Behind Breslow's Opening Day beer shower

A Q&A with Boston's chief baseball officer

April 1st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OAKLAND -- It has been nearly five months since Craig Breslow was introduced as chief baseball officer of the Red Sox.

As the 2024 season got started in Seattle, Breslow, who pitched 13 seasons in the Major Leagues, adjusted to the dynamic of what game days will be like as a lead executive.

Breslow recently took a few minutes with to discuss a few topics, including getting doused with beer after the team’s first win and his growing respect for manager Alex Cora. So you got to experience your first Opening Day as the leader of baseball operations. It was a tense game, and ultimately a satisfying win for your team. What was it like to experience the start of the regular season in your new role?

Breslow: It was exciting. I think the biggest difference that I noticed in a really short amount of time is the lack of control over the outcomes of the game. Sitting in the bullpen [in my playing career], there was a chance I was going to be called on and I was going to deliver a pitch that was going to have very immediate and real consequential effect on the outcome. That's not the case here.

A lot of the work is done behind the scenes. It’s building out infrastructure. It’s trying to influence and prioritize the right things. But ultimately, the players go out and play. I want to caution myself about drawing any conclusions about one [series], but I do think it’s a really exciting, athletic group out there. And the connections they’ve built and the relationships they’ve built with each other and the accountability that comes along with that, I think those things are real. It isn’t very often someone in your position gets a beer shower after a win on Opening Day. How did that evolve? Did you have any inkling something was going to happen when you walked into the clubhouse?

Breslow: I’ve actually been talking with Alex through Spring Training about what his preferred operating rhythm with me is and how much time he wants after the game. Is after the game the right time to talk about some in-game decisions? Would we prefer to do it the next morning? So I was giving him some time, but he called and said, "The guys are waiting for you, where are you?" Between that, and him tossing me a pair of shorts and a T-shirt gave me some indication that something was coming. What was that feeling like?

Breslow: Above all else, it helped me to feel like [I belonged], to the extent that someone in the front office can belong alongside guys in the clubhouse. That's exactly the reaction that I had when I got my first win as a player. So I do think that the guys understood that I kind of knew where this was coming from and I’ve been a part of that culture and environment in the past. When you look at this team, what is one thing you’re excited about? And what is one thing that might keep you up at night wondering how it’s going to pan out?

Breslow: I think I’m really excited about the progress of the pitching group. The belief system and the methods that [pitching coach] Andrew [Bailey] and the rest of the group have built out and that the pitching group has embraced. Also, of course, nervous about [it]. There are a lot questions that can only get answered by playing the season out, and health has to go our way and all of the potential and talent that we feel like we can tap into has to manifest. So I think that's kind of my answer in both directions. Alex Cora has really blocked out all the noise from the outside. He is creating expectations for this team like he would any other year, despite what a lot of people outside your walls think about the team. How much do you appreciate the culture he has created since the beginning of Spring Training?

Breslow: It’s just so clear he's a great connector of people. He's got the absolute trust of everyone in this clubhouse, and that's not easy to do. And it's especially not easy to do when you have to have really difficult conversations with players. He’s fearless when it comes to pulling the right levers to try to put the best guys out in the field, to create the best matchups, and whether that's pinch-hitting or moving guys around, [moving] big guys out of the lineup when there's a better matchup. Either you can make those difficult decisions, or you can get everybody to kind of buy in and like you. To be able to do both is a really, really special talent.