FORT MYERS, Fla. – This isn’t quite how Chaim Bloom imagined things would go, back when he dreamed of running a baseball team.
Less than two months after taking over the Red Sox – and with the start of spring training looming – Boston’s new chief baseball officer needed to replace a World Series-winning manager. Then Bloom incurred the wrath of the Fenway fans when he traded Mookie Betts, the ballclub’s best player, as part of a salary dump. And the team is still sweating out the results of an investigation into whether it cheated when it won the championship in 2018.
Like a manager reshuffling his rotation after an 18-inning game, Bloom has been forced to adjust – and quickly.
“Baseball will throw different things at you every day,” he last week as he settled into his first spring training with the Red Sox. “I’ve been in baseball long enough to know that there’s a lot of things about this business that don’t go according to plan, and it throws you a lot of unexpected surprises. So the fact that there were those surprises didn’t catch me off guard. But it was – obviously, especially within the last month – a lot more than I thought I’d be dealing with when I got here.”
A 36-year-old Yale classics major who started as a Baseball Prospectus intern and worked his way up the Rays masthead, Bloom was brought to Boston to transform the front office from the free-spending, win-now ways of Dave Dombrowksi to a smart-spending and sustainable organization like Tampa’s.
He already knew the Red Sox were trying to shed salary to get under baseball’s collective bargaining tax threshold; offloading Betts, the 2018 AL MVP, would be one way to do that. But Bloom figured to have all offseason to get comfortable in his new job, build relationships in and outside of Fenway Park, and explore his options.
Then manager Alex Cora was ousted as a result of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal; instead of the methodical managerial search Bloom might have imagined, he had to navigate the wrong part of the baseball calendar and steer clear of the still-ongoing Major League Baseball investigation into whether Boston’s 2018 championship was tainted by a similar cheating scheme.
Anyone who was on the Red Sox staff was suspect, so promoting from within brought the danger that the new manager might be punished and leave Bloom looking for a yet another replacement.
“That process was very unusual just because of the circumstances, the timing,” Bloom conceded.
But the sudden frenzy of activity was “energizing. And it has been since Day 1.”
“We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us, obviously,” he said. “You know, a lot of people care about what happens to this team and we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make them happy.”
While still without a manager, Bloom closed the deal that would send Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with pitcher David Price for outfielder Alex Verdugo and a package of prospects. (A first iteration of the deal fell through when the Red Sox balked at the medical reports on pitcher Brusdar Graterol, who would be coming over from the Twins.) The Red Sox saved about $75 million in the deal.
The reaction back home was … not good.
That, Bloom was prepared for.
“When you’re in a place like Boston, the Red Sox matter so much to so many people,” he said. “That certainly adds to the amount of eyeballs watching the team. It adds to the amount of excitement surrounding the team. But the mission stays the same. And I don’t think we could possibly care more than we already do.
“To me, it just makes it exciting that so many people are interested, that they want the team to do well. They care about what you’re doing,” Bloom said. “And that, that just is a really exciting thing to wake up to every day.”
With the MLB cheating probe stalled on the eve of spring training, Bloom couldn’t wait any longer, promoting bench coach Ron Roenicke to interim manager; the temporary tag would disappear if the former Brewers skipper is cleared. Bloom knew people were watching how he handled his first big decisions – not just those around baseball, but within the Red Sox organization.
“Whether you’ve been on the job for a day or 10 years, people are always going to look to you,” he said. “There’s no question, you’re very conscious in a job like this or in any leadership role how the people you work with are keying off of what you give them.”
Bloom has been in charge less than four months. He hasn’t found a home in Boston yet. His family is still living in Florida.
And he’s already made two big decisions that will go a long way toward establishing his legacy in a city where his three predecessors all won a World Series – or two – and still left under unfavorable terms.
“I think you have to do something that you believe is right,” Bloom said. “We owe it to not just ourselves, but we owe it to our fans … we owe it to everybody not to shy away from that just because it will be painful to do it.
“Every job in this business has its own challenges. You can’t be afraid of those challenges. You have to take them on.”
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