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Boston Man Fired 1,312 Days After Trading Mookie Betts
The Free Friday Post.
Before we dive into a few baseball messes this week, I just wanted to say how fun it has been to meet so many of you at the different events I’ve done with Joe Posnanski in celebration of his new book, Why We Love Baseball. Your support and friendship lifted me up during a tremendously difficult season of my life, and now that I’ve come through it, I can’t wait to have even more fun with you all.
For those of you who missed the Wilshire Ebell event in L.A. on Tuesday and the Harlan Records party in San Francisco last night, fear not! We will definitely have more hangs going forward to talk baseball and other stuff. It’s become clear that you guys also want me to write more on the topic of mental health, so I will absolutely do that. Thank you again for all the handshakes and hugs and encouragement and for showing up for me, always. It was so wonderful to finally put faces to names of so many of you I’ve been interacting with online all these years. <3 <3 <3
While I was driving up to San Francisco for Joe’s book party last night, news broke that the Red Sox had fired their head of baseball operations, Chaim Bloom. It was not surprising that Bloom, whom ownership hired from the Rays in late 2019 to cut payroll, would not get to lead the Sox into the 2024 season. The Red Sox have had three different dudes running baseball ops since Theo Epstein left in 2011. As Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe wrote yesterday, Ben Cherington got 1,393 days at the helm, Dave Dombrowski got 1,493 days and Chaim Bloom got 1,417 days. That’s an average of just three years and eight months.
Under Bloom’s guidance, the Red Sox finished last in the AL East in 2020, made it to the ALCS in 2021, then finished last again in 2022. They are currently tied for last with the Yankees this season.
When you run a team like the Red Sox where championship expectations are high, it’s not surprising you might find yourself on the unemployment line if the team finishes last in the division in three of your four seasons at the wheel. What is surprising, however, is that ownership canned Bloom with 15 games left in the season, when it’s too late to spark some kind of rally that will make any kind of difference. The Red Sox will not make the playoffs this year. The Yankees won’t, either, but New York’s owners seem content to let manager Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman ride out the rest of this miserable season before deciding whether to make a change.
We don’t yet have definitive reporting on why Bloom was let go, but, make no mistake: Something happened to make the situation no longer tenable. This is like being stuck with someone on a year-long cruise from hell around the world and then throwing them overboard when you’re just a few miles from shore. They didn’t even give him the benefit of a “mutual decision made with love” Friday night news dump. They sacked him on a Thursday afternoon, and didn’t even include a comment from him in the press release.
I live on the opposite coast from Bloom and do not know the man. I have only ever heard good things about how he is smart and treats the media with respect, and I know some Boston writers are sad to see him go, because covering a team with an a-hole GM is a nightmare.
But at the end of the day, this is the guy who traded Mookie Betts. I don’t care if ownership held a gun to his head and made him do it to save money. It was his job to say, “Look, we can trade every other player, sell Fenway Park, double ticket prices, get rid of our minor league teams, literally ANYTHING you want to save money EXCEPT trading Markus Lynn Betts. Because this is us doing what we did 100 years ago when we traded Babe Ruth, and we may not win another title for 83 years if we do this.”
*Footnote: Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees on Jan. 5, 1920. Mookie Betts was traded to the Dodgers on Feb. 11, 2020. It was as if the Red Sox celebrated the centennial of the worst decision in their history by making their second-worst decision.
Look, I know there are some people who will argue in the comments that it wasn’t Bloom’s idea to trade Betts to reset the luxury tax. That the team’s cheap owners are to blame. But let’s be clear, here: Bloom was hired because he helped run the Rays on a shoestring budget. He is a man who believes (or at one point, believed) that it’s possible to be cheap but outsmart teams who spend a lot of money to be competitive. And yes, the Rays are witches in that regard. But times have changed. Gone are the days of rich dummies ruling baseball. The Dodgers are often derided as buying their way into the playoffs, but if that were possible, the Mets and Padres and Yankees would be playing in October this year. Los Angeles has one of the smartest front offices and player development systems, and that is why they have made the playoffs a franchise-record 12 years in a row.
Knowing that the Red Sox ownership was trying to slash player salary when they interviewed Bloom for the job in 2019, don’t you think they would have asked if he thought he could win if the team didn’t extend Betts, who was entering the final year of his deal? Of course they did. It would have been malpractice not to. And do you think Bloom said, “Letting a generational talent like Mookie go is worst idea I’ve ever heard, and no it’s not possible to win without him?” Hell no. He would not have been hired. So yes, fair or not, the trade of Mookie Betts happened on his watch, so he owns it.
