The Red Sox didn’t have to fire Chaim Bloom a few hours before the first pitch of Thursday’s doubleheader. Presumably they could have waited until the end of the regular season, which is only two weeks away.
But the fact that it happened then, with the Yankees in the other dugout at Fenway Park, served as a glaring statement on the direction of these two ancient rivals.
Both are tremendous disappointments this season, battling each other to stay out of last place in the American League East (through Friday night’s results, the Yankees held a one-game edge). This week’s mid-September showdown had the usual coverage by the national TV networks, but despite Mother Nature’s best efforts to spare everyone baseball’s version of rubber-necking at a roadside wreck, the four-game series turned into a pair of sparsely attended, day-night doubleheaders.
At least the Red Sox are taking drastic measures to fix their mess on Jersey Street. To date, the same can’t be said for the Yankees, who are showing signs they plan to stay the course with GM Brian Cashman (definitely) and manager Aaron Boone (likely). So far, the only scapegoat in the Bronx has been hitting coach Dillon Lawson, who was fired on July 9, the day before the All-Star break.
Dumping any member of the staff midseason was unprecedented during Cashman’s 25-year tenure -- a significant departure from the way Hal’s dad did business -- but desperate times call for desperate actions. At least for now, Steinbrenner has given no indication he plans to make any top level changes, only pledging last month to basically audit the club’s analytics department and decision-making process.
Seeing the Yankees take a more patient approach while the Red Sox just burned through their third baseball ops chief in 12 years speaks to the shift in approach we’ve seen from these two clubs. Which is better depends on your definition of success.
The Yankees (75-73) have missed the playoffs only four times under Cashman (this would be No. 5) and the franchise hasn’t had a losing record since 1992. There is a significant blemish on that resume, of course: One World Series appearance in two decades, the lone trip responsible for the ’09 title.
Compare that to the Red Sox’s record over the same span. Counting the history-making championship run in ’04, which started by rallying from an 0-3 ALCS deficit against the Yankees and ending the 86-year Curse of the Bambino, the Sox have four World Series rings, the last coming in 2018, when they beat the Yankees in the Division Series. Boston also has missed the playoffs nine times since ’04, with five last-place finishes (the Yankees haven’t finished last since 1990, when the AL had only two divisions, and the East had seven teams).
Steinbrenner has preferred the unmatched level of consistent winning under Cashman, a style that keeps the Stadium full, revenues high and enough October success to justify running it back with the same crew year after year. Not to mention routinely fielding one of the top payroll teams in the majors -- the Yankees were No. 2 this season at $294 million.
The Red Sox would have taken that under Bloom, who was hired to combine his Rays’ small-market intelligence with the wealth of resources (presumably) available to him in Boston. Instead, the Sox’s ownership group never seemed to get the blend it was aiming for, as Bloom bunched one playoff appearances -- the ’21 ALCS loss to the Astros -- around two last-place finishes, with Boston heading towards a third this month.
While hiring a member of the Rays’ braintrust suggests a desire to squeeze more value from every dollar spent, the Red Sox clearly didn’t get the bang for the (less) bucks they had in mind. Bloom also had the misfortune of being charged with trading the homegrown star Mookie Betts, a perennial MVP candidate, for no other reason other than his bosses’ unwillingness to meet his contract demands (Betts ultimately signed a 12-year, $365 million deal with the Dodgers after he was shipped to L.A.).
Before Bloom took over, the Red Sox’s $225 million payroll for 2019 was the highest in the sport. In the years that followed, Boston dropped to fourth, sixth, sixth and finally 12th this season, at $181 million (the MLB average is $162 million, according to Spotrac). In other words, the Sox’s ownership took the discount route it intended, but balked when Bloom couldn’t deliver anything better than MLB’s fifth-ranked farm system (by Baseball America).
“While parting ways is not taken lightly, today signals a new direction for our club,” Red Sox principal owner John Henry said Thursday in a statement. “Our organization has significant expectations on the field and while Chaim’s efforts in revitalizing our baseball infrastructure have helped set the stage for the future, we will today begin a search for new leadership.”
The timing of Boston’s decision seemingly never made them contenders for the former Brewers executive David Stearns, who was hired two days earlier to be the president of baseball operations for the Mets. On the surface, Stearns isn’t all that different from Bloom -- both are Ivy-educated, analytics-driven guys who won with small-market clubs -- and the Mets picked Bloom as one of their two finalists for GM in 2018 before choosing agent Brodie Van Wagenen for the job.
Would Bloom’s fortunes have been different in Flushing? That’s difficult to say. The Mets were sold two years later to Steve Cohen, who immediately axed Van Wagenen hours after his $2.4 million purchase was completed. And now both the Mets and Red Sox are headed in new directions, while the Yankees appear to be standing pat on the management front, despite just as many issues to address -- if not more.
Max to the minimum
The news this week that Max Scherzer is being shut down due to a low-grade strain of his teres major muscle -- the same injury that sidelined Justin Verlander at the start of this season -- was not something anyone anticipated for the three-time Cy Young winner.
But after Scherzer turned 39 in July, with his recent battles to stay healthy and shaky finishes to the previous two seasons, it was hardly shocking either. Just another reason why the Mets were smart to (partly) get out of Scherzer’s remaining contract at the trade deadline and still get a top prospect back in Luisangel Acuna, the brother of Atlanta’s MVP candidate Ronald.
The Rangers are only on the hook for $22.5 million of the $58 million that was left on Scherzer’s deal, but it’s already looking like a terrible return on that investment, especially for a team with World Series aspirations. Scherzer went 4-2 with a 3.20 ERA in eight starts, but now is unavailable to a team battling the Astros for first place and any subsequent October run -- the primary reasons for acquiring him in the first place.
As for Acuna, the 21-year-old middle infielder is currently the Mets’ top-ranked prospect and hitting .245 with two homers, 14 stolen bases and a .629 OPS for Double-A Binghamton.
Fenway Disarray to Chaos in Flushing
Chaim Bloom was a finalist to replace Sandy Alderson as the Mets’ GM back in 2018 before the Wilpons chose Brodie Van Wagenen -- a CAA agent who represented Jacob deGrom -- for the job instead. That triggered a tumultuous time for the Mets’ front office, which included the Wilpons selling the franchise to Steve Cohen for $2.4 billion in 2020, a transfer that hasn’t gone smoothly for the baseball operations department.
With the Red Sox firing Bloom Thursday, the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham highlighted Boston’s instability in the front office since Theo Epstein ran baseball ops from 2002-11. His post to Twitter/X listed the tenures of Ben Cherington (1,393 days), Dave Dombrowski (1,493) and finally Bloom (1,417).
That got us thinking about the Mets’ own turbulence upstairs, and the Flushing chaos has been unrivaled in the industry. Since Sandy Alderson was the GM from 2010-18, it’s almost been a revolving door at Citi, with Alderson even filling in some of the gaps between vacancies. Here’s the list, in chronological order, before David Stearns comes on board as the franchise’s first president of baseball operations at the end of this season.
Name Mets service
Brodie Van Wagenen 738 days
Jared Porter 37 days
*Zack Scott 281 days
**Billy Eppler 678 days
*Scott placed on administrative leave for 59 days after. Later acquitted after he was fired by the Mets.
**Eppler expected to continue as GM, but higher-ranking Stearns will be club’s top decision-maker in baseball matters.