No matter what’s happening in the world, you can still log on to Twitter at pretty much any given time see Red Sox fans arguing over Chaim Bloom’s job performance. When the Sox win, the stans are out in full force. When they lose, as they have done many times recently, the haters rejoice. It’s exhausting. It’s also pointless. Bloom is doing the job he was hired to do: Make the Red Sox competitive on a year-to-year basis without spending a ton of money. But the reckoning is coming.
Right now, the Sox are sixth in payroll, but they have legacy contracts for J.D. Martinez and Chris Sale on the books that inflate that number. When those guys are gone, expect Boston to fall even further, down toward double-digits, at least until John Henry gets antsy again and agrees to write a big ol’ check or two or three, unless those days are over. Under Bloom, they certainly will be.
If Bloom’s approach has its advantages, those advantages were on full display last season, when a flawed but charming team came within two wins of a World Series appearance. If his approach has its disadvantages, we’re seeing them now, as the hodgepodge effort to fill holes is backfiring, daily, in astounding fashion:
It’s hard to look at all that and be too complimentary of Bloom’s approach, but it’s hard to look at last year and be too down about it. This just isn’t Boston’s year, it seems, barring a miracle, but it’s not Bloom’s final year in charge, barring an off-field disaster. It’s full speed ahead on the process over results approach, because that’s how the organization has chosen to operate, and right now, that’s all they have.
This is in line with Bloom’s skill set, and the Rays, where Bloom came from, have shown a facility for operating under someone with that skill set for long enough that there’s obviously real merit in doing so, if done right. My problem is, and always has been, that Tampa Bay’s approach is one of a last resort for a team that shouldn’t exist, whereas Boston can comfortably afford to compete with the other big boys, because they have a huge, sustainable market.
Now there’s real fear that Bloom is set to trade Xander Bogaerts and/or Rafael Devers, and it’s hard to feel anything but despair, especially when you see studies showing that trading superstars for prospects almost never works. The Mookie Betts deal is, of course, a prime example of such… but then again, the Sox didn’t bother to maximize their Betts return the way the Nationals are about to do with Juan Soto, at which point the Betts deal will look considerably even more limp that it did the day it was finalized, and we’ll all get angry all over again.
For what it’s worth, I largely don’t even blame Bloom for that one. I have generally given him a soft pass on the Betts trade because the order clearly came from ownership as a condition of taking the job, but I’ve never pardoned it fully because Bloom did take the job. He signed up for this and the teams he has produced the last two years are perfect examples of the upper and lower bounds in which Boston is operating right now, where it’s clear that the highs aren’t high enough and the lows are unbearable. Something has to change.
So expect change. The question is: What kind? Call me crazy, but I don’t think trading Bogaerts and Devers is the way to improve a baseball team. What happens now is entirely on Bloom, and his ability to work in Boston’s framework, and not in Tampa Bay’s. His job is not in trouble – he clearly wasn’t expected to compete immediately – but the runway is running out, the plane is about to take off. In trying to throw out excess cargo, he’d best not toss the engines.