Chaim Bloom has a thick skin, but even the unflappable chief baseball officer of the Red Sox betrayed some frustration at the portrayal of the trade deadline as an abandonment of his clubhouse.
You remember the MLB trade deadline. While every contender in baseball seemingly acquired a future Hall of Famer and two All-Stars, the Red Sox plucked injured Kyle Schwarber and two nondescript relievers, one of whom went by Big Fudge, off the clearance rack.
Leading the division by 1.5 games, the Red Sox dropped 10 of their next 13 to fall five games behind the Tampa Bay Rays and into an Oklahoma drill for the wild card.
Critics of the team's relative inaction pointed to the Yankees, who aggressively shed prospects to acquire first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Joey Gallo, starter Andrew Heaney, and reliever Clay Holmes. While the Red Sox floundered, the Yankees soared, ripping off 23 wins in 27 games and making up a staggering 9.5 games on Boston in the process.
Even those of us who didn't advocate strip-mining the farm system nonetheless believed the Red Sox could've done more. Speaking in early September, Bloom bristled at the suggestion that the clubhouse had reacted poorly to receiving relatively little help on July 30.
"I think anybody who believed in this group that strongly should give them enough credit to think that they are not suddenly as a group going to go in the tank because of what a lot of other people are saying about them," Bloom said.
But what if the doubts were internal, not external, he was asked. What if the club sensed a lack of faith from management?
"I can't pretend to know what's in everybody's head," he said. "Again, I think a lot of this stuff takes place in narratives that mostly exist outside of our walls, but from our standpoint, we believe in the group, and we went out and tried to make good baseball moves to help the group. That's how we looked at it, and that's still how we look at it."
Nearly two months later, Bloom appears poised to get the last laugh. While it's fair to believe the malaise of early August related directly to a failure to acquire immediate reinforcements, there's little question now that Bloom's moves have put the Red Sox in a position to take control of the wild card race and possibly even host that winner-take-all affair vs. the Blue Jays.
Bloom believed Schwarber to be the highest-impact offensive player acquired at the deadline, and even if it took a couple of weeks for the left-handed hitter to return from a hamstring injury, he has since delivered by batting .276 with an .863 OPS and Ted Williams-esque .406 on base percentage.
His patience has seemingly rubbed off on the rest of the roster. Prior to Schwarber's debut on Aug. 13, the Red Sox owned a .321 on base percentage, good for 10th in baseball. Since he returned, they're at .350, second only to the Nationals.
Even the relievers Bloom landed in minor deals -- right-hander Hansel Robles and left-hander Austin Davis, the aforementioned sizable confection -- have found their lanes.
The hard-throwing Robles may not always be on speaking terms with the strike zone, but he has authored eight straight scoreless outings while giving the Red Sox a different look from the right side with his upper-90s heat. And after a rocky start, Davis hasn't allowed a run this month, either. He has limited left-handers to a .160 average with the Red Sox, emerging as a legit left-on-left weapon.
Meanwhile, the deals the Yankees made have the potential to blow up in the face of general manager Brian Cashman. After a hot start, Rizzo is batting only .254 with slightly above-average production. Gallo has provided power -- 12 homers in 47 games -- but he's a caricature of the all-or-nothing slugger, batting .162 with 72 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Holmes has been nails (5-1, 2.11), but Heaney owns a 7.00 ERA.
Making matters worse, in order to save money, New York traded 10 prospects in those deals, including six of their top 30, per MLB.com. Bloom has made it clear that he's not interested in throwing prospects at marginal upgrades, and the three players he landed cost him only one of his top 30 -- right-hander Aldo Ramirez, who went to the Nationals for Schwarber.
If the Yankees miss the playoffs -- the Red Sox lead them by a game and a half with a chance to drive the proverbial nail into the coffin this weekend -- Cashman will have to answer not only for a curious offseason focused on broken-down pitchers like Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber, but also an aggressive trade deadline that cost him a ton of prospect inventory for a fourth-place finish.
Meanwhile, the fits may not be perfect, but the trio Bloom acquired has helped point the Red Sox toward the postseason, and one of baseball's most rapidly improving farm systems remains intact. Taking the long view yielded some heartache in August, but it may yet pay off in October.