FORT MYERS, Fla. — Chaim Bloom might be the most disliked man in Boston.
Would he consider apologizing to Red Sox fans for 2022′s last-place finish?
“Yes, that’s not what any of us wants to bring our fans,” says the team’s chief baseball officer. “We did not give them what they deserved in 2022, plain and simple.”
He knows he’s become a punching bag for talk radio and other media.
“I’ve also had a lot of people who write and say that stuff on the radio who will privately disavow it and tell me they’re performing, so I don’t take any of it personally,” Bloom says. “We sucked, so of course they’re pissed like they should be … When I was a kid [in the Philadelphia suburbs] and things weren’t going right, I booed.”
Following Bloom for a 16-hour day at spring training is exhausting. He’s fiercely protective of players and staff. Relationships matter to him, whether it’s the clubhouse guys he recently took out to dinner or the fans who have called for his head.
The already-humid day begins at 6:15 a.m. at his lakeside rental. His wife and three children haven’t arrived yet, so Bloom has bought only nonperishable items. The place is immaculate, and the only items on the counter are the bare essentials: a brick of toilet paper and an unopened bottle of 100 proof bourbon.
He’s at the ballpark by 6:30 a.m., running 5 kilometers around Fenway South. The Yale graduate in classics (Latin) listens to a one-hour podcast on double speed so he can complete it during his 30-minute run.
Afterward, dripping with sweat, he pumps a pair of 50-pound barbells outside the workout room so he doesn’t bother some of the early-arriving players.
Though the Red Sox came within two wins of the World Series in 2021, they have finished in last place in the AL East two out of the last three years. Some experts pick them to finish in the cellar again.
Bloom laughs easily, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and does not have a cell phone glued to his ear all day. Some critics think he’s a cost-cutting robot or a nerd.
“I might be a nerd,” he says. “I’m not a robot.
“What matters is what we go out and do on the field.”
Some critics believe Bloom is too concerned with statistics, spin rates, and launch angles, but there’s no measurement for a player’s heart.
Before he gets some scrambled eggs and fried cheese in the Sox dining room, dirt dog Dustin Pedroia greets Bloom with a bear hug. Fans know there is no way to measure Pedey’s heart.
“I think they’re right,” Bloom says. “Nobody in baseball actually believes that projections or stats are the only thing that matters. Nobody believes that.”
Bloom also chats with Sox legend Dwight Evans, who says, “Nobody knows what’s going on in that squash.”
Bloom is reluctant to comment on the rare death threats and an antisemitic slur he has received. He doesn’t want to talk about having trouble sleeping when the team plays poorly or about the migraine headaches he occasionally gets. “I’ve had them my whole life,” he says.
“I don’t think that days are going to be better because [Red Sox fans] know that I’m suffering when we lose, even though I am.”
Making his rounds
Bloom turns 40 Tuesday. Is he having a mid-life crisis?
“The gray hairs started a long time ago,” he says.
He says the perception that Sox owner John Henry (who also owns the Globe) isn’t as motivated to win championships anymore is false.
“No, we have plenty of resources, " he says. “Those narratives are a distraction.”
Bloom agrees to let a photojournalist attend a brief part of his daily meetings. One was with manager Alex Cora and pitching coach Dave Bush to review progress reports on each pitcher.
Cora says no one should question Bloom’s passion.
“He wants to win a World Series, but obviously there’s a plan in place, and it hasn’t happened the last few years,” Cora says. “We have our ups and downs, but that’s part of it. But he cares about this. You know, it means a lot to him and everybody here knows it.”
Bloom says his relationship with Cora is open.
“You need to be able to close the door and say whatever’s on your mind to the other person,” Bloom says. “Sometimes it’s like something you thought happened that was awesome that you want to share privately. You’ve got to be able to do that.”
They also are honest with each other.
“When we were beat up, (Cora) was frustrated,” says Bloom. “I was frustrated too, but it wasn’t him saying, ‘You didn’t get me this player,’ because we’re in this together. We all have different pieces of the puzzle, but we’re all interconnected. We’ve got our own jobs to do, but there’s no me and you. There’s us.”
After a one-hour to-do-list meeting with general manager Brian O’Halloran and the baseball operations department, Bloom tours the bullpen sessions and live batting practice. He’s careful to keep his distance so he doesn’t startle new players. But he puts his arm around second baseman Christian Arroyo, offers words of support to Bobby Dalbec, and signs autographs for fans.
Dick Thatcher, a Red Sox fan for 66 years, says it’s OK to boo Bloom.
