SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The proverbial fire hose Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow was drinking out of at his first GM Meetings as the leader of a front office didn’t appear to faze him.
Much like everything Breslow has done in his baseball life, he absorbed the information, disseminated it and started to formulate his plan of action, which will become apparent in the coming weeks as he makes his first acquisitions for the Red Sox.
“I think for anyone, Bres or anyone else that’s coming in new and for the first time, the fire hose is on, I’m sure. It is for all of us,” said Pirates general manager Ben Cherington, who acquired Breslow in time for the lefty to be a key reliever for Boston's World Series championship squad in 2013.
“I'm also confident he's handling it really well. He knows the place. He knows the city, he knows the market, the team challenges. He's exceptionally talented and bright and experienced, and he’ll do well.”
The brightness became evident when Breslow graduated from Yale with degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and was accepted to NYU School of Medicine, which he deferred for a life in baseball.
Breslow’s cerebral approach during his career is something that stood out to Cherington, who believed even a decade ago that it would be transferrable for a second career in baseball.
“I think we all envisioned that he would do something meaningful in the game after he stopped playing,” Cherington said. “I talked to him a lot in that year or two after he was done playing, because he was thinking about what path he wanted to go down. I talked to him about being on the field and still in uniform and going down that path. Ultimately, he chose the baseball ops/front-office player development path, and he’s done really well. I’m sure he’ll do well in Boston.”
As Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer can attest, Breslow certainly did well in Chicago in his first act as an executive.
“One of the things that shocked me early on was he would send me PowerPoint decks and it was like he'd been working at McKinsey for the last 12 years,” Hoyer said. “And you think about an ex-player having that kind of ability, he thinks in process really well.
“He's just a prodigious worker and turns out a lot of work. So many of those things are really impressive. I mean, he overhauled our pitching infrastructure, took that on. And after that, he was helping out with hitting infrastructure.
“And after that, he's helped me out in other areas. He just took on an amount of work that was really exceptional. So I think he has the intelligence obviously, but also the work ethic to go along with it and the ability to focus and process his thoughts and articulate them really well.”
The current executive who took the most similar path to Breslow just won a World Series. That would be Rangers general manager Chris Young, who graduated from Princeton before having a fine career as a starting pitcher.
“I was excited for him,” said Young. “Craig’s a tremendous baseball mind. Obviously a great playing pedigree, understands the game. And I think he’ll do wonderfully in Boston.”
Much like Young, Breslow should have a leg up on most front-office leaders in the art of communicating with players.
However, Young also notes it can be a fine line.
“I think it's a starting point, but I don't think it's what defines success,” Young said. “Certainly, authenticity and transparency, being genuine with the players, that's critical. The second you abuse that, you’ve lost that trust. I will say that I have great respect and I understand everything players go [through]. I’m very empathetic to how hard their jobs are.”
While stepping into the pressurized market of Boston can be daunting to anyone in a high-profile position with the Red Sox, Breslow knows how things work in that city.
In fact, he never left, doing the bulk of his work for the Cubs remotely.
“He knows. I mean, he played there. He lives there,” said Hoyer. “I was joking about what an amazing ascent this is for a remote employee, but he understands the landscape, which I think is a huge advantage. Being from that area, working there for a long time, it's different. And I think that for someone that isn't used to that market, doesn't understand that market, I think there can be a little bit of a barrier to entry sometimes. And I think he won't experience that, which I think is really great.”
“He's curious, he’s thoughtful. He's got a good process,” Cherington said. “He's got experience now putting a program together, putting a process together with the Cubs. He's got a good team of people around them. So these jobs are hard, but he's got all you need to do well.”