Tomase: Time for Chaim Bloom to get his due amid Red Sox surge Originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
For a month, anyway, it was open season on Chaim Bloom.
The Red Sox chief baseball officer had avoided major criticism in his first two years on the job, first because no one blamed him for bidding on ownership when leaving Mookie Betts in 2020, then because the team had exceeded expectations en route to last year’s American. League Championship Series.
But when April arrived, Bloom found himself in an unfamiliar position: dealing with the expectations of an eager fan base that had tasted unexpected success, and also on the hook if the team was struggling.
And he struggled, opening 10-19 as flaws in Bloom’s roster construction shone like Klieg lights on the GM’s box, especially at the back of a bullpen that couldn’t save a very short tree cat. With the starters barely five innings away, the bullpen a mess and the lineup powerless beyond the big three of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez, the anger turned on Bloom.
Why didn’t he sign a contract? Were Michael Wacha and Rich Hill enough to fortify the rotation? Why doesn’t he take advantage of the Devers-Bogaerts-Martinez window before it closes? Did he really think Jackie Bradley Jr. could be an everyday outfielder again? Why is Bobby Dalbec still the starting first baseman? Will he ever trade a prospect to help the big league club?
But the most damning criticism of all was this: is it really just a small-market GM?
The cries of “Tampa North” that once sounded blatantly absurd – why would an organization with the resources of the Red Sox refuse to harness its financial might? – suddenly filled fans with unease. If the Red Sox didn’t want to spend, would they still be the Red Sox? And what did that mean for the future of Devers and Bogaerts, two favorites?
For his part, Bloom acknowledged the struggles, but preached patience. The roster had too many talents to rank bottom of the American League in scoring. When the weather warmed up, so did the offense. And he really liked what he saw from an unannounced rotation, but after shortened spring training, the starters wouldn’t be stretched until May. As for the bullpen, he acknowledged the need for improvements, but also felt that the right parts could potentially emerge from within.
Well, wouldn’t you know, he might be right. The Red Sox have been the hottest team in baseball for the past six weeks (non-Yankees division), and many of Bloom’s maligned or overlooked acquisitions are leading the charge.
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As the Red Sox begin the killer portion of their schedule Friday in Cleveland against the smoldering Guardians, they do so as four-game, 16-of-20 winners. Their winning percentages have gone from .409 in April to .500 in March. at .800 in June. They haven’t backed a run like this since winning it all in 2018, and it’s worth noting that outside of a nine-game winning streak last April, they’ve never been better. hot in 2021, a season we would all repeat with pleasure.
While the remaining superstars are certainly doing their thing, it’s only fair to give Bloom his due as well. After all, he was the guy who saw something in the underperformance of Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta, buying him for right-handers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree in 2020. If the All-Star Game was today , Pivetta would have a strong case for inclusion after opening 7-5 with a 3.31 ERA.
Of course, he would have competition in the form of Wacha, who is 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA. Wacha is a classic example of the type of players targeted by Bloom. Signed for a year and $7 million this winter, he not only posted a 5.00 ERA with the Rays last year, he was at 5.00 the past three years.
But the Red Sox noticed how much better he pitched in September after fending off a hugely ineffective cutter, and believed he could sustain that success for a full season. Wacha may not light up the Statcast rankings, but his change is dirty and he keeps the ball in the park. At some point, what he does is not a fluke.
We may have put Bloom to the test in April, but as we move into July, one only has to take a look at the leaderboard to see that his plan might actually work.
Meanwhile, the bullpen is finding some form after a rocky start, with Tanner Houck turning to closer acquisitions, Matt Strahm and Jake Diekman doing their thing, and an unexpected comeback coming from beefy John Schreiber, whose Rising fastball hit 97 mph this week. If there remains one valid criticism of Bloom, it’s that he didn’t do enough. His signatures hit, he just needed one or two more. Luckily for him, the August 2 trade UKTN provides an opportunity for redemption.
That leaves the range. Bloom stretched beyond his comfort zone to sign Trevor Story to a six-year, $140 million deal, and the converted shortstop rewarded him with 48 RBIs at the helm. team, a Gold Glove defense at second base and huge production on the bases. The story may not be as consistent offensively as we’d like (0.223 average), but he still impacts games even when he’s not swinging it.
The Red Sox also got some unscheduled production from outfielders Franchy Cordero, Jarren Duran and Rob Refsnyder, and the supporting cast’s approach to a different hero each night is paying off.
For this, we must give credit where it is due. We may have put Bloom to the test in April, but as we move into July, one only has to take a look at the leaderboard to see that his plan might actually work.