Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom stood atop the Red Sox dugout steps as day became night last month at Fenway Park.
The Sox had lost the first two of a three-game series against the Yankees. They would eventually be swept that night after yet another late-game meltdown. It gave the Yankees a one-game lead over the Red Sox for the top American League wild-card spot with a week to play.
Still, Fenway was something to behold. The atmosphere, the stakes, the meaning. The Red Sox weren’t supposed to be in this position. Bloom became the fans’ punching bag, in some sense. A guy who had come from the Rays to get the Sox under the luxury-tax threshold, trade a superstar in Mookie Betts, and rebuild a farm system. After a shortened 2020 season because of COVID-19 in which the Red Sox finished last in the AL East, hope, to say the least, didn’t spring eternal.
Yet there Bloom and the Sox were in 2021, battling for the first wild-card spot. One they would ultimately claim after losing two of three to the Orioles, then having to essentially win out, which they did, against the Nationals.
“This is a marathon,” Bloom said that day. “There are many ups and downs, there are many different story lines. Just when you think you know how it’s going to go, there’s another twist, another turn.”
The twists and turns led the Red Sox to just two wins short of the World Series. That isn’t celebrated, of course. Not in this market, where winning requires being the only team standing at the end of a season. Yet it must be acknowledged.
However, Bloom acknowledged that the criticism steered his way was understandable. That he knew this was part of the gig in Boston. He saw Fenway alive for the first time. That’s the reward that comes with winning. Yet the wrath, just or unjust, is present, too.
“I don’t think you can have one without the other,” Bloom said. “I don’t think you can have passion without people having a lot of strong opinions and sometimes feeling really good about what you do, and really feeling really good about how things are going, and sometimes we disagree.”
Long-term sustainability. It’s a term Bloom has used to describe his mission with the Red Sox. It’s one that hasn’t totally reached this eager fan base. What does it mean? Does it mean being the Yankees, a team that has punched its ticket to the playoffs 10 times in the last 13 seasons but only won the World Series once? That certainly wouldn’t sit well with New Englanders. Does it mean just being good enough? Or does it require competing with the intention of winning a championship, which sometimes might entail pushing all your chips to the middle of the table. With the season over, Bloom makes clear that his mission is winning.
“At the end of the day, we’re in business with a scoreboard,” Bloom said during a telephone conversation on Tuesday. “What you accomplish speaks volumes, but I think there’s a goal we’re setting for ourselves: We want to win as much as possible. Yeah, that’s really what this is all about. We want to win championships. And we want to give our fans a championship-caliber team.”
The goal is something to build upon after this season, yet Bloom understands that it’s nothing to bask in. You can’t do that in Boston anyhow. It can get chilly here again quickly if the team doesn’t produce a championship in the coming years. Based on this season, though, the Red Sox believe Bloom is in the midst of fulfilling the goal of building a sustainable contender.
“If I were giving out a grade after two years, I would say he gets a straight A,” Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said. “He’s exactly what we thought and more when we brought him in two years ago. For someone at his age of life [38 years old], he’s so calm. It’s really a great characteristic for this market.”
Winning, though, is the ultimate characteristic.
There’s no one point in the season when Bloom felt as if the Red Sox had a chance of making a run, he said. Instead, it dates to spring training, when he saw the buy-in, the vibrancy from players and staff that bounced between the fields at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
It will be another year of that for the Red Sox. One that the Sox hope brings about more long-term sustainability and more winning. That means a World Series.
“If you’re doing it well, they should coincide,” Bloom said. “With individual steps along the way, there might be times when you need to balance the present and the future. But the ultimate goal is to try to always be great. And that’s something that I think anybody who cares about this team should want to get behind.”