The Red Sox traded Christian Vázquez to the Astros on Monday, the culmination of a few days of whispers toward this very deal. The Sox also traded for Reese McGuire, Vázquez’s effective replacement, and Tommy Pham, who will give the Sox some outfield depth.
It was weird.
First part first: Losing Vázque plainly sucks. Even if it made sense to trade him, it blows to a) lose your longest-tenured player, b) your strongest vibes guy and c) “the player to whom you just told the game plan for beating the Astros” when you’re about to play the Astros. As Vázquez said before Red Sox PR inexplicably ushered him away from microphones, baseball’s a business, so he understood, just as I suspect most of us do.
It doesn’t mean we have to feel good about it. And I didn’t, for about 20 minutes, during which time I was thinking about how Chaim Bloom and John Henry have broken the fanbase to the point that they have bought our anger and scorn, even for procedural moves. One can trust the process all they want, they can crunch the numbers to their heart’s content, their can fall back on platitudes about looking long-term, but this is still a game staged, played and enjoyed by human beings, and our reactions are as valid as their deflections. If this feels like a betrayal, it’s because the fans feel betrayed.
Then news came across the wire that the Sox traced for McGuire and Pham, and I just about lost my shit. The Vázquez move had an air of seriousness about it—squaring the long term goals with an ill-conceived, doomed season—which was ultimately good. The McGuire move I get on a purely “we need bodies” level but the Pham move, for an aging player whose clubhouse reputation is iffy at best (and will probably mix with Boston, especially its fans, like oil and water), is just mystifying... at least until you realize that Bloom has one play, and he will only ever run that play, no matter how ineffectual it is. Then it’s crystal clear.
Bloom’s play is to try to increase the team incrementally ad infinitum and hope you get close enough to luck your way into a title. It sounds good, but it almost always doesn’t work. It can work, and has produced a handful of World Series titles, but it has failed at a spectacular rate. Even the Rays, for whom it’s been better than bad, have never ended up taking home the World Series trophy. And they have to play at the low limits tables. The Sox are like the billionaire trying to get rich at $5 blackjack; they’re self-defeating and clearly not playing with a full deck. The casino employees try to prod them, but they know what they’re doing. They just don’t care about what anyone else thinks, even if we’re trying help.
Things are going downhill quickly. As recently as last week, I thought the Sox could be building to a future where they didn’t nickel-and-dime their way into contention. I no longer feel that way. Given the absurd successes of the last three Sox general managers, I have pre-supposed similar success on Bloom, and given him the benefit of the doubt toward another World Series title. If everyone the Sox hired this century before him won it all, he could surely be expected to do the same, right?
It hurts me to say this, but... absolutely not. If nothing else, Monday stripped me of that delusion once and for all. Bloom’s goal in running the Red Sox right now, despite what he implies, is not long-term focused. It’s today-focused, and no number of todays of disappointment seem to make any dent in this, even if he thinks they’ll eventually all add up. Anyone looking at the actual gains can tell you it won’t work, but he insists it will, and he’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Remind me, if you can remember, what that’s called again? And why should we accept it?