Two years ago, it was a dream and nothing more.
Chaim Bloom took over the Red Sox after a 2019 season in which they underperformed on a franchise-record $240 million payroll. They had won the World Series the year before with a similar payroll and almost the same roster. One out of two ain’t bad, but nevertheless, Bloom wanted to change the way things were done.
His dream was the same as so many others in the game, and sounded almost identical to that of former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington: to compete every year.
Monday, Bloom sat down in front of reporters in the final press conference of the 2021 season to explain his vision for the future. This time, his utopian dream wasn’t just an idea. He had executed it in real life, suffering through the ugliness of the 2020 season and watched his halfway-decent, $180 million opening day roster come within two wins of the World Series.
So while it was easy to shake our heads at Bloom’s vision a year or two ago, and to question his passiveness in July, when he watched Alex Cora’s first-half mastery go for naught as the Sox gave the American League East to the Rays in a matter of two weeks, seeing the way it all played out and how well the Sox are set up to do it again next year was a feather in Bloom’s cap.
He did it his way.
“No. 1, I think in February when I was asked about what my hopes, what my goals were for the season, I talked about how even if we went all the way and won the whole thing, I wanted to come out of it thinking this could be the start of something, that we had our next core, which could include players from the last championship and then players that were joining this core, being a part of something we could be excited about going forward,” Bloom said. “We fell six wins short of that ultimate goal, but in terms of this being the start of something, in terms of us feeling like we have a bunch of guys who joined this group who are ready to help us win going forward, I think we’re there.
“I think the mission now is to continue to build on that.”
Bloom has largely maintained his top prospects, limited owner John Henry’s spending, and carefully added depth around the edges.
And it worked. The Sox won 92 games, sneaked into the postseason, knocked out two division rivals and became one of the final four teams standing.
It’s fair to say the season was a success.
It’s also fair to say Cora squeezed every last drop out of the roster he was provided, that Bloom’s assembly of players was just a hair short of World Series caliber and it’s his duty to make up that difference between now and March 31, when the Sox host the Rays to begin the 2022 season.
One thing is for sure: it’s not going to come at the expense of the future.
That means it’s unlikely the Sox will be big spenders in free agency, it’s unlikely they’ll dig into their farm system to acquire any marquee players via trade and it’s likely the only new faces that appear on the 2022 team are going to be diamonds in the rough or bargain finds in free agency.
There’s nothing wrong with that plan if it works. It’s just not quite as exciting as signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval on the same day just before Thanksgiving in 2014.
Those moves were thrilling. They also cost Cherington his job.
“I think we talked a lot in spring training about trying to build up this organization at every level while trying to compete at the major league level,” club president Sam Kennedy said Monday. “And thanks to the group sitting to my left (Bloom, Cora, general manager Brian O’Halloran), we were able to do that.”
The Sox generated interest, they sold postseason tickets and they did so without exceeding the luxury tax threshold.
They even added some cost-effective talent for the future.
“I think Alex said it well, there was a lot of unfinished business,” Kennedy said. “No one is celebrating.”
Well, that part isn’t exactly true.
It’s rare a Boston team can get away with falling short of a championship game/series and still take a victory lap, but the Red Sox executed that well this year, and they were overall quite pleased with themselves.
Kennedy continued: “But I think this year was a validation of our organizational plan and our strategy, which is to continue to build a robust organization at every single level, win at every level and remain committed to the major league level. Our fans responded well to that. Players responded well to that. And that’s going to be where we’re going.”
He defiantly added, “and we’re not going to deviate from that plan one bit.”
Like George Costanza refusing to budge on a “Show About Nothing,” the Red Sox won’t change from their “Compete Every Year” utopian vision.
At least not right now. There’s no reason to. It’s working.