The vocal minority has spoken, and Fenway Sports Group has heeded their cries.
With Chaim Bloom out of office, it seems that the era of long-range planning for the Boston Red Sox has come to an end. It was a fun, whimsical daydream to ponder a Red Sox foundation built to go toe-to-toe with the best franchises in the sport for the next seven-to-ten years; duking it out with the Braves, Astros, and Dodgers to see which team could rack up the most championships. But it’s now time to put away childish things and get back on board with Fenway Sports Group’s fire drill method of team building.
Bloom got close. In my opinion, he was a mere two starting pitchers away from fielding a championship-caliber team. Unfortunately for us all, patience is not a virtue among the Boston fanbase. On the contrary, patience is apparently a cardinal sin in the town that has gotten to enjoy 12 championships from their four major sports teams over the past 22 years.
Chaim Bloom was scared for refusing to deal away prospects while rebuilding the farm system.
He was in over his head for not cutting big checks to the Kyle Schwarbers, Zach Eflins, and Jose Abreus of the world.
He was indecisive for letting Xander Bogaerts, Michael Wacha, and Nathan Eovaldi go in free agency.
He was a nerd for wasting his energy on modernizing the analytics and scouting operations rather than negotiating deals to bring a Justin Verlander, Trea Turner, or Max Scherzer to Beantown. After all, this fanbase has been starved for a championship since way back in 2018. How much more were they going to take?
In all honesty, Boston fans are allowed to have high standards. They are allowed to demand perennial excellence. They are allowed to ignore the finer points of the game and scream for the brass to just shut up and get some players who throw heat and sock dingers. Fans are supposed to be shortsighted and somewhat oblivious. They have their own lives and concerns.
The problem is when the ownership group begins to listen to them.
Yes, the fans are the consumers of the product on the field. They are the people that the team is tasked with entertaining, and the well-being of the organization is dependent on fans being satisfied enough with the product to pay their hard-earned money to see it. If you can’t keep the fans happy, you won’t keep your franchise afloat for long.
But Major League Baseball isn’t showbusiness. They may share a lot of similarities, but the objectives and procedures of crafting a successful Major League Baseball team are very different from those of creating a lucrative movie, play, or TV show.
For instance, a big budget movie requires a largely unquantifiable blend of characters, star power, realism, conflict, and polish in order to succeed. Even if all the elements are in place in the right portions, the final product may still not do great business. See It’s a Wonderful Life, Blow Out, and The Shawshank Redemption, unanimously loved films that made meager returns at the box office and only achieved mainstream appreciation years later. In many ways, the secret sauce to creating a financially successful production is a complete mystery.
It’s a lot easier to determine how to draw fans to the ballpark, especially in a sports-crazed town like Boston. While there are a thousand different metrics and considerations that go into predicting the performance of different players and teams, there is really only one statistic that truly matters to sports fans.
No matter what kind of team the Red Sox put on the field; be it a low-scoring team with dominant pitching, a band of sluggers with marginal hurlers, or anything in-between; Red Sox fans will show up to the ballpark if the team wins a lot of games. The games don’t have to be compelling dramas, and the division races don’t have to be littered with edge-of-your-seat twists and turns. If the Red Sox win games, no matter how they do it, Fenway will be sold out.
Why not invest a couple years of low attendance and shortsighted criticism from fans and beat reporters for the sake of creating a great team that will pack the ballpark and shower you with accolades for seasons upon seasons to come?
The Red Sox were on the path to becoming a perpetual winner with Chaim Bloom at the helm. He used efficient scouting and developmental techniques to acquire and train a self-sustaining cycle of talented minor leaguers that will have significant value at the Major League level. In other words, he followed the model of success that the best teams in baseball have been following for the past ten years.
We’ve all seen the pattern that Bloom worked to emulate. Invest heavily in your farm system, amass a pile of talent in the minors, deduce which homegrown players you can build your team around, and only then pay long-term contracts and trade valuable assets to acquire star players from other organizations. We’ve seen this same template during the past decade from the Braves, Astros, and Dodgers, all of whom are sitting at the top of the MLB mountain right now with no signs of slowing down. These teams all endured long dry spells without loading up, waiting patiently for their respective organizations to reach their windows of contention. Once those windows opened, the results on the field were unmistakable.
It’s a proven strategy, a blueprint could have created a dynasty in Boston if done right. And Bloom was doing it right.
Here’s a quick word to everyone who says, “no, he wasn’t doing it right! They still aren’t competing!”
You are the problem. Not Chaim Bloom or Andrew Friedman or Alex Anthropoulos.
It works when done right. But doing it right takes time.
Not just two or three seasons either. Not when you have nothing of value in Double- or Triple-A when the process begins. And that’s the position Bloom found himself in when he was hired in October of 2019. Triston Casas, Brayan Bello, and Jarren Duran were still three years away from debuting. This was a total organizational overhaul, which cannot be done in just a couple seasons. To build the foundation of a dynasty, you must have the discipline to turn down the quick payout in lieu of staying committed to the huge jackpot.
But too many Red Sox fans lack that discipline. Even after four championships since 2004, they just want to win right now and not worry about tomorrow until daybreak.
And for some reason, Red Sox ownership actually listens to them.
Amazingly, reaching the ALCS in 2021 only made things worse for Bloom. That team was pieced together with bridge-year components just like the following two seasons. Everything broke right for the Red Sox in 2021, leading to an improbable playoff run that convinced many of us that the Red Sox rebuild was actually ahead of schedule. All of a sudden, the ALCS became the standard for the Chaim Bloom regime. In a lot of ways, Bloom was doomed by his own early success.
