Columnists, Sports

7th Inning Stretch: Chaim Bloom is the perfect fit for the Red Sox

For the second year in a row, the Boston Red Sox’s greatest victory came on Oct. 28. In 2018, the Sox captured their ninth World Championship in Los Angeles. In 2019, the Sox hired Chaim Bloom as their new chief baseball officer.

The announcement of Bloom’s arrival marked the end of an eight-week search for a replacement for the deposed former President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski. Boston’s ownership considered 20 candidates, but Bloom, the former senior vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, was the only external executive the Sox interviewed.

Just hours into Bloom’s tenure, it has become clear just how brilliant this hire is for the Red Sox.

Bloom, 36, spent 15 years in the Rays organization. He worked his way from an intern to the SVP, experiencing every aspect of baseball operations. He comes incredibly highly regarded from Tampa Bay and executives across the game and Monday’s introductory press conference showed exactly why.

As Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy put it, Bloom “prioritizes people and relationships above all else.” Unlike many in the sports world, Bloom understands that his role is about more than statistics and salaries. During the roughly 50-minute session at Fenway, the word “collaborative” was thrown around countless times and the Sox brass made it clear that such a team-oriented approach was vital to the future of the franchise, and was a leading factor in choosing Bloom.

In more ways than one, Bloom’s hiring represents a notable shift for the Red Sox and its baseball operations. In recent years, Dombrowski was known for being independent, controlling the front office with little input from executives other than his hand-picked confidants. He appeared aloof at times, seemingly by choice. 

Bloom, a young, analytical Yale University graduate who is respected as one of the most creative minds in baseball, could not be more different. As Sox principal owner John Henry said, the team sought a leader who would strengthen the baseball operations department rather than “just bringing in someone who might’ve just been an autocrat.” Henry didn’t even try to veil his shot at Dombrowski.

Heading into this offseason, Bloom will have a handful of monumental decisions to make right off the bat. Sox slugger J.D. Martinez is expected to opt out of his contract, which he is eligible to do five days after the conclusion of the World Series. Mookie Betts is entering his walk year, and many have speculated whether the Sox will trade the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player. Additionally, Sox ownership has expressed a strong desire to shed roughly 10 to 15 percent in payroll.

Good luck, Chaim.

In truth, it is this exact slate of issues that makes Bloom uniquely qualified to run the Red Sox. The Rays’ 2019 payroll clocked in below $65 million, while the Sox approached $240 million. The Rays, of course, finished 12 games ahead of Boston in the standings, with 96 wins to the Sox’s 84. 

For perspective, the Rays spent an average of $680,000 per win in 2019, while the Sox spent $2,860,000. Bloom’s ability to do more with less impressed the Sox ownership and he is well-positioned to cut back on Boston’s spending. The 15 percent of $240 million that Henry and Co. wish to cut is $36 million, more than half of the Rays’ entire payroll.

Bloom has also been lauded for his player development. The Rays’ farm system has consistently been ranked in the top three in baseball, while the Sox have depleted theirs in deference to blockbuster trades for players like Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel. 

Now in Boston, Bloom will work to build what he calls “sustained long-term success,” enabling the team to compete year in and year out, without sacrificing the future.

Even before the hiring was made official, many in the Boston baseball world noted the countless similarities between Bloom and Theo Epstein, the president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs. Like his predecessor, Bloom is a young, Jewish, Yale graduate who prioritizes analytics. 

Both men build strong relationships with their colleagues –– or as Bloom tellingly referred to them, his “teammates” –– and coaches, and strategically craft rosters through the draft and prudent trading and free agent signings. The next step, of course, is for Bloom to emulate Epstein’s success in Boston as well: two championships in his first six years.

The Red Sox find themselves in a critical period of transition. With Martinez and Betts potentially on their way out the door, and Sox pitching proving underwhelming (to say the least) in 2019, the Sox are in dire need of a reset. 

Now, that does not mean Bloom will be cleaning house. He is excited to work with newly promoted general manager Brian O’Halloran, the rest of the baseball operations staff, skipper Alex Cora, and the ownership group. But he does bring a fresh perspective, a stellar baseball acumen, and the reputation of someone who leads with creativity, humility, and passion.

The Red Sox have not had a general manager last more than four seasons since Epstein departed in 2011. Enter Bloom, the new Chief Baseball Officer of the Boston Red Sox. If Bloom led the Rays to 96 wins and a Wild Card berth, imagine what he’ll accomplish with a wallet nearly four times the size. 

As we say in the Jewish tradition at times of celebration, L’Chaim! 

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