The Bloom is Off the Red Sox Rose

When the Red Sox hired Chaim Bloom to run their baseball operations, he had the Right Stuff so far as they were concerned at the time. They decided it was time to play belt-tightening ball, rather against their nature. They figured the guy who'd learned how to play it during all those Tampa Bay years would be the ace of their front office staff.

They may also have figured he was Houdini enough to escape the shackle they imposed upon Bloom from the outset. He wasn't. Maybe not even the savviest mind in baseball could have been.

Bloom may have been reared in the Rays' frugal ways, but he wasn't foolish enough to want to lose Mookie Betts, an absolute franchise player. Being all but forced to trade Betts rather than pay him his worth when he'd reach free agency the following season signed and sealed Bloom's fate long before it was delivered last Thursday.

He probably didn't want to lowball Xander Bogaerts, either. But it assured Bogaerts's free agency departure. Then Bloom, under who knows whose persuasions, turned right around and handed Trevor Story Bogaerts money before Bogaerts was even out of town.

Not even rebuilding the farm his predecessor Dave Dombrowski drained in building their 2018 World Series winner could save Bloom with the Red Sox, after all. And Bloom walked into a situation in which there was a kind of elephant in the room due to be exposed not too long after he walked in.

That, of course, was the tainting of that '18 Series winner. In due course the '18 Red Sox were exposed as having operated a replay room reconnaissance ring for sign-stealing. They (and surely others) didn't go even half as far as the 2017 Astros' far more elaborate such intelligence agency. But it left the '18 Series winner under a toxic cloud regardless.

Rebuilding the farm may be to Bloom's credit, but managing trade deadlines isn't. This July, the Red Sox had the best month in baseball. But in every August that Bloom ran the front office, the Olde Towne Team had losing records. This season put it into blaring microcosm. The Red Sox this July: 15-8. This August: 13-15.

Oh, they can still hit. As of Sunday morning the Red Sox were second in the American League in hits and in team batting average, fifth in runs scored and team on-base percentage, fourth in team OPS and team total bases, and top of the heap as doubles hitters.

But their pitching is a mess. They're fifth from bottom in the league for team ERA, and the team's fielding-independent pitching (FIP: sort of their ERA when the defense behind the pitching is removed from the equation) is a ghastly 4.44. No Red Sox starter has an ERA lower than Brayan Bello's 3.71, but he has a 4.19 FIP.

And, after Bloom mostly stood pat on dealing pending free agent pitchers at the 2022 trade deadline, he could only watch when Bogaerts signed with the Padres and Story was lost for this season after elbow surgery. Saying this year's Red Sox defense is porous is speaking politely.

Before this year's trade deadline, third baseman Rafael Devers — whom Bloom did extend to keep in the Red Sox family — said flatly the team needed pitching help. They still need it. Everyone knows this year's Red Sox can still hit, but opposing lineups prepare to face this year's pitching model tabulating the hikes in their batting stats before the first pitch.

And was there any more embarrassing set of days this year than when Betts returned to Boston in Dodgers fatigues in late August, proceeding to treat the Red Sox like piñatas with a .467/.500/.800 slash line for the set including 7 hits, 2 doubles, and a 2-run homer over the Green Monster seats? In the middle of maybe the best season of his career, yet?

Bloom isn't entirely to blame for the Red Sox mess. When the team's ownership decided belt-tightening and falling below the luxury tax threshold was the preferred operating mode, they picked a guy who'd spent 15 years learning how to maneuver and produce winners with a Rays team loaded with genius for building winning teams out of youth and bargain parts.

Forcing Bloom to trade Betts a year ahead of his scheduled free agency equaled an airline board forcing the carrier to swap its 787s for commuter jets. Bloom built the Red Sox's 2021 American League Championship Series entrant, but that series also exposed them as never missing opportunities to miss opportunities. (And, never stopping ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez's almost one-man demolition show.)

In a way, Bloom shouldn't feel terrible about that. Getting that far in the postseason hasn't always guaranteed Red Sox executive survival. Just ask Dombrowski, who lasted only ten months after that 2018 Series conquest, in large part because he drained the farm Ben Cherington rebuilt.

Just ask Cherington himself, now the Pirates' baseball operations chief. He un-sunk the ship sunk by the Bobby Valentine nightmare of 2012 (a nightmare imposed on Cherington when he was overruled from the top in wanting someone else), turned it into the 2013 Series championship, but got shown the door when Dombrowski became available following his execution in Detroit.

Red Sox Nation doesn't stay with their team expecting it to behave like a mid-market team when building or replenishing and then to perform like a team with one somewhat lopsided half but the other half looking half lost and half baked. The future may look bright with Bloom's farm remaking, of course, but this year's Red Sox are out of the AL East race officially, on the threshold of wild card elimination, and the bright future looks a little too distant for now.

It won't do, either, to say, well, they were playing .500 ball and even had a winning record while being dead last in the division. That's not what Red Sox Nation expects. But it wasn't really Bloom's fault. When he walked into the job and was handed the immediate Betts trade mandate, the Red Sox ownership all but assured Bloom's tenure equaled being hoisted for failure.

So who will have the honor of picking up where Bloom now leaves off? Excellent question. It only begins with a solid candidate named David Stearns getting picked off by the Mets to run their baseball operations. Already the Red Sox hunt for a new baseball ops chief has strike one in the count.

Which means nothing if the team's ownership wants to continue playing the financial game like another poor relative. "They're the Boston Bleeping Red Sox," says Athletic analyst/Smart Baseball author Keith Law, "and it's time they start acting like it again." Perhaps a little past time.

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