Rebuild is a dirty word in many corners of Boston, but Fenway Sports Group was fully on board with the rebuild in late 2019. John Henry and Tom Werner know that you can’t stock a farm system in a couple years, and they knew they would have to take their lumps from the fanbase for taking the team in that direction.
That goes with the territory of hiring a merc like Dave Dombrowski to raid your farm system and kill your financial flexibility in exchange for a brief championship window.
It goes with the territory of trying to resurrect that slain farm system and financial flexibility.
It goes with the territory of trading Mookie Betts.
Yes, Fenway Sports Group decided to trade Mookie Betts in order to resolve their payroll imbalance. They made that decision long before Chaim Bloom accepted the job of Chief Baseball Officer. Yet with Bloom now fired, FSG has orchestrated the fallout to land squarely in his lap. The most shortsighted fans are celebrating Bloom’s departure as if he had thrust an organizational rebuild upon the helpless stewards of Fenway Sports Group, who had no choice but to fall in line behind his tyrannical policies.
Perhaps Henry and Werner were as fooled by the success of 2021 as the fans were. They heaped praise upon Bloom for turning the Red Sox around after only one poor (Covid-shortened) season, apparently not realizing the disproportionate amount of good fortune that made that playoff run possible. To be fair, I didn’t realize it either. In October of 2021, Chaim Bloom felt to me like Theo Epstein on steroids, the new Wonderboy on Landsdowne Street.
Whatever the reason, Henry and Werner rejected the idea that rebuilds are marathons less than two seasons later.
Let’s face it, Henry and Werner aren’t the marathon type. They broke the 86-year Curse of the Bambino a mere two seasons into their reign. They alienated Theo Epstein four years after their second title (three years after reaching Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS). They ditched Ben Cherington less than two years after their third championship, asked Dombrowski to win a fourth, and then axed him ten months after he did just that.
Look, I can certainly understand the aversion to marathons. Hell, I don’t even like to jog. But you’ll never hear me declare that I’m in training for a 26-mile race. Henry and Werner should have thought long and hard about whether or not they could stomach a lengthy rebuild before they hired an executive like Chaim Bloom.
There’s no shame in not being a marathon guy. But if you slap one of those obnoxious 26.2 stickers on your bumper, you better be prepared to finish the damn race. You can’t change who you are, and John Henry and Tom Werner are impatient, reactive slaves to success and adoration.
We all should have seen the writing on the wall during the Winter Weekend Town Hall this past January, where a squadron of the most cretinous Red Sox fans alive met each attempt Henry made to speak with buckets of derision. That Town Hall was one season removed from an ALCS appearance, yet those fans publicly embarrassed themselves, jeering and whining as if the Curse was still alive and well.
Unfortunately for Chaim, they publicly embarrassed John Henry as well. This was the beginning of the end for Bloom in Boston.
It’s actually kind of poetic that Henry was chided in that fashion, because it was Henry and Werner that conditioned Red Sox fans to be so vitriolic in the first place. Fenway Sports Group continually gets antsy after a couple rough seasons, scorches the earth of their front offices, then pulls a drastic corrective U-turn, often throwing ample sums of money at the problem to soften the blow for themselves.
The fans have followed their lead. They grow angrier and angrier each time the team takes a step back, with nary a kind word for ownership even after the ship has been righted. FSG appears more and more incompetent with each reset, and they recuperate less goodwill with each subsequent title.
Erratic decisions, philosophical about-faces, strategic smear campaigns, prodigious ticket prices, and coldblooded business dealings have portrayed John Henry and Tom Werner as ultra-capitalist corporate demagogues in one of the bluest states in the Union. They’ve brought four championships to a fanbase that would’ve performed unspeakable acts for a single title back in the Yawkey days, yet they’ve somehow managed to position themselves as villains.
I am one of the decreasing few that have always admired and appreciated the success that FSG has brought to the Red Sox, dismissing much of the public relations cringe factor as a necessary evil of running a billion-dollar business. However, abandoning the winning strategy Chaim Bloom began implementing in 2019 now has them on my bad side as well.
So now, the umpteenth redirection of this franchise begins. The marathon experiment is over, and the sprint has begun. The cardio and pliability workouts have been shelved, and the 45-pound plates have been dusted off. It’s time to max out and get jacked, bruh!
At the directive of Henry and Werner, the Dombrowski clone that replaces Bloom will spend big on free agents, trade away a bunch of prospects, and create a two-to-three-year window where the Red Sox will kick ass and just may win a World Series. I’ll enjoy every win that they secure, as I always have. I’ll pump my fist for every solid acquisition, as I always will.
But I’ll continue to gaze with admiration at the product that Braves, Dodgers, and Astros fans continue to enjoy each season, because none of those teams are going anywhere for awhile. They’re in contention now, they’ll stay in contention when the Red Sox level up, and they’ll remain in contention long after the shortened Red Sox window expires, after which FSG will flip the script yet again and begin another half-assed rebuild with a newly-barren farm system.
It was cool dreaming of a Red Sox dynasty. It’s the last thing on my Boston sports fan bucket list, and I was beyond excited to see my favorite team work toward that goal.
But in a city where impulsiveness is a virtue and patience is a sin, it just may not be in the cards.