But it wasn’t just the Betts debacle that sunk the Sox. Bloom was known in Tampa for being among the most effective in the game to identify, develop, and retain the best pitchers. Maybe Bloom didn’t have enough time to draft and develop his own guys, but this is his fourth year on the job, and his team ranks 25th out of 30 in ERA….which is exactly where they finished last year.
There are other ways to bring in arms besides drafting and paying free agents through the nose. The Dodgers and Giants are renowned for picking up guys off the scrap heap and tinkering with their deliveries or pitch selections and revitalizing their careers. Recent success stories include Evan Phillips, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Anderson, and Kevin Gausman. The Red Sox? Well. They signed James Paxton, who was injured all last year and has been middling this season.
Bloom’s biggest flop was the six-year, $140 million contract he handed Trevor Story to replace Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. He has played in just 124 games over his first two seasons with the Sox, and has hit just 18 total homers with a .690 OPS.
If ownership’s main objective was saving money, Bloom hit that mark. The Red Sox payroll this season is 13th-highest in baseball, at $181 million. (The Yankees are paying players nearly $100 million more and have the same number of wins, so Bloom did better on that front).
Maybe Sox ownership got mad when they saw how the Orioles ($71 million in payroll) and Rays ($79 million) crushed Boston in the standings this year on shoestring budgets. Maybe they were frustrated with the lack of moves Bloom made at the trade deadline when the team was still in the hunt for a wild-card spot. Maybe Bloom and manager Alex Cora grew to hate each other like George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin did. I don’t know.
John Tomase of NBC Sports Boston wrote yesterday about an incident that happened a few weeks ago that might have spelled the end for Bloom:
The last straw for ownership may have come earlier this month, when former MVP Mookie Betts returned to Boston and received a hero's welcome not just from appreciative Red Sox fans, but the sea of Dodger Blue crashing over Fenway Park like endless breakers on the Cape. The Alex Cora Travel Agency tried to sell the invasion as Dodgers fans making the cross-country pilgrimage to experience the majesty and splendor of America's most beloved ballpark, but he knew as well as we that transplants simply gobbled up the tickets the locals didn’t want.
“There are so many Dodger fans here,” someone posted as a thread on the Red Sox main Reddit channel three weeks ago. “Never seen something like it. like half the f—-ing stadium is dodger fans.”
“Makes sense,” another Reddit user responded. “They want to see a team that is trying to win a World Series. We used to be the same way.”
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Speaking of teams trying to win the World Series, the Mariners went through a bizarro moment last Friday night when their 25-year old All-Star starting pitcher George Kirby threw his manager under the bus for leaving him in the game to pitch past the sixth inning.
“I wish I wasn’t out there for the seventh to be honest ’cause I was at 90 pitches. I didn’t think I needed to go anymore,” Kirby said to reporters after giving up a game-tying, two-run homer in the 7th in a game the Mariners would go on to lose 7-4.
It was a jaw-dropping comment in a macho culture where SPs gain street cred by arguing with their managers to stay IN the game. And, to many, it marked the latest sign of a new era in which soft snowflakes have infiltrated a sport where guys like Nolan Ryan used to throw 235 pitches an outing, then ice their arms with cold cans of Budweiser post-game and get on with it.
Bob Gibson, who died three years ago, dragged himself out of his grave to throw a fastball at Kirby’s head.
Roger Clemens logged on to add: “This is tough to hear… would not fly in the old days!”
And yes, these comments would not fly in the old days, but we are now in an era when future first-ballot Hall of Famers are removed from perfect games with just six outs remaining because it’s too cold outside, or something.
George Kirby has probably been told, over and over again, that the odds rise against him when he faces a team the third and fourth times through the order. And guys like Seattle’s president of baseball operations, Jerry DiPoto, aren’t concerned about Kirby’s line of thinking because he’s probably the person who put that thought into his brain.
The astonishing part here is not that Kirby was thinking he shouldn’t have been out there, it’s that he lit his reputation on fire by saying the quiet part out loud. We here at the Long Game love when players say things they shouldn’t, because it keeps us entertained.
Frankly, I’m thrilled I was never interviewed after a bad day on the job when I was 25, because I would have woken up unemployed the next morning.
All of this is to say, our Friday night game chat tonight for paid subscribers will take place during the Dodgers vs. Mariners game at 7:10 PM PT. And George Kirby will be making his first start since The Comments. He will be blessedly well-rested. Bobby Miller will be on the bump for the Dodgers, so it should be a good one. I hope you’ll join us!
That’s all for this week! Thank you so much for being a free or paid subscriber to The Long Game.
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