BOSTON -- On the surface, new Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow knows it is easy to view him as a stereotype -- an Ivy League-educated leader of a front office with an analytical bent.
The Red Sox have been down this road before, and so have many other teams over the last couple of decades.
But Breslow, while wearing his nerdiness as a humorous badge of honor, also noted a significant difference he has from most of his predecessors during his introductory press conference on Thursday at his familiar haunt of Fenway Park.
“I understand that some of you will see me as another Ivy League nerd with a baseball front office job. It's true,” Breslow said. “I am that, but I'm also a 13-year big leaguer and a 2013 Boston Red Sox World Series champion. And I know what it takes to win here and I'm willing to make the hard decisions necessary to deliver.
“My contribution to winning in this role will be different than it was back then, but one thing remains constant. My desire to win today is as strong as it was as a player, and I can't wait to get started.”
And so it formally started on Thursday, the dawn of a new era in Red Sox history, one in which the club plans on escaping its recent boom-or-bust reality to become a perennial contender again.
“I know what it means to win in Boston. Red Sox fans deserve a standard of quality and consistency,” Breslow said. “Quality meaning a team that can win the AL East and contend for a World Series title. And consistency, meaning we can do this year after year after year.”
After a prolonged search to find Chaim Bloom’s successor, Red Sox president/CEO San Kennedy identified three key reasons Breslow was the choice.
“Number one was his unmatched clarity of vision for the department, and especially his plans that he articulated for player acquisition, player development and, ultimately, player performance at every level of the organization,” Kennedy said.
“Second was his baseball intelligence. You may or may not notice it's been widely reported: Craig is a problem solver of the highest order. He literally turned himself into a big leaguer and turned himself into a front office executive using innovative and non-traditional methods.
“Finally, what stood out to us was his incredible experience as a Major League baseball player. He played for seven Major League teams over a span of 13 years, and most importantly to us, he played right here in Boston at Fenway Park. And Craig knows firsthand what it takes and what it means to win here. And ultimately, he knows what our fans expect and what they deserve.”
Ownership will try to give Breslow the support he needs to build a winning team, part of which will mean a likely increase in payroll. The Red Sox have finished in last place in the highly-competitive American League East in three of the past four seasons, including the last two.
“We know that we have to be competitive next year. We're going to be competitive next year,” said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. “You know that we're going to have to be full throttle in every possible way."
For Breslow, a New England native, coming home meant he didn’t even have to leave home.
In his previous post for the Cubs as assistant general manager/vice president of pitching, Breslow mainly worked remotely from his home in Newton, Mass., which is a quick jaunt down the Massachusetts Turnpike from Fenway Park.
When Kennedy, a Brookline, Mass. native, initiated the interview process with Breslow, the first meeting was fittingly at Johnny’s Luncheonette in Newton.
“It wasn't a long drive,” quipped Kennedy. “We had a great conversation. That was just the beginning, it was a reintroduction at that point. It was a very competitive couple-week process. I would say it wasn't until the last couple of meetings with [owner] John [Henry] and Tom [Werner] and [president of Fenway Sports Group] Mike [Gordon], myself, at John's house, where we spent many hours making sure that we had really dug into the areas that we needed to dig into, which really related to the vision for the department. You heard the areas of focus, and at the end, as I said, Craig emerged as the ideal choice for us.”
The obvious thing to wonder about Breslow is how quickly he can overcome his lack of experience leading a front office.
“I'm ready to take on this challenge,” Breslow said. “I think the way that I approach problem solving is transferable and scalable. I also can point to two things pretty specifically that will help me in this regard. One, the number of talented and experienced people in this front office, and two, the opportunities that I've had to learn from some of the most successful executives and people that I would call mentors in this game.”
One of those mentors is Theo Epstein, who also didn’t have any experience leading a front office when he was named general manager of the Red Sox in 2002. That worked out well.
Epstein ran Boston’s front office for nine years, guiding the team to six postseason appearances and two World Series titles.
The last three baseball operations leaders (Ben Cherington, Dave Dombrowski and Bloom) all lasted four seasons, even as Cherington and Dombrowski both brought World Series titles to Boston. That relatively quick turnover has created some scrutiny throughout the industry. However, Breslow comes in undaunted.
“What I would add is that I was aware of the turnover, of course. But I think if you enter this position trying to hedge, trying to understand what it would look like to fail, you're taking the wrong approach,” Breslow said. “I have confidence in my ability to execute this job. I have confidence in the people in this organization who have successfully executed in various roles in the past.
“And one thing that emerged through this process and spending so much time with John and Tom and Mike and Sam is that resources are not a problem here. The commitment to winning from ownership is not a question here. We have established a very acute, very clear alignment of vision, very clear calibration on where this needs to go.”