The world of baseball according to Joey Votto, Chaim Bloom
The question seemed timely, especially considering what team was coming into town.
Chaim Bloom, the man who left this weekend's opponent, the Rays, to become the Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer prior to the 2020 season, was presented with a simple query: How close are you to landing in the kind of spot you envisioned when it came to building an organization?
Bloom had been part of Tampa Bay's evolution going back to 2005, ultimately emerging into one of the franchise's chief decision makers. So, with the Rays not only sustaining their success, but taking into historic levels this season, the Sox executive presented a unique perspective on what had been and what might be.
It turns out the simple question led to an all-encompassing, motivational proclamation. (Bloom's answer can be heard at the 28:30 mark of the following podcast.)
"My nature is to always feel like we are nowhere close," said Bloom on the 'Baseball Isn't Boring' podcast. "I'm constantly feeling like there is more to do, and given where we are I think everybody would agree there is more to do. But I think also seeing a lot of the different contributions that have come from all places on the roster and some of the things that are happening both in the system with young players coming to the big leagues coming into their own that we are headed in the right direction. But there is obviously more we have to do.
"Right now the nature of the game is that it is a different game than I think it was 3 1/2 years when I got here. It's not about trying to be someone else. It's trying to be the best. The only way you can do that is being the best version of yourself. You take things you learn ... I take everything I have learned in my career, and I have learned a lot since coming here. There are lessons you learn through success and there are lessons you learn when things don't go well. Obviously, both before I came here and the times I have been here, there have been some of both. For me, you should never be satisfied. Baseball is a game where emotionally ... When you're on a win streak, when you're on one of those heaters you feel like you're never going to lose. Then you go on a stretch like the past week where it's really easy to feel how are we ever going to win a ballgame and it's the same group. I think our team has done a good job of that, not getting sucked into that and just focusing on what is front of them. Just keep grinding and just keep pushing. To me, that relentlessness I hope will continue to be a trait of this 2023 team is exactly what we need to bring as a front office. We are always going to keep pushing. The second you think you have this game figured out, the second you of think you're there, you're probably fooling yourself. I think some of the organizations that have sustained a ton of success over time, they have done that because they keep pushing and they aren't satisfied and there is always more to do. That's my mindset. That's the mindset I want from the people I work with. We don't take a single day in any of our jobs for granted and you better run through that bag every time. We want that from the players and we owe that to them in how we do our jobs."
While the passion and drive born from his time with the Rays isn't hard to uncover, the results of the two franchises aren't currently matching up.
Tampa Bay heads into the four-game series with the best record in baseball (40-18), while the Red Sox are stuck in last-place mediocrity at a good-but-not-great mark of 29-27.
While so many are hoping Bloom can unveil the formula that has led the Rays to these heights, this has yet to seem like an apples to apples type of situation. Since his departure, Tampa Bay has kept on trucking with the second-most wins since the beginning of 2020. The Red Sox? They had the 2021 flurry that led them to the American League Championship Series, but in the three other seasons their existence has primarily been at the bottom of the American League East.
So, is there a secret sauce? According to Bloom, the answer isn't all that extravagant. But, as he points out, it seems to have worked pretty well.
"It's probably not my place to talk too much about them because I'm not there anymore, but I will say that none of what has happened since I left is a surprise to me," Bloom explained. "Obviously, there was a lot of hard work that went into setting the stage for that, and a ton of hard work to keep it going. I would point to the say thing that is underneath almost any consistent success in this business or probably any business - it starts with people and culture. The caliber of the people there is incredible. They work together exceptionally well. The tone from top to bottom is set the right way. The alignment is good. Everybody is pulling on the same end of the rope. These are actually not sophisticated concepts. They are really simple things that that organization tends to do really well. That's a credit to all the people there. From top to bottom, everybody is pulling on the same end of the rope.
"Having continuity with good people is really helpful. And a culture, once you build it ... It takes work. It's like a plant, you keep watering. You can sustain a culture once it's built and keep a lot of the good things, just like has happened here over the years. A lot of things have been constants here because of the people who have established it and kept it going. It changes over time and what you have to do to win in today's game changes over time. And you have to challenge what you think you know and be willing to adjust and sometimes reinvent yourself. My time I was there, we went through some highs and lows and sometimes when it felt like we had it all figured out and then there were sometimes the game humbled us and we had to readjust. That's part of the game. When you have people who work together well, whose hearts are in the right place and they care about the right things, it becomes a lot easier to do that. It's a really high trust environment and people are focused on the things that are most important."
Bloom added regarding the ways the Rays go about their business, "A lot of this stuff isn't rocket science. It is relationships and communication. It's alignment, clarity and everybody being on the same page. I have always felt in this game for as complicated as some things are behind the scenes, a lot of time is to do simple really, really well. It's not just them. A lot of good organizations when things are going well you're not overcomplicating things and you're making things simple for people. You're giving players clarity and confidence and if they understand who they are they are going to perform better on the field."
However Bloom's approach is categorized - oftentimes being labeled as "Tampa Bay North" - it's probably not a bad thing being associated with what has become the best team in baseball.
It's a reminder the Red Sox and their Chief Baseball Officer will be privy to once again in the coming days.