Chaim Bloom’s failure to hit on big moves trumped good decisions he made on the margins

Red Sox

Bloom’s lack of strong replacements for Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts was apparent this season — a good enough reason for his dismissal.

Chaim Bloom’s tenure as Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer ended after nearly four seasons on Thursday. (Jonathan Wiggs /Globe Staff)


My band teacher in sixth grade — an easy-going man everybody just called “Koz,” because pronouncing “Koziara” was just not as much fun as shouting “Kooozzzzzzz”– was able to get through to us on a basic level. He’d tell us repeatedly that if we nailed the opening to a song and the closing of the song, everyone would think we did great, even if we missed every other note in between. In other words, do the big stuff correctly.

Chaim Bloom was fired on Thursday because he failed to do the big stuff correctly.

General managers can survive letting star players go. The easiest and most famous example is the Seattle Mariners letting Alex Rodriguez walk for nothing after the 2000 season from a 91-win team. A year later, they won 116 games without him, tying the all-time MLB record. It can be done! But when Bloom traded Mookie Betts, he did not experience similar success.

In five seasons as Boston’s starting right fielder, Betts averaged 7.1 wins above replacement (WAR). It was five of the best seasons ever played by anyone in a Red Sox uniform. He has been just as exemplary since, accumulating 21.6 WAR in four seasons. (And keep in mind one of those four seasons was only a partial season due first to COVID-19.)

In the time since Betts was traded, Red Sox right fielders have accumulated just 5.9 WAR. In other words, Betts has been worth nearly four times as much as the players who have replaced him. Oops.

Bloom’s plan similarly broke down when it comes to Xander Bogaerts. While Betts was and is the superior player, Bogaerts won two World Series titles in a Red Sox uniform, and without the spark he provided as a rookie heading into and during the 2013 postseason, the Red Sox wouldn’t have won.

In nine seasons as Boston’s starting shortstop, he put up 34.0 WAR, including a career-best 6.0 WAR last season. This season, he’s not had his best year in San Diego (the vibes have been way off with that supposed super team since the season’s outset), but he’s been worth 3.5 WAR. Red Sox shortstops this season have been “worth” -0.3 WAR, worst in the American League and 29th out of 30 teams. Oops.

The bar is set high around here. You want to move on from stars like Drew Bledsoe or Kyrie Irving? Cool, just as long as you have Tom Brady or Jayson Tatum to take up their mantle. (For a deeper cut, trading Barry Pederson is OK if you get Cam Neely and Glen Wesley back).

Bloom’s crime was not necessarily moving on from Betts and Bogaerts, but doing so without a credible plan to replace them. Children cried on the evening news the day Theo Epstein traded Nomar Garciaparra. But then two things happened – the Sox won their first World Series in 86 seasons, and Garciaparra was never really ever the same player. Epstein gambled by trading the guy who had been the face of his team, but he was correct. Bloom wasn’t.

To be fair, Chaim Bloom did plenty of things right in his tenure as Boston’s chief baseball executive. Pickups on the margins like Nick Pivetta, Christian Arroyo, and Rob Refsnyder were small victories. Stealing Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees was a bigger win, as was winning the bidding for Masataka Yoshida. Wilyer Abreu is making the Christian Vazquez trade look reasonable. You could point to building up the farm system as a point in Bloom’s favor, but when he took over, the farm system was at rock bottom – the only direction it could go was up.

But for every one of these medium-sized victories, like getting Kyle Schwarber for nothing, there was the burn of letting him go a year early. Yes, Triston Casas is raking this year, but last year first base was a black hole, while Schwarber hit 46 homers on his way to All-Star and Silver Slugger nods, even picking up a couple of MVP votes as part of a Philadelphia Phillies squad that went to the World Series. Oops.

Kenley Jansen has been wonderful this season. But why did a team starved for starting pitching let Nathan Eovaldi walk? He was an All-Star for the Rangers this year, and is currently sporting the best ERA of his career. Oops. And the Trevor Story debacle hasn’t been as derided as it should be because it hasn’t been as bad as the Carl Crawford or Pablo Sandoval debacles. Not yet, anyway.

When Mookie Betts blew into town a few weeks ago and humiliated his old team, the writing was on the wall for Bloom. The day after Betts left, the Red Sox essentially forfeited a game because they didn’t have enough major league pitchers available to pitch. After the game, manager Alex Cora offered a prescient quote: “What happened [Monday] happens in the big leagues,” Cora said. “It just happens that people here care and they talk about it and it becomes news.”

Usually, people caring is what teams want, but that caring can become claustrophobic when things go south. The sympathetic view would be to say that Bloom had one pandemic-ravaged season and one lockout-shortened season, and that he didn’t have enough of a body of work with which to judge him.

On the other hand, it’s been four years since he traded Mookie Betts, and the Sox have not found a similar star to fill his shoes (sorry, Rafael Devers is not that guy). Bloom failed at the big things, and failed dramatically. Twenty years from now that’s all people are going to remember.

In his first season, people looking for hope and/or distraction amid a major health crisis saw a rudderless team flop into last place. In his final month, he was shown up by his old star, saw his team literally not have enough pitchers to field a competitive team, and then they lost both legs of a doubleheader to the last-place Yankees. That wouldn’t have earned him high marks in my sixth-grade band class, and it certainly didn’t earn him high marks with the Red Sox faithful.

Nobody bats 1.000 in baseball, either on or off the field, but you have to do the important things correctly. Chaim Bloom is only 40, and will likely get another crack at running a team someday.

I hope he does those big things better in his next stop.