Veteran pitchers question Chaim Bloom, Red Sox priorities after Plawecki DFA

BOSTON, MA - MAY 6: Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox walks off the mound during the fourth inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox on May 6, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 6: Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox walks off the mound during the fourth inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox on May 6, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Red Sox players are publicly unhappy with Chaim Bloom and the front office

The long-simmering tensions in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse have officially boiled over.

It’s evident in the fact that players haven’t shied away from criticizing the direction of the team for weeks, months even. When the Sox traded Christian Vázquez at the deadline, Xander Bogaerts voiced his concerns. And over the weekend, two veteran starting pitchers did the same when the Sox unexpectedly designated catcher Kevin Plawecki for assignment, weeks before he was set to reach free agency.

Rich Hill is one of the oldest active players in the league. The Milton, MA native re-signed with the Sox for this year, his third stint with the club. Having played for 11 different teams in his 18 seasons, Hill is uniquely qualified to comment on roster upheaval, and yet, his comments indicate that it doesn’t get easier with time:

"“[Losing Plawecki] was very difficult. Throughout the clubhouse, it was a tough one for everybody. What everybody sees out in the field and in the dugout, but what you don’t realize is the humanity side of this game. We’re not just all numbers. We’re human beings. And removing a guy like that from the clubhouse is a big hit for a lot of guys; I would say everybody in here.”"

Nathan Eovaldi, also a free agent this winter, admitted that it was a “shock” to hear that Plawecki was gone:

"“It’s extremely difficult. I felt like everything he has done for the organization and the player he is, it’s unfortunate to see him go, especially on those terms, with only three weeks to go in the system. I haven’t talked to Chaim or anybody else to get the true reasoning behind it. I was disappointed when I heard the news.I think it just goes to the type of player Kevin is. He’s the one teammate you want in the clubhouse. The type of guy he is and the selflessness that he has. He is trying to do everything he can for the team. I have had a lot of catchers who value hitting more than they do catching. I feel like when you’re a catcher, it’s the same as a pitcher. It would be like me being disappointed that I didn’t get hits and taking that out on the mound for me. I think he does a really good job navigating the pitching staff. He understands his role, as well. He understood he wasn’t an everyday guy with us. I feel like he could be somewhere. He knows his role and just being able to navigate the pitching staff. Just the player that he is. He comes up with all the fun stuff. He had the home run cart. He always has the radio on the road. Playing music on the bus. Things like that. Keeping everybody lively in the clubhouse. He’s always trying to help the younger guys. He’s doing everything you want on your team. So for him to be let go, especially this time of year, is disappointing…”"

In addition to mentioning Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom by name, Eovaldi didn’t shy away from naming several players who’d been difference-makers in their unexpected ALCS run last year. The pointed comments reveal dissatisfaction with Bloom’s roster construction:

"“I understand it’s a tough decision, but you want to build a championship around guys like that. Guys who are going to do what it takes to win ballgames and do whatever they have to do to help the team win, and I felt he was doing that. We had (Kyle) Schwarber last year, and Hunter Renfroe and certain guys like that. There are the guys that do the little things right on the field and off the field when you’re in the clubhouse. It’s hard to find a player who interacts with both pitchers and position players. Sometimes you can be a little divided. But when you have guys like Plaw, Renfroe, Schwarber. All of those guys were extremely good guys in the clubhouse. I think sometimes that goes a little further than productivity or whatever on the field. To me that was a very difficult one, to lose a guy like him even where we are in the season in the last few weeks.”"

What Eovaldi means by “goes a little further” than on-field production is what’s known in Boston as the ‘intangibles.’ They’re a very real factor here; leadership and mentorship, clubhouse camaraderie, postseason experience, even something as indefinable as a player’s vibe. These things cannot be mathematically quantified on one of Bloom’s analytics spreadsheets, but they matter. The impact of intangibles is evident in the best seasons, just as not prioritizing them is palpable in the worst.

As David Ortiz often says, this city isn’t the place for everyone. Players who can handle the limelight and play under a microscope are rare. Championship hopes have been actualized or dashed because of intangibles. You have to really get it, and there’s a very real concern that Bloom does not.

Since replacing Dave Dombrowski almost three years ago, Bloom – who made his bones with the Tampa Bay Rays (notoriously one of baseball’s cheapest teams, with frequent roster turnover as a result) – has definitely prioritized prospects over players, and numbers over people. Hill’s “We’re not just all numbers” declaration definitely feels like a dig at Bloom, and with good reason. He traded Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects and didn’t make a serious effort to extend Schwarber. The Sox gambled on James Paxton and didn’t build a real bullpen roster. Most importantly, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are still without new deals.

On the farm front, Bloom is succeeding: for the first time in several years, the Sox system is churning out legitimate talent. In the past few weeks alone, several prospects have made their debuts. Seeing Triston Casas, Brayan Bello, Ceddanne Rafaela, and several other prospects with bright futures made this season somewhat more bearable, but it does not erase the many mistakes and unpopular decisions of the front office.

If anything, the influx of debuting players only makes veteran leadership even more vital to team chemistry and success. Plawecki is gone. Eovaldi, Hill, and JD Martinez are likely to follow. Bloom must recognize how crucial the intangibles are before he does irreparable damage to the team.