At the 2021 end of season press conference, an efforvescent Chaim Bloom, fresh off almost making the World Series, talked about his progress towards ending Boston’s feast-or-famine cycle of big seasons and last place finishes. The Red Sox baseball boss was positive. “In terms of this being the start of something, in terms of us feeling like we have a bunch of guys who joined this group, who are ready to help us win going forward, I think we’re there.”
A year later, the Red Sox finished back in the cellar, last in the division for the fifth time in eleven seasons. Sandwiched between those nadirs were five postseason appearances and two World Series wins.
The 2022 Red Sox finished at 78-84 (.481), the sixth lowest win percentage of the 15 American League teams. It’s the 43rd losing season in franchise history, the fifth since 2000.
Up and down, back and forth, feast or famine. It seems clear now, we’re not there yet.
Kennedy: Baseball Operations Responsible
This year’s end of season wrap up was a more sober affair. Sitting alongside Bloom, his boss, Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy was unequivocal. “Finishing in last place is brutal,” he said. “The leadership of the organization is responsible for it…that’s on us, we need to be better.”
Kennedy drew a distinction that can be easy to overlook for some. The Red Sox ownership group provides the resources. They hire the executives to put those resources to work and those executives are responsible for the results. In other words, Kennedy’s own baseball operations group.
Ownership’s “commitment to spending has been there,” Kennedy told the assembled press. “How those resources have been allocated, the under-performance, just not getting it done, that’s on us, that’s not an ownership level thing. That’s on our level. We’re responsible for that.”
What’s lies ahead
Chaim Bloom surely anticipated a question about takeaways from the 2022 season. When it came, he pointed to two specifics.
First, Bloom said, the front office needs to build a roster “that can withstand some things going wrong because in most seasons, unless you get lucky, they do.” That seems, on its face, to be too obvious for someone of Bloom’s background not to have understood before this year.
Bloom’s second point was even more curious. “We all need to work together,” he said, “making sure that we are getting the most out of all the talent we have.” The unsaid part of that seems to be that Bloom believes the team didn’t get optimal performance from the players the front office signed. If that’s the case, it’s logical to assume Bloom favors changes in the way the team has been managed and coached.
Not surprisingly, Bloom was light on specifics of what the team is planning for 2023. While saying he’s not inclined to give blanket assurances generally, trading Rafael Devers isn’t “on our radar”. Devers is “a guy that we want to build around, and he’s hugely important to what we’re doing,” Bloom said. “We hope he’s here not just next year but in the years to come.”
The Red Sox have until five days after the World Series to make a new deal with Xander Bogaerts following his expected opt-out on the rest of his contract with Boston. At that point, other teams will be able to talk with him.
“Nothing I say really maters, unless there’s a deal,” Bloom said, “But our position’s been the same: we want to keep him here for a long time, we want him here on a deal that we’re going to look back on and say, ‘This is great for everybody.'” Bloom said the kind of deal he’s looking for would be similar to the one that just wrapped up with J.D. Martinez.
Bloom had some nice things to say about rookie Triston Casas. “Sometimes the results were there, sometimes they weren’t, but he was a tough at-bat every single time, which is going to be one of his calling cards as he goes forward.”
Bloom admitted, “with what we went through this year,” having two quality options at first base with Casas and Eric Hosmer is a problem he’s happy to have. That said, though, he acknowledged that agreeing to bring Hosmer on was originally meant to keep from rushing Casas to the big leagues.
The front office will need to weigh whether Casas’ performance so far is enough to bet on him for the long haul, leaving Hosmer available to be part of other deals.
In response to a question about Red Sox catchers, Bloom was positive about newcomers Reese McGuire and Connor Wong, “I think both of these guys showed well, which is good for them, good for us.” And while he was pleased with their work, he also plans to look for more. “This is one of the areas that I full expect we’re going to explore additions,” Bloom said. “We owe it to ourselves and everybody who cares about this team to look to get better.”
In the understatement of the morning, Bloom talked about the issues he saw in the Red Sox pitching staff. “There’s a lot we that need to do this off-season, so we need to be focused on the whole board, but because of some of the depth on the pitching side that we built up, I think we’re going to be considering a different set of possibilities.”