced Mr. Dombrowski in Detroit, Mr. Avila, is not off to such a good start, retaining Brad Ausmus.
Matthew, did you put the single mother who was just diagnosed with breast cancer at the top of your list of people to fire to get her off the company insurance plan? And was her replacement suitably grateful?