I get why Chaim Bloom’s future would be a talking point in the midst of an unexpected last-place season. Red Sox ownership has proven to be nothing if not reactionary since the departure of Theo Epstein, tiring general managers/baseball operations managers/baseball chiefs about as often as LeBron James’ late-career teams.
Ben Cherington won a World Series in 2013 and was replaced midway through his fourth season two years later. Dave Dombrowski then won it all with a juggernaut in 2018, only to be dropped the following September.
But even by those standards, removing Bloom from office now would be foolhardy. He’s in the middle of his third season and he’s already achieved an American League championship streak. While there’s a lot to criticize this season, John Henry and Co. hired him to settle their payrolls and rebuild their farming system, and on both fronts he’s successful. Shortstop Marcelo Mayer is a legitimate top-10 prospect and recent arrivals Brayan Bello, Connor Wong and Triston Casas are expected to play important roles going forward. The club could also have around $140m to spend this winter, albeit to support a gutted roster.
The property knew that a settling of scores was looming. Dombrowski’s tenure before being fired was to cut payrolls like Dexter, with Mookie Betts, David Price and JD Martinez on the chopping block. Bloom ended up trading the first two in what amounted to a salary dump with the Dodgers, and the third is only there because he never retired.
With all this talent off the books, what did the property expect? A lean year was inevitable, and it’s a credit to Bloom and manager Alex Cora that the Red Sox contested in 2021 behind a roster of high performers.
Bloom undid much of that good work — and cost himself most of the resulting goodwill — by taking a tasteless approach to both this offseason and the trade deadline. Trading Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley as a way to buy leads felt like a big deal move, at least until it became clear he was planning to roll or die with Bradley in the right field. The same goes for right-hander James Paxton, who signed with 2023 in mind, but at the expense of 2022. The Red Sox are unlikely to get anything for their $6 million.
The trade deadline brought more confusion, with starting receiver Christian Vazquez not only shipped off, but to the rival Houston Astros, much to the clubhouse’s dismay. But then, rather than commit to a rebuild, Bloom retained pending free agents Nathan Eovaldi and Martinez, adding outfielder Tommy Pham, first baseman Eric Hosmer and receiver Reese McGuire. Hosmer is injured, but the other two outplayed their predecessors regardless – we now know the season went down the toilet in July, his demise hastened by Bloom’s inability to get help from the bullpen .
Tomase: No pressure, Casas, but the Sox farm system can’t afford another puff
It’s fair to question his performance after these recent failures, but they’re not to the point of costing him his job, at least not yet. No one can rebuild an agricultural system in three years, injuries have taken their toll, and this winter will be the first they really have money to spend.
To complicate matters, CEO Sam Kennedy guaranteed Bloom and Cora would return in an interview with The Athletic last week. Kennedy’s attempt to clarify their future only clouded it, as shooting either wasn’t really on anyone’s radar until he said they were safe. Now, fans are understandably wondering why the subject was brought up, with votes of confidence historically around 50-50 proposals.
That said, I’m inclined to take Kennedy at his word. Owners may not be happy with this year’s results, but I haven’t heard anything to suggest they disapprove of the overall direction of the franchise. If we dismiss the pandemic-shortened 2020 season as the clusterbleep it was, then Bloom is effectively 1-for-2 atop the organization.
It’s not the kind of average that gets anyone fired, no matter how uncomfortable fans may feel about the future. That does, however, mean he’s officially on the clock, and we could be having a very different conversation around this time next year.