On a subdued Sunday evening at Fenway Park in September 2019, the Red Sox fired Dave Dombrowski.
Almost exactly four years later, they did the same to his replacement.
While hosting the same team, at that.
Before their doubleheader with the Yankees on Thursday afternoon, the Red Sox announced they’d fired Chaim Bloom.
Within the hour, Sam Kennedy entered the interview room to field questions, and while discussing the disappointing ongoing season, said, “We own this.”
But while there’s certainly more organizational change ahead, Bloom is yet another one of their sacrificial lambs. Despite each leading the Red Sox to at least one deep postseason run, neither Bloom, nor Dombrowski, nor Ben Cherington lasted more than four seasons in the driver’s seat. A pattern has emerged, a common denominator, their erstwhile employer.
Like his predecessors, Bloom is being made to fall on the sword for an organization that, for all of its posturing about trying to win more championships, can’t seem to make up its mind about what they want or how far they’re truly willing to go to get there.
Until the final season of the Dombrowski era – four years qualifies as an era when no one’s lasted longer since Theo Epstein’s nine years – it was abundantly clear the Red Sox were trying to win. They gave David Price the richest pitching contract in Major League history at the time, and traded for Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale.
When that wasn’t enough, Dombrowski signed J.D. Martinez, and he was able to somewhat fill the gaping hole left by David Ortiz’s retirement. He also added some top trade deadline acquisitions in Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce. And though the upper levels of the farm system were, indeed, depleted on the journey back to October, several of Dombrowski’s prospects are only getting started in the Majors, including Triston Casas, Brayan Bello and Ceddanne Rafaela.
By the end of Dombrowski’s tenure, the Red Sox wanted to take a break from spending over the limit, and they needed to strengthen their farm system, which ranked last in the Majors in 2019. So, despite Dombrowski’s track record, which included totally rebuilding a broken Detroit Tigers system, the Red Sox wanted someone else for the task at hand.
Bloom’s appeal was no secret: With a minuscule budget, the small-market Tampa Bays Rays managed to consistently develop elite prospects and field competitive teams. If the Red Sox could get Bloom to do the same for their farm system, that, combined with their overflowing coffers would make them an unstoppable force.
The Red Sox welcomed him to Boston in October 2019 with a to-do list that would render him instantly unpopular: shed salary, rebuild the farm system, and turn them into consistent contenders. By January, he’d also lost his manager. By February, he’d made the difficult decision to trade Mookie Betts (and David Price). By March, he was the first Red Sox executive helming a team during a global pandemic since Harry Frazee, a fitting parallel, since each will forever be remembered for trading away a generational talent.
In January, the Red Sox held their first Winter Weekend since 2020. At the previous event, Bloom wasn’t three months into the job, Betts was still in Boston, and the coronavirus pandemic was still to come. Making a surprise appearance in front of a frustrated, vitriolic audience, the team’s principal owner told a story.
“When Nomar (Garciaparra) was traded, I got a call from Theo Epstein,” John Henry shared. “He said, ‘I feel like the loneliest man in New England right now.’ ”
It’s not hard to see Bloom, who traded away Betts four months into the job, feeling the same way, nor is it realistic to think that if the 2004 team hadn’t reversed that 86-year curse, Epstein’s tenure would’ve gone the same way.
Bloom’s time in Boston was chaotic, perplexing, unpleasant, even downright painful. His teams finished at the bottom of the division twice, with a run to the ALCS in between (jury’s still out on this year). At times, he seemed unwilling to be as aggressive as his predecessors, and too protective over the fledgling minor-league growth.
But throughout, he was – at least outwardly – unconcerned with his own legacy. He held fast to his vision for the organization, and maintained the team was on the right track. Sitting alongside Henry on that first night of Winter Weekend, Bloom allowed the irate, heartbroken, fed-up fans to scream and boo him. Then, he asked them to trust the process. The vision, he insisted, was coming to fruition.
Indeed, some of that vision came into sharper focus this season. In Rafael Devers, Jarren Duran, Casas, and others, they have a promising young core. The bullpen is better thanks to several free-agent signings and other moves.
The farm system also went from one of the worst to one of the best, according to several expert evaluators, and its newfound depth bolstered the Major League club, keeping them in the playoff hunt much deeper into the summer than most projected. Several of their top prospects debuted this year and have done quite well, especially under such chaotic circumstances.
For the first time in close to a decade, the Red Sox get to enter an offseason with both ample financial flexibility and a flourishing farm system at their disposal. Isn’t that exactly what they hired Bloom to do?
Someone else will reap the benefits of Bloom’s hard work. His successor will inherit the kind of strong foundation he did not.
Chaim Bloom accepted a thankless task. When the Red Sox hoist their next World Series trophy, he should at least get a ‘Thank you’ note.