BOSTON — The general manager’s suite above home plate at Fenway Park sat vacant Thursday. Lights off.
For most games, either Chaim Bloom or Brian O’Halloran — sometimes both — sits in the front row, taking in that performance from the Boston Red Sox team they helped construct.
As of an hour before first pitch Thursday afternoon, they were no longer in charge.
At 12:27 p.m. on the day of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees, the Red Sox sent a news release announcing they’d fired Bloom as chief baseball officer and removed O’Halloran from the general manager role, offering him a senior leadership position within baseball operations, one he has yet to accept. O’Halloran has been with the organization since 2002.
Following a 5-0 win over New York in the first game of the doubleheader, there was no customary music blaring to celebrate the win. Player attendance was sparse with a few opting to spend time between the games with their families before the upcoming six-game road trip. The club headed to Toronto after the 8-5 loss Thursday night.
Despite the club’s 74-73 record and the team struggling to finish above last place in the division, the timing of Bloom’s firing shocked players and manager Alex Cora.
Red Sox principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and CEO Sam Kennedy informed Bloom and O’Halloran of their decision early Thursday before contacting Cora and then addressing the team in the clubhouse shortly before the first game began.
Justin Turner, a big-league veteran of 15 years, knew something was up when an unplanned meeting popped up on his calendar midmorning.
“It was certainly a surprise, I think to everyone this morning. Did not see that coming. I haven’t experienced that in my career, ” Turner said. “I can’t speak for everyone in this room, but it’s something I definitely take personally and you never want to lose the guy that brought you in here because you didn’t perform well enough on the field.”
As late as Wednesday, Cora and Bloom were making plans for the offseason with Bloom discussing things he felt Cora and the coaching staff could improve upon in pregame preparations, how they wanted to handle the development of young players on the big-league roster and how to accomplish that over the final few weeks of the season.
“You’re surprised. You never expect this,” said Cora, who was rehired by Bloom in 2021 after serving his MLB suspension in 2020. “You always expect to be together all the way through the end of the season. And whatever happens after that happens. You never expect this.”
Cora and Bloom did not always see eye to eye, and as the season wore on, it appeared the job of one or the other was in jeopardy. Nevertheless, Cora offered a diplomatic response about his relationship with Bloom.
“I think me and him, we grew up a lot in the last few years,” Cora said. “It’s like (any) business, right? You don’t agree with everything that your partners do or what they think. But at the end of the day, you work together for the benefit of your business. It’s the same thing here.”
The Red Sox hired Bloom from Tampa Bay, knowing the job of the first-time head of baseball operations would thrust him into a more intense spotlight at a time when the organization was recalibrating itself. Cora recalled sharing pizza and beer with Bloom at Game On outside of Fenway Park after Bloom’s introductory press conference in October 2019.
“That’s the first thing I told him after he met with you guys after he was hired, I was like, ‘One thing for sure, this place, don’t listen to the noise,’” Cora said.
As the Red Sox missed the postseason in two of the last three seasons under Bloom and are set to miss the playoffs yet again this year, the noise grew to deafening levels, ones that ownership could no longer ignore. Though they had given Bloom a vote of confidence as recently as the trade deadline, the downward spiral of the team cost him his job.
“It’s an old cliché,” Kennedy said. “We are in the results business. So, results ultimately always matter.”
In spite of the last place finishes and the built-up personnel and farm system, at least compared to what it was in 2019, Bloom’s legacy will be defined by something he didn’t do: retain Mookie Betts. The trade four months on the job as chief baseball officer set the tone for his tenure even if it was a move made with ownership’s backing.
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Similar to his predecessors Ben Cherington and Dave Dombrowski, Bloom lasted little less than four seasons in the role. Yet Kennedy dissuaded the notion that the organization needs to reevaluate how it hires heads of baseball operations even amidst the significant turnover.
“We share responsibility and blame always,” he said. “In terms of making a change to how we operate, I’d put our group up against anyone in Major League Baseball. So my answer to your question, I guess, is no. We’re going to keep doing the same thing, which is relentlessly chasing winning and chasing personnel, people in the front office that are going to put us where we belong, and that’s playing baseball in October.”
The objective of “relentlessly chasing winning” has seemingly waned in recent years with roster-building that favored cost-cutting measures more often than not.
“There’s blame on me, our ownership, the on-field staff deserves blame,” Kennedy said. “I’m sure some of the players would say they haven’t performed up to expectations. We all fell short of our collective goals. There’s a lot of blame to go around.”
As for the future of the role, Kennedy said the search will begin immediately but the organization has not yet decided if it will hire one or two people, how the role will operate or what the title will be.
Kennedy cleared speculation that Theo Epstein might return to lead the organization, ruling out the possibility. He did, however, offer support for Cora returning as manager next season, an unorthodox move given new leadership is usually allowed to hire its own field staff.
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“There’s a lot that has to improve and that includes our on-field staff,” Kennedy said. “So the baseball operations leadership will come in with a mandate to run the department — all aspects of the department.”
Kennedy, pressed on whether he expects Cora back next year, said: “I do, yeah, I do. But again, today is about a change in the front office.”
Meanwhile, Cora offered a vague answer about his own future with the organization, noting his own GM aspirations are “for the future.”
“I’ll finish the season and spend some time here and then I’ll go home and get ready for next year,” Cora said, refusing to elaborate where next year might be.
Regardless, significant change is on the horizon for the Red Sox as they vie to regain their footing as one of baseball’s preeminent franchises.
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(Top photo of Triston Casas: Maddie Malhotra / Boston Red Sox / Getty Images)