The Red Sox lost to the Braves Wednesday night for the third straight time, bringing their record to 12-25. They might have the worst pitching staff ever assembled. They have offloaded Mitch Moreland, Kevin Pillar and others for prospects, while Mookie Betts hit a game-tying home run last night in the bottom of the ninth in Los Angeles.
And yet... things are going well?
I detest the Betts trade with every fiber of my being, which comes as a shock to you, I know. I abhor the defenses of the trade even more, which boil down to “he was going to leave anyway!” That’s A) unknowable and B) the team’s fault anyway, even if true. If you don’t want to make room for one of the best players in baseball, as a baseball team, then you should perhaps try a different tack.
(In light of the Twitter debacle after which the kicker on this post is named, this was another week where the trade’s defenders seek to e x p l a i n the whole thing away with math and logic fit for a kindergartner whose logic extends as far as “If my dad does it, it must be good.” First, if Mike Trout was traded for the same Betts package right now, it would be a travesty. Second, if Chaim Bloom is so good at this, why couldn’t he team-build around Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers instead of just the last two? Much too consider!)
With all of that said for the fiftieth time, from the moment Betts was traded, the environment for a rebuild has become extremely accommodating. Almost all of it seems like a giant coincidence, a triumph of results over process, the same type of positive outcome you get by hitting an inside straight. It’s working out, but you’d never draw it up this way.
First, there’s the pandemic, which has compressed a horrific season into one-third of the normal number of games. Aside from the fact it’s still unbearable and nigh-unwatchable, the portions are blessedly small. Thank Aceves.
Second, the Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez maladies made it clear from the get-go that this was no championship season. Following the Betts trade, these strokes of bad luck were in one case terrifying and in both cases clarifying; if there was any doubt about letting Bloom cook entering the year, it all dissolved before the first pitch was thrown.
Third, the compressed year expanded the number of playoff teams and, by virtue of that and a slate small enough to suppress separation in the standings, expanded the number of buyers on the market. The Padres’s all-in approach is refreshing and only sometimes present in the trade market, but the Phillies and Rockies deals are more indicative of work under general league duress. To wit, I don’t see the Rox being buyers if the trade deadline was 50 games later or so, simply for reasons of attrition.
Fourth, Bloom is good at this. He has almost certainly been over praised for nabbing Connor Seabold, to name one, but his return from the roster-crunched Padres in return for Moreland was sublime. I still — obviously — think trying to compete with Betts, Bogaerts and Devers would have been a better idea (and will forever, during which time I will never shut up about it), but I respect Bloom’s hustle, and it’s only the beginning.
So, finally, in this darkest of years, a light. Maybe it’s not the end of the tunnel — it took 86 years to find that last time — but it’s a light nonetheless. And maybe the Sox shoved themselves into the tunnel instead of crossing the mountaintop, and maybe I have Stockholm Syndrome, my eyes finally adjusting the darkness. I say I’ll never forgive them, and I might not, but I also might soften to the point it doesn’t matter. I don’t know if that’s being a good fan or a bad one, but it’s the one I am. It’s a not entirely pleasant feeling that’s inescapable and not easy to describe, but it’s not unique. If you know it, you know it well.