Getting fired is just part of the business of sports. If you want to work in the industry, you have to make peace with the idea that you could be fired pretty much at any time, and sometimes due to circumstances beyond your control — a key player gets hurt, a promising rebuild doesn’t pan out, your owner is an egomaniac, normal stuff.
Chaim Bloom’s tenure as president of baseball operations for the Red Sox ended on Thursday after four years, with one playoff appearance, two last-place finishes, and this year’s 73-72 record that has them well behind the three contenders in the AL East. Bloom’s major-league moves have been a mixed bag, but the team’s offense is a strength and they have a very strong group of position-player prospects in the upper minors. If he was fired for on-field reasons, it’s about the pitching, and a lot of why the pitching has been bad goes back to the regime before Bloom took over, and to the Red Sox owners’ sudden conversion to the religion of crying poor.
What went wrong for Boston this year seems fairly easy to diagnose: They have given up too many runs. They sit at 4.88 runs allowed per game on the day of Bloom’s firing, which ranks 12th in the American League, well below the median and the average, and they’re surrounded by non-contenders, behind even the Tigers, who lost two starters to injuries since you started reading this article. Even with Brayan Bello’s breakout, their starters still rank 12th in ERA and 13th in fWAR in the American League, while their relief corps is 10th in ERA but fifth in fWAR because they’ve thrown more innings than any other bullpen except Oakland’s — 596 so far, over four innings per game.
The team came into the year planning to contend, or at least saying they planned to do so, with a rotation that included two guys converting from relief to starting (Kutter Crawford, who has been very good, and Garrett Whitlock, who’s back in relief), two guys whose arms Lloyd’s of London wouldn’t insure at any price (Chris Sale, who started the year on the injured list, and James Paxton, who will end it there), and a pitcher who has never been able to get lefties out (Tanner Houck). They brought Nick Pivetta back on a one-year deal for some depth, but had to demote him to relief in mid-May. Bello and Crawford have been bright spots, but those two guys aren’t a contending rotation, and I don’t think it was reasonable for the Red Sox to think that group of seven starters was going to produce above-average work for them.
How did they get to that point? Bloom’s predecessor, Dave Dombrowski, brought the team a World Championship in 2018, but the process strip-mined a lot of the long-term pitching and saddled the club with some bad contracts. The trade for Chris Sale worked in the short term, but the decision to sign him to a five-year extension in March 2019 has been a fiasco, as he blew out his elbow that same year and has thrown just 135 innings since the extension kicked in for 2020, with one year and $27.5 million still remaining. That same deal also cost the team Michael Kopech, who also had Tommy John after the trade but has pitched more and more…