John Tomase

A very bad week has Red Sox on the verge of total collapse

The wheels are starting to fall off in Boston.

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The Red Sox are officially teetering, and there's suddenly a lot more at stake than the 2023 season.

Thursday night's blowout loss to the Guardians in Cleveland represented the latest debacle. The Red Sox handed the ball to homophobic left-hander Matt Dermody during Pride Month for absolutely no good reason and then couldn't cut him fast enough after the game.

Manager Alex Cora benched one of his few good players, Alex Verdugo, for failing to hustle the night before. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, returning to the scene of his greatest triumphs, allowed eight straight hits as the sacrificial bullpen lamb in what could be his final appearance in a Red Sox uniform -- or any uniform -- and then left without speaking to reporters.

Ace Chris Sale is already shelved with a shoulder injury that the team is curiously waiting a week to publicly diagnose. The defense continues to boot balls all over the field. The players foolishly held a team meeting on Monday before facing Tampa destroyer Shane McClanahan, who predictably silenced them. They're 10-18 since reaching their high-water mark of 21-14 in May, and they've lost three straight series.

Cora sounds more peeved by the day, the talent disparity with the rest of the division feels insurmountable, and oh, hey, here come six games against the Yankees that could effectively end the season before the summer solstice.

That's ... a lot. And we haven't even begun to discuss the long-term ramifications for the franchise.

Owners stand by their chief baseball officers unequivocally until they don't, and if Chaim Bloom points the Red Sox toward a third last-place finish in four years, it's hard to see how he survives the season, a fate that predecessors Dave Dombrowski and Ben Cherington know all too well.

Bloom once again has built a roster focused on the future at the complete and utter expense of the present. It helps explain why Triston Casas is getting everyday at-bats at first base despite hitting a buck ninety, and it's also why youngsters Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck will keep taking the ball every fifth day as starters no matter how much either of them could help the bullpen.

The organization is pinning its hopes on young shortstop Marcelo Mayer, a superb prospect who recently earned a bump to Double-A at age 20. I haven't spoken to anyone who sees Mayer as anything other than the real deal, but even the most bullish evaluators agree he's no Elly De La Cruz, the 21-year-old five-tool marvel currently taking Cincinnati by storm.

The wild card in all of this is owner John Henry. Based on past behavior, at some point he'll decide today matters more than tomorrow, and when he does, the end of Bloom's regime could come swiftly. One can only tolerate anemic TV ratings and the potential for empty seats in August and September for so long.

But Henry has given Bloom more leeway than his predecessors, and there haven't been any rumblings of dissatisfaction from the ownership level, especially since Henry embraces the idea of building a homegrown contender, which is a lot cheaper than diving repeatedly into free agency. If Bloom survives another last-place finish, the job may be his for life.

If he doesn't, Cora is probably the next to go. Ownership loves the manager and strongly encouraged Bloom to give him a second chance in 2021, but revamping baseball operations means allowing the new leader to hire his own people. And though Cora is respected across the game, he wears those last-place finishes, too. Just as Bloom must own the talent deficiencies across the roster, the responsibility for two straight years of sloppy, uninspired play falls on Cora.

Turning over your entire leadership structure is what's known as upheaval. It's starting to feel like the Red Sox are barreling straight towards it.

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