“You get here in Boston, you take your abuse,” he says after getting Bloom’s autograph. “I’ve seen worse seasons than last year. That season is over, and the next one is starting. It’s going to be fine.”
Bloom attends a JetBlue Open House, and poses for selfies with the sparse crowd.
He says he sometimes leaves his suite at Fenway Park and blends in with the fans in the seats.
“Ninety-plus percent of them have good conversations with me,” he says. “Some of the best conversations I’ve had.”
A family of fans
Bloom’s father grew up a Sox fan in Dorchester, a cutoff throw away from Franklin Park. When his son was hired in 2019 he was “super excited,” according to Bloom.
“He was going through the masthead on the website. And of course, we have Yaz, we have Luis Tiant, who are special assistants, and he was beside himself. He said, ‘You work with Carl Yastrzemski?’ I said, ‘Dad, it’s not like he’s sitting in a [expletive] cubicle doing outfield defense projections.’ But yes, strictly speaking, I do, and that is cool. And he thought it was the greatest thing.”
Bloom says his two boys, 8 and 6, are baseball fanatics and “absolutely locked in on the Red Sox.” Last summer, for his son’s eighth birthday, they took a road trip to a Portland Sea Dogs game.
His son was having a blast. He even sat in on a meeting with Sea Dogs manager Chad Epperson, his coaching staff, and scouts. During a lull in the conversation, Bloom asked his son if he had any questions.
“We had a rough month from July 4 to early August, and he was in bad mood about the Red Sox,” Bloom says. “So he doesn’t miss a beat. Deadpan, he just looks at Epi and says, ‘Do you have a lot of bad players like the Red Sox?’
“The whole room loses it, and he looks around like, oh, I can score points with these people by crushing my dad. So then he kept going, just bashing us.
“After the Town Hall, a couple of our writers told me it was obvious that you were a parent from how you handled the crowd. And I said, you may not believe this, but my kids are way worse than that crowd.”
While studying at Yale, one of Bloom’s first jobs was an internship at Baseball Prospectus.
Told that he once called Cora “a black hole” for the Mets, he laughs and says he doesn’t remember that.
“They did not shy away from snark,” he says. “And some of that I feel badly about because now the shoe’s on the other foot. But it is part of the deal. You’ve got to be entertaining. I get it.”
He also is weary of questions about job security.
“I look at every day I get to do this as an amazing privilege, and I’m going to empty the tank just going after it every single day,” he says.
Late in the afternoon, Bloom, general manager O’Halloran, his teenage daughter Abby, and several baseball ops team members head for a local playground for some pickup basketball.
Bloom says he is “incredibly unathletic.”
“I loved baseball as a kid, but I sucked at it,” he says.
Tall and trim, with long arms, it’s not a stretch to think Bloom might have some Kevin McHale-like post-up moves.
“I might look the part, until I start moving,” he says.
Teams are chosen and two spirited full-court games are played. The local teens have no idea whom they are facing.
Bloom hustles, but he is guarded by a young stud who can dunk and block shots like Robert Williams. The Bloom/O’Halloran team loses the first game, but in the second, they rally. Bloom, scoreless in the first game, gets two buckets, blocks a shot, and makes a nifty pass in an upset win.
“He’s a grinder,” says O’Halloran.
The locals are unhappy.
“Damn,” the kid who can dunk says to a teammate. “We were up by 8 and they are old.”
Dinner and a nightcap
After Bloom heads home for a quick shower, it’s off to the Thai Udon Cafe.
Bloom, who does not eat non-kosher meat, orders massaman curry with soft tofu and white rice.
He drinks ice water. Nobody recognizes him.
His kids Facetime him at the table. Someone walking by might overhear him talking about poop and dragons. That is not a reflection of the 2023 Red Sox. Bloom’s youngest son has switched on an emoji that transforms his face into other forms.
Bloom says he can’t wait for his wife, Aliza Hochman Bloom, a professor at New England Law Boston, to bring the family down.
After 9 p.m., he returns home. He has to use the garage door code because the rental agent didn’t leave the front door key.
Exhausted, he cracks open the bottle of WhistlePig PiggyBack bourbon and sinks into a lounge chair by the pool. It has finally cooled off, and a few sips of bourbon go down smoothly.
On my way home, a message from Bloom pings.
“I know it will all be worth it when we win. Because I am passionate about winning the World Series and building something great that lasts. That’s what drives me — doing the right things, big and little, to get us there.
“You never get to that type of success without some pain. Red Sox fans know better than anyone! Sometimes there are bumps in the road and not everything goes as planned. That’s baseball. That’s the business we’ve chosen … but we’re going to get there and it will be worth it.”
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.