This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. After getting close to the World Series in 2021, the 2022 Boston Red Sox look like just what they are. A last place team.
What has gone wrong? Who’s responsible? Why have they fallen so hard, so fast? Where did the mistakes happen? Can they turn it around? Or is the season already over?
Here are some answers.
- What’s gone wrong?
The correct answer: what hasn’t? Aside from what appears to be a breakout season from stud flamethrower Garrett Whitlock, a solid start from Nathan Eovaldi, a surprising 3-0 record and 1.38 ERA from journeyman Michael Wacha, and a .333 red hot beginning from Xander Bogaerts? Everything has.
- Who’s responsible?
Chaim Bloom. Chaim Bloom. Oh, and Chaim Bloom. Bloom, the Chief Baseball Officer for the Red Sox, has fallen flat on his face in his third year on the job. Perhaps ownership is preventing Bloom from doing everything he wants, and for that, they should take some of the responsibility. But at the end of the day, Bloom is the decision maker, so criticism for building a roster full of holes is rightfully directed at him.
- Why have they fallen so hard, so fast?
Just seven months ago, the Red Sox were within two games of a World Series. They had reached the ALCS, and the future looked bright. One month into the following season, the team sits in last place in the American League East, 9 games under .500, with no signs of turning it around. How could this happen so quickly? The answers are pretty black and white.
The bullpen is terrible. Just over a month into the season, the Red Sox already have 9 blown saves. 9. Whitlock, the team’s best pitcher, has been placed in the starting rotation. A move that is not only suspect, but one that is detrimental to the team’s success. Almost half the team’s games already this season have been lost in the late innings, while simultaneously Whitlock’s bullets are being wasted starting games that have eventually been lost. Why? Because now manager Alex Cora has zero reliable arms to whom he can turn when the Sox have a lead. Perhaps the biggest disaster has been former All Star closer Matt Barnes, whose 7.84 ERA has been an embarrassment. His velocity is down from 97-98 mph to 93-94, and his command is gone. The rest of the pen isn’t far behind. Jake Diekman, Ryan Brasier, Hirokazu Sawamura, and Tanner Houck have been massive disappointments. Bloom built this pen not only without having a closer in place, but with a bunch of mostly unproven and unreliable pitchers who are all struggling. He is 100% to blame for perhaps the biggest weakness on the club.
- Outfield. Most notably right field. Nobody in the outfield has performed this season, with the weakest link being Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field. Your starting 3 of Alex Verdugo, Kiki Hernandez, and Bradley Jr., currently boast a combined .204 avg. After a hot start, Verdugo has cooled off and can’t find a hit to save his life. Hernandez, last season’ playoff star, is somehow offensively worse than JBJ hitting an anemic .182 on the season with 1 HR. Bradley at .205, has yet to leave the yard, and continues his trend from last season, as one of the worst hitters in all of baseball.
- First Base. Bobby Dalbec doesn’t belong in the major leagues. Second on the team in strikeouts with 26, and managing only 1 HR to date, his .143 avg is unacceptable. Pitchers can hit better than this guy. This is the Boston Red Sox. You have the third highest payroll in baseball. Having such pathetic production from the outfielders and first base position, is all on the shoulders of the roster builder. Bloom. It’s inexcusable to have such significant issues on your ballclub.
- Trevor Story. Forgive the pun, but the storyline here continues. The preseason favorites for having one of the deepest lineups in MLB, currently stand as the 19th worst hitting team in the league. They are 28th in Home Runs. 27th in runs. 26th in OPS. The team hasn’t shown their usual trademark patience at the plate either. They have the highest chase rate of any team in the majors. Outside of automatic outs like the previously mentioned Dalbec and Bradley, their one offseason splash, Story, has yet to produce. With a team leading 30 strikeouts, 0 Home Runs, and a .202 avg, Story looks lost and completely overwhelmed by the environment. Things have already gotten so bad for him, that he’s hearing boos at Fenway. Perhaps the Boston market is too big for him. Maybe taking him out of hitter friendly Coors Field has shown us truly who he is. Either way things better start heading in the other direction soon for him and the team, or this and his 6 year/$140 million dollar contract will look like a complete bust.
- Where did Bloom go wrong?
What could the man in charge of constructing the roster have done differently that would have changed the course of the 2022 team?
- Re-signed Kyle Schwarber. When you find a player that fits seamlessly not only into your ballclub, but also proves he can handle the pressure of the Boston sports scene, you bring him back. Schwarber became an instant fan favorite soon after he was acquired following last year’s trade deadline. His teammates loved him, as did the fans. Why? Because he was the ultimate Red Sox, a throwback to the old dirt dog days. A player who liked the bright lights. A guy who made opposing pitchers work. A glue in the clubhouse at the center of team chemistry. And man could he hit. He had the unique combination of power and the ability to hit in the clutch. He also would have solved some of the first base and right field problems, as he could play both positions. That’s a player you don’t let walk out the door. You find a place for that guy. Bloom chose to keep a player in J.D. Martinez, who is older, and on the backside of his career, instead of keeping a younger, better fit for the club and city.
- Signed or traded for a closer. It’s been proven in the past, in this town and others, that the “closer by committee” approach to finishing games, does not work. Yet heading into this season, Bloom went into it with the mentality that things would just “work themselves out”. Have they? Not only have they not, it’s blown up in his face. 9 times. And it’s only May. Diekman and Barnes have already blown multiple games, and Whitlock has been moved to the rotation. There is no other answer currently on the roster or in the farm system.
- Not have Dalbec and Bradley Jr. the starting first baseman and right fielder respectively. Neither are starters in the Major Leagues. There were multiple 1B options on the free agent market last offseason including Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant, and the aforementioned Schwarber. In RF, Bloom decided to trade away Hunter Renfroe and his 31 Home Runs, for 2 prospects, and one of the worst hitters in the majors, Bradley. Bloom had every opportunity to find better options at both positions and addressed neither. He will still have time to do so before the trade deadline, but by then, it just may be too late.
- Is the season already over?
No. It’s early May and the baseball season is six months long. As the saying goes, this isn’t a sprint. We are only 1/6 of the way through the marathon. There is almost 5 months of baseball remaining with plenty of time to turn things around. Albeit very few, there are some positives. The starting rotation has been better than expected boasting a very good 3.15 ERA. Unfortunately none of the starters can get many wins, because the inept bullpen blows any and all leads. The defense has also improved from a season ago. That said, the Sox sit in dead last in the American League East with a 10-19 record, behind the BALTIMORE ORIOLES. Maybe I should say that again. Behind the BALTIMORE ORIOLES. A team that annually loses over 100 games. Things look bleak. And there have been no signs or encouraging trends leading fans to believe that winning ways are on the horizon. But stranger things have happened. We have seen teams with much less time remaining, get hot, and get back into the race. That could happen with this team. They have the talent. They have the manager. Many on the current roster have championship pedigrees. But if Boston fans want any semblance of summer baseball at Fenway Park in 2022, the starting 9 are going to have to start hitting. Bloom is going to have to find another solution in right field and at first base, and he’s going to have to find a closer and another arm or two for the pen. You can’t tease your fanbase months earlier by almost reaching the promise land, then just blow things up and rebuild the very next season. That’s just not how it works. Not in Boston. Someone needs to tell Chaim he left Tampa Bay three years ago.