Buckley: Fired Chaim Bloom bears blame for product but leadership team also out of touch

It wasn’t all about Chaim Bloom. It was all about reading the room, something the Red Sox have been shockingly incapable of doing for several years now.

The Red Sox don’t look like the Red Sox anymore, what with their revolving door of hopeful maybes and hopeless has-beens who take up the remaining space on a roster dotted with a few known commodities. And they don’t play like the Red Sox anymore, what with the daily standings serving as a reminder that they’ve become a tired, unexciting, middle-of-the-pack outfit.

But one needs also to listen in order to fully grasp what’s happening over at Fenway Park because the Red Sox don’t sound like the Red Sox anymore. It’s become a team without sizzle and swagger, a team without characters, a team without the kind of voices that in the old days sometimes needed to be reined in.

The 2023 Red Sox are generally a collection of worker bees, and that’s by design. And for scorekeeping purposes, sure, that’s on Chaim Bloom, the embattled-from-the-beginning chief baseball officer who was fired on Thursday.



The Red Sox after Chaim Bloom: Pluses, minuses and candidates for his old job

We’ll get to Bloom in a moment. First, some hard questions need to be asked:

— Does John W. Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox who also owns the Boston Globe, actually read the Globe? Does he read The Athletic? The Herald? Does he know what’s going on?

— Does Tom Werner, the Red Sox chairman who many years ago as a Harvard undergraduate crafted a documentary on Opening Day at Fenway Park, still make regular pilgrimages to the old ballyard he professes to love so much?

— And perhaps of most concern, where is Red Sox president/CEO Sam Kennedy in all this? That he’s a native of Brookline, Mass., has always been looked upon as Sam’s Secret Sauce, the idea being that he’s a local lad who grew up rooting for the Red Sox and, hence, understands the Boston Baseball Experience better than anybody. This Rockwellian image is all but set to music in the team’s 2023 media guide, which notes that Kennedy “grew up within walking distance of Fenway Park.”

As the Red Sox have slowly transformed themselves into an unexciting mid-market franchise, determinedly huffing and puffing and hoping that everything falls into place, has Kennedy ever banged the table in front of Henry and Werner while lecturing them about how real Red Sox fans think?

Maybe he did just that but came away frustrated because Henry (reading neither the tea leaves nor his own newspaper) and Werner (having forgotten his college-boy bromance with Fenway Park) refused to listen. That’s bad. Either that or Kennedy didn’t do anything, recognizing that being president and CEO of the Red Sox is one very cool gig for a kid who grew up within walking distance of Fenway Park. That’s also bad.

In other words, Henry, Werner and Kennedy come across as outsiders, even if the two owners have owned homes in the Boston area for years. And even if Kennedy grew up here. Maybe Henry truly does not read his own paper. Maybe Werner needs to rewatch his Opening Day documentary, which, according to a blurb I dug up from the 2003 media guide,  “… starts with the quiet, quaint park at rest, then exploding with the excitement of fans pouring into the park.”

As for Kennedy, it wouldn’t do him a bit of harm to ride the Green Line out to the old house in Brookline sometime and then take a nostalgic, starry-eyed walk back to Fenway Park.

Yes, Mookie Betts is missed on the Red Sox. What’s also missed is the year-in, year-out passion to roll out a product that’s not only in contention but also in your face. But with the ever-expanding, “Succession”-sounding Fenway Sports Group so far-flung that its portfolio now includes a Premier League team, an NHL team, and an outfit that competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series among many other ventures, the sobering reality is that it’s not just the Red Sox that keep Henry and Werner up at night, if they keep them up at all.

It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they don’t see and they don’t listen.

I reached out to Bloom, who declined to comment on the record. Had we talked for a while, I would have told him he’s not responsible for the malaise. But he’s absolutely responsible for the product. Dealing Betts to the Dodgers will forever be stapled to his resume, even if he was nudged in that direction by a distracted, bottom-line ownership. Betts is a generational talent, and the Red Sox should have worked with him on a long-term contract extension long before Bloom arrived.

But even if we remove Betts from the discussion — which is asking a lot, since it happened on Bloom’s watch — a picture still emerges of a young baseball executive who never quite understood that Boston is one of the few remaining American cities that still takes baseball personally.

From his wobbly trade-deadline posturing that always had fans wondering if the Red Sox were in, or out, or somewhere in between, to his disastrous decision to look past Matt Dermody’s not-so-old homophobic tweets when he promoted the lefty pitcher to the big leagues — during Pride Month, no less —Bloom was revealed as a baseball executive so focussed on the books that he neglected to see the looks.

And for most of Chaim Bloom’s tenure, the Red Sox weren’t much in the looks department.

Bloom is a charming, personable man, and there’s no doubt there’s a love of the game inside him. But as of Thursday, he’s no longer connected with the Red Sox. Sox fans should wish him the best.

As for John Henry, Tom Werner — and, yes, Sam Kennedy — it’s not unfair to ask if they, too, are no longer connected with the Red Sox. But have never gotten around to just coming right out and saying so.

(Photo of Chaim Bloom and Sam Kennedy sharing a laugh before a home game against Miami in June: Paul Rutherford / Getty Images)

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