NEW YORK — Chaim Bloom was in Pawtucket on Sunday morning to watch some of the Red Sox prospects get in a workout ahead of the rain.
These days it’s better to dream about the future when you’re the chief baseball officer of the Red Sox. The present is too painful.
It was clear the Sox would take a step back after trading Mookie Betts and David Price. When Chris Sale was subsequently lost to elbow surgery and Eduardo Rodriguez to complications from COVID-19, the challenge was simply to be competitive and at that they have failed.
The pitching staff is historically dreadful, the hitters are underachieving, and the defense is unreliable outside of a few players.
In a conversation before a 4-2 loss against the Yankees that dropped the Sox to 6-16 after seven consecutive losses, Bloom was asked where the responsibility lies.
“Obviously the results have not been what we wanted. We knew that we were down a couple of pitchers and that this was going to be an area of our team that was a work in progress and certainly we’ve gotten really poor results so far,” he said.
“But I think if we’re going to find a way out of it, it’s not going to happen through pointing fingers. It’s going to happen by all putting our heads together and figuring out how to get the most out of these guys.”
In a normal season, three bad weeks is one chapter in a longer story that can change over time. In a 60-game season, it’s over and out.
Once it became clear their pitching was a wreck, much of the team emotionally checked out. With a few exceptions, the Sox take the field with little more than a sense of duty that somebody has to be out there.
Bloom is watching and you get the idea that will shape the decisions to come.
“In the course of your career, you’re around teams that are on top and teams that are going through tough times,” he said. “Sometimes you learn a lot about people going through those tough times.”
Trading Betts was a sign ownership had given up on this season and was willing to settle into a rebuilding period. The Sox could have managed at least a semblance of competitiveness with Sale at the top of their rotation. His loss exposed how poorly prepared the organization was to fill any gaps with even average replacements.
“The way that I looked at it then, obviously before everything shut down, was that with or without him, we needed to add as much pitching depth as we could,” Bloom said.
“The season is going to take a toll on your depth even when there’s no pandemic and it was an area of our club that needed and continues to need work. His injury only magnified that.”
Outside of Martin Perez and relievers Josh Osich and Phillips Valdez, none of the pitchers Bloom brought into the organization have succeeded.
“If we want to make final judgments on anybody over 20 games, rationally speaking we’re being too hasty,” he said. “But, certainly, we haven’t seen from this group what we wanted to see.”
The Aug. 31 trade deadline offers Bloom a chance to speed up the rebuilding process by trading veterans for prospects. He expects there will be opportunities.
“I know that my counterparts in baseball, when the competitive juices are flowing we like to do our jobs to the best of our ability,” Bloom said.
“I think that the entire league is going to take a practical view about what player movement is going to mean right now. But I also think that everybody is going to be trying to make progress on the objectives for their organizations.”
Bloom acknowledged the team’s record would make it easier to pull the trigger on deals.
“I think it has to,” he said. “From Day 1 here, I felt like long-term sustainability needed to be a really important priority here. How we started, you have to weigh that in. We want to compete but we have to prioritize our big-picture goals.”
Bloom said the feedback from ownership is what you would expect.
“I’m not pleased. None of us are. This isn’t where anybody wants to be,” he said. “The organization is clear-eyed about what the task is in front of us. This isn’t a start anybody wanted to get off to.
“I think it’s possible to be really upset by the start while also not blowing it out of proportion. For me, that’s how everybody has handled it.”
Bloom’s vision when he was hired was to field a competitive team while building a structure that could produce a series of championship contenders.
This season has shown that was probably too optimistic.
“There’s an enormous amount of randomness in baseball even over a 162-game season; so much more over a 60-game season,” he said. “We have to be realistic about what we can accomplish the rest of the way.”
If Bloom meets his goals, this season will be remembered only as a painful first step, perhaps even a necessary one. But for now it’s hard to watch and he understands how you feel.
“This isn’t what any of us want,” Bloom said. “There’s a lot of work to do.”