Mastrodonato: Red Sox would lose credibility if they fired Chaim Bloom or Alex Cora, but they need to be better

  • Cora

  • Abbie Parr / AP

  • Boston Red Sox baseball executive Chaim Bloom prior to Fenway Park game in late July. Charles Krupa / AP

  • Bloom

Boston Herald
Published: 9/1/2022 8:15:02 PM
Modified: 9/1/2022 8:14:48 PM

Of course, the Boston Red Sox weren’t going to fire Chaim Bloom or Alex Cora. They had a bad year. A really, really bad year.

But to fire either one of them at this point would be short-sighted and send a signal of instability throughout the entire organization. They’d lose credibility for hiring a chief baseball officer who had to deal with an inflated payroll and wasn’t given much of a choice in promptly firing his manager for getting involved in a cheating scandal and then trading Mookie Betts after the previous regime failed to sign him to a long-term extension.

They’d look like goofballs for hiring back that same manager, watching him lead a flawed team to within two games of the World Series in his first year back, then fire him one year later.

That’s not what the Red Sox need right now.

What they need is for the guys they hired to be better. A lot better.

“I am very comfortable saying Chaim and Alex will be back,” team president Sam Kennedy told The Athletic on Monday. “And I am very comfortable saying there is a strong belief in the direction of the franchise from our ownership group. … That direction is continuing to build for the future but also continuing to invest at the major league level.”

John Henry rarely makes public comments these days, and it’s often Kennedy doing the speaking for him. Kennedy said the team wouldn’t trade Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers at the trade deadline. And they didn’t.

If Kennedy says they aren’t firing Bloom or Cora, you better believe it. That’s not to say they don’t deserve blame for the disaster that was (and sadly, still is) the 2022 Red Sox season.

A heavier dose of that belongs on the front office than the field staff. What was Cora supposed to do with this batch of players?

The Red Sox entered the year with a black hole in right field and first base. They received negative offensive impact at both positions, and while Jackie Bradley Jr. at least offered Gold Glove defense in right field, Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero were hurting the team with their gloves.

They never replaced Hunter Renfroe’s offensive production, spread themselves too thin on low-money options in the rotation and didn’t do anything to help the bullpen.

Michael Wacha ($7 million) looked like a great signing, Rich Hill ($5 million) has been subpar and James Paxton won’t throw a single pitch, a waste of $10 million that could’ve been spent anywhere else. Sure, the Sox suffered a lot of injuries in the rotation, but the rookies who replaced them from the farm system, Jake Winckowski and Kutter Crawford, have ERAs of 5.83 and 5.30, respectively.

Instead of signing a reliable bullpen arm, the Sox spent $8 million on Jake Diekman, who has since been traded, and $3 million on Matt Strahm.

Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck were roped around from starters to relievers and back and forth again. Both have been on the injured list this year. Neither put it all together the way the Sox hoped they might.

If you had to point to only one reason as to why the Red Sox followed up their 20-6 month of June by going 8-19 in July, it would have to be their MLB-worst 24 errors in that month.

They don’t play smart baseball nor clean baseball. Every pop fly is an adventure. Cora has started to take a lot of ownership for the ugly play. And on Monday night, he went as far as he has all year in doing just that.

In the third inning of the Sox’ 4-2 loss to the Twins, there were two men and just one out. Rafael Devers fielded a ground ball at third and could’ve started a double play, but instead he touched third base and then started running towards the dugout.

“Raffy forgot the outs,” Cora told reporters on NESN. “I feel like it’s on us, the coaches; it’s on me as a manager. It’s been happening too much. We forgot the outs in Baltimore, the first series we played there. It has happened a lot.”

What can he do about it?

“We talked about it,” he said. “They’re professionals, they’re humans and make mistakes. But from my end, I take it personally. I take a lot of pride in this. It’s a reflection of who we are. It’s our team.

“We haven’t been good at it, baserunning, defensive lapses. We keep preaching, we keep talking, we have to get it right. From my end as the manager, I take a lot of pride in this, and we’re not doing a good job.”

Cora is signed through 2024 and isn’t going anywhere until at least then, if not longer.

Bloom will likely have a shorter leash. He took over an unenviable position after having to fire Cora and trade Betts before the 2020 season. But he’s lost most of the trades he’s participated in and, after this season is over, will have led the Sox to two last-place finishes in three years, all while having a top-10 payroll every year.

The farm system is now ranked No. 11 by Baseball America, but Triston Casas is the only top-ranked prospect expected to contribute in the next year.

The truth is 2023 could be ugly. There’s no clear path forward. And while the easy move would be to fire the front office leader, it wouldn’t solve anything.

“I know we’re in a tough spot right now, but we have a lot of flexibility going into this offseason,” Kennedy told The Athletic. “I’m really excited to see what we’re going to do with that flexibility and the resources we have.”

This team needs to get better now. It needs to get better in the future. Bloom and Cora need to be better. And they know it.

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