The phenomenon known as “doom-scrolling” is defined as “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing”. This is a common occurrence for many people in the present-day 24-hour news cycle. Constant news fed to the consumers with clicks and engagements being the top priority, rather than an informative article with lots of substance. When the consumer has a demand for a negative attitude and bad news, the supplier fills their demand. Dan Shaughnessy at The Boston Globe has filled this role for the Boston Red Sox and their fans.
After the organization fired Dave Dombrowski, Chaim Bloom became the new Chief of Baseball Operations for the Red Sox. Bloom was the antithetical counterpart to Dombrowski in most ways. Bloom is the ultra-analytically minded baseball guru, whereas Dombrowski was the big-spending, macho man who had a tendency to offload as many prospects as possible to make the big league team as good as possible. Bloom has endured a lot of scrutiny over the past year, as his perceived “turning of the Red Sox into the Tampa Bay Rays” philosophy produced a 2022 Red Sox team that underperformed their previous year’s ALCS run. His inability to re-sign Xander Bogaerts in free agency drew the ire of many fans as well. Despite all this, there is still a strong contingent of fans that really think he is setting the franchise on a path for much more sustainable success. Writers like Dan Shaughnessy have frequently criticized Bloom and the organization over the past few years, but although there are plenty of critiques to be made, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the modern game of baseball and how it operates.
This statement was made after one game.
His writing comes off as hyperbolic for the sake of generating clicks and engagements, but I take issue with a few of his sentiments. Lest we forget, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2018. Such an absurdly long-time ago for a Boston sports writer to think about, how could anyone conceive the thought of not winning another World Series in 4 years? “When they were a serious baseball organization spending money,” he says as if the Red Sox were not a team that spent above the luxury tax threshold in 2022, but I digress. The last paragraph of the quote really sums up how far the game has passed Shaugnessey by, and for a large part, much of the sports media world.
Billy Beans and the early 2000s Oakland Athletics forever changed American professional sports. It became a time for the sports “nerds” and “geeks” to have their shine in the sporting world spotlight. The success of those teams defied the current logic at the time, which created a completely different way to approach team-building. However, in this new era, analytics have become polarizing. Some view it as a nerdy crutch that has no place in deciding the on-field product of multi-millionaire athletes. Whereas, the “analytics” people view it as a necessary approach to understanding the game and predicting outcomes. The front offices of every MLB team in the 2020s have taken the latter approach.
What Shaugnessey fails to understand is that every team is a “nerd-laden operation”. Does he not think that the 2022 Houston Astros organization that won the World Series has nerds working for them? Is he that obtuse? Has he really not been paying attention to baseball for 20 years? Do the Tampa Bay Rays who by all accounts, have the largest analytical approach to baseball in the entire league and a much lower payroll, not know what they are doing? It is a foolish sentiment that Shaugnessey is trying to convey and one that he knows he truly does not believe in.
Having a good farm system is key to an MLB team’s success. When teams go over the luxury tax, they lose international free-agent capital and draft picks. So when a team is not trying to “overspend”, it can mean that they simply do not want to lose the ability to keep a solid team for the next decade by going over the luxury tax for 2+ years in a row. Sustainability and success are key for any professional sports organization despite what Shaugnessey would lead us to believe. There is a lot more to creating a successful team than trading away all your assets for a couple of star players or spending the most possible money you can in free agency.
As I sit here today, the Red Sox are currently 22–16 and in third place in the AL East. We can argue on the merits of trades in hindsight and even grovel over money spent and not spent, but criticizing the “nerds” for why your team has gone in a different direction is such a fundamental misunderstanding of how the game of baseball works. Will writers like Shaughnessy ever change their views? The answer is most likely not, because their “doom-writing” sells. I would say the antidote would be to not succumb to that level of click-baiting but alas I have fallen into the trap as well by writing this article.