Part one of a two-part series on the first year of Chaim Bloom’s tenure as chief baseball officer of the Red Sox
The Red Sox introduced Chaim Bloom as their chief baseball officer last Oct. 28 at Fenway Park. Reviewing video of the news conference that day feels like peering into a time capsule from another era.
The 36-year-old Bloom shook hands with team owners John Henry and Tom Werner before he sat down in the front of a room crowded with reporters, photographers, and team staffers.
No one was wearing a facemask, and a buffet lunch was served. The world was still two months away from something called the coronavirus being discovered in China.
In the 12 months since, the Red Sox:
▪ Parted ways with manager Alex Cora after Major League Baseball named him as a prominent figure in the cheating scandal involving the 2017 Houston Astros.
▪ Traded All-Stars Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers, in part to reduce payroll. Betts went on to lead the Dodgers to the World Series.
▪ Lost ace lefthander Chris Sale to Tommy John elbow surgery.
▪ Lost No. 2 starter Eduardo Rodriguez for the season because of a heart ailment related to his having contracted the coronavirus.
▪ Played a pandemic-shorted 60-game season without fans being allowed into the parks.
▪ Had a game postponed when their players joined other teams in protesting police brutality against Black citizens.
▪ Finished 24-36, their worst season by winning percentage since 1965.
▪ Saw the ratings on NESN, the team-owned regional sports network, plunge 58 percent from 2019.
▪ Laid off 10 percent of their employees because of revenue losses.
▪ Fired Cora’s replacement, Ron Roenicke, after 59 games. Two of his coaches also were fired.
It was wholly embarrassing. During a news conference to wrap up the season, team president Sam Kennedy was reduced to saying that the Sox winning five of their last seven games was a “significant positive takeaway.”
That statement was followed by a question about whether the Sox had lost their relevance in the Boston sports market.
The legitimacy of the question spoke to how quickly the Sox had fallen out of favor only two years after winning the World Series.
Bloom was asked if he ever could have imagined the challenges he would encounter when he took the job.
“No. Could anybody?” he said, laughing ruefully at the idea.
The only thing that did go well for Bloom was that he was able to successfully move his wife and two children from Florida to a new home in the Boston area amid the pandemic.
Beyond that, there was a series of seismic events no young executive could have been prepared for.
“The two things most without precedent for me were obviously the circumstances of January and Alex’s departure and then, of course, the pandemic,” Bloom said.
“When you’re trying to get used to a new organization, so much of that first year was going to be about building relationships, and it’s hard to do that the same way when you can’t be around people, when you can’t hang out and get what you get out of those spaces in between the things that are on a schedule.”
Bloom did have some successes. The trade with the Dodgers returned a foundational player in outfielder Alex Verdugo. He had an .844 OPS and played with a flair that resonated with many of the same fans who were bitterly disappointed in losing Betts.
The Sox took advantage of a trade market lacking in sellers to land four legitimate prospects in righthanders Connor Seabold and Jacob Wallace, infielder Hudson Potts, and outfielder Jeisson Rosario.
The Sox also obtained Nick Pivetta, a 27-year-old righthander who had fallen out of favor with the Phillies. He started two games in the final week of the season and allowed two earned runs over 10 innings while striking out 13.
“From my view, Chaim got more value back for the players he traded than you would have expected,” a rival executive said. “They hired him to make moves like that. People were surprised they got Seabold and Wallace.”
The Sox also took positive steps in developing several prospects at their training site in Pawtucket, particularly 24-year-old righthander Tanner Houck. He made three strong starts for the major league team in the final two weeks.
“I do feel we made progress with some players who can be a big part of the future,” Bloom said.
There were plenty of misses among the free agents, waiver claims, and other castoffs Bloom added to the roster during what was essentially a season-long tryout camp.
The Sox had a 5.58 earned run average, the worst in franchise history. Maybe it was just as well the seats were empty.
Through it all, Bloom maintained a sense of perspective about his first year with the Sox.
“Look, on a scale of things that have been issues with this pandemic, that does not rank very highly,” he said. “There are much, much bigger problems, both for the Red Sox and for the world because of this pandemic.”