John Tomase

A simple request for Red Sox in hiring Chaim Bloom's replacement

It's time for Boston to end the confusion surrounding its top baseball executive.

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The Red Sox have no idea who will replace Chaim Bloom, but before that lucky someone even takes the job, I have a humble demand:

Your title will be general manager.

Not president of baseball operations. Not senior vice president of player development. Not executive vice president of exit velocity. Not office manager, Mr. Manager, or assistant to the regional manager. And for the love of god, may no one attain the military rank of chief baseball officer ever again.

The GM title was good enough for Hall of Famer Branch Rickey when he signed Jackie Robinson and broke the color barrier. It was good enough for John Schuerholz when he led the Braves to 14 straight division titles. It was good enough for Theo Epstein when he ended 86 years of misery. And it remains good enough for Brian Cashman as he completes his 26th season in the Bronx.

That means it should be good enough for you, too, next Red Sox hire. This stupid obsession with titles has made the whole front office hierarchy borderline inscrutable. Presidents are what general managers used to be. GMs are what assistants used to be. Assistants now do the work once assigned to interns.

Everyone gets a title! Everyone sounds important! Nobody's job actually changes, just the name plate on their desk and the font size on their business cards.

Allow me this indulgence, but it's no coincidence the game's bloated titles have proliferated during the rise of the bloodlessly impersonal front office. Numbers matter more than people to such an extent that merely calling them numbers betrays your ignorance, because the correct term is "data."

Everything is a stat, everything can be quantified, and the numbers rule all. It's how the Red Sox could sign a parade of 7.00 ERA pitchers during Bloom's tenure, because the underlying data supported it. It's also why every front office now employs an army of analysts, whose primary purpose is to make the case for and against everyone, so nobody can make a decision or ever be wrong.

In a world where traditional baseball men are being composted in favor of cookie-cutter Ivy Leaguers with the same haircuts and the same idiosyncratically privileged degrees in Latin or art history, no one can settle for a quotidian title like general manager. Organizations must devote entirely too much thought to why their new leader should be called chief baseball officer, which is what the Red Sox settled on four years ago, and which I've resented typing ever since.

"We've tried to keep up with the changing nature of the structure of baseball operations departments," CEO Sam Kennedy said the day Bloom was introduced in 2019. "And so that was part of our examination of the landscape. At the end of the day, we value the collaboration and brainpower and the institutional knowledge that our incredible team of existing baseball operations folks have here at the Red Sox. So, the title and Brian (O'Halloran's) new title seemed to be a good fit as we all go forward together."

Blah, blah, blah, counterpoint: They could've just named Bloom the GM and O'Halloran his assistant.

It's a reflection of the elitism now saturating the highest levels of baseball. The generation of young executives that believes it's reinventing the game could use a reminder that the truly elite wear the uniform. After all, a kid has a better chance of getting into Harvard than reaching the big leagues.

As the Red Sox seek a fresh start after four largely irrelevant seasons under Bloom, perhaps a return to the basics is in order. Prospects are to be nurtured and protected, but they can also be traded for proven talent. Payroll flexibility is nice, but only if you use it. The big-league club matters at least as much as the farm system.

It will be the responsibility of Bloom's successor to chart this course correction and refocus the Red Sox on what really matters. It's a classic job that calls for a classic title.

So welcome to Boston, boss. Right this way to the general manager's office.

John Tomase reacts to the news that the Red Sox have parted ways with Chaim Bloom and breaks down where he thinks things went wrong for the former chief baseball officer.
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