BOSTON (AP) — Theo Epstein won two World Series with the Red Sox and burned out in Boston after nine years. Ben Cherington won one, too, and was gone less than two years later.
Dave Dombrowski lasted less than a year after riding through the streets of Boston in a celebratory duck boat parade. All he did was build the rosters that won three straight AL East titles, including a franchise-record 108 games last season and a fourth World Series championship in 15 years.
So when the Red Sox hired former Tampa Bay Rays exec Chaim Bloom to take over as their new chief baseball officer, they gave him a clear mission: not just another trophy for the Fenway Park mantel, but the chance to compete for one year after year.
“I know how high the expectations are here,” Bloom said at his introductory news conference on Monday, a year to the day after Dombrowski’s team clinched the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. “My expectations are high. I know the expectations of the baseball operations staff are high. That’s a good thing.”
A 36-year-old Yale graduate who worked his way up from intern to Rays assistant general manager, Bloom will take over a franchise that won it all in 2018 but missed the playoffs this season despite the biggest payroll in baseball.
It’s a cycle that many cities would welcome but not Boston.
“We very much want to be a stable organization. But we all wake up every day saying, ‘How can we improve?'” Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said. “A year ago today, we were considered the best baseball club in the world. And obviously we didn’t achieve our objective this year. But we have the pieces in place to be competitive every year.”
Owner John Henry disputed that there has been a lot of turnover in the front office, saying, “I’ve been an owner for 21 years, and at that time I’ve had three and now four general managers.” But during that time no other team has parted ways with a baseball boss within a year or two of a title, and Boston has now done it three times.
Bloom said he understands that winning one championship might not be enough.
“When you’re looking to have success over the long haul, you’re always keeping an eye on tomorrow,” he said. “And even if you win a World Series, the next day you’re getting ready for the offseason. So that doesn’t change.
“Everything I know about all the people that I’ve spoken to, and my own experiences: When you are fortunate enough to enjoy some success in this game, it just makes you hungrier for more. And so I understand the mindset that everybody has.”
Bloom’s first official move was to announce the promotion of assistant general manager Brian O’Halloran to GM. O’Halloran had been one of four executives running the baseball operations department since Dombrowski was let go.
“Our conversations over the last week have only bolstered my already high opinion of him,” Bloom said. “He leads selflessly and without ego, and the good of the Red Sox is his highest priority. In that regard and so many others, he is a model for everyone here, and that I can now work closely with him is a privilege.”
Among the decisions waiting for their collaboration: whether to sign 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts to a long-term deal or trade him while the team can get some value in return. Designated hitter J.D. Martinez has five days after the World Series ends to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract; he would need to be replaced.
Henry said that came up in the interview process.
“We talked about that there are a lot of tough decisions to make during this offseason. That’s not uncommon,” Henry said. “We talked about Mookie, J.D. other issues, but we didn’t focus on what should we do.”
After working with one of the majors’ smallest payrolls in Tampa Bay, Bloom now has a much bigger budget in Boston — perhaps $150 million more. But his ability to work with limited resources could come in handy: Henry has said the team would like to get under baseball’s luxury tax threshold of $208 million in 2020, which would mean trimming about $35 million from the payroll.
“We also have tremendous respect for the Rays organization, what they’ve accomplished over the last dozen years. They have been incredibly competitive with limited resources,” Henry said. “They haven’t been well-supported, but they’ve done everything right on and off the field. So we were eager to bring in some new ideas as well as to buttress what we’re doing here.”
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