Craig Breslow, the new chief baseball officer of the Red Sox, is an Ivy Leaguer the way Chris Young, the architect of the Rangers team that just won the World Series, is an Ivy Leaguer. Breslow is from Yale. Young went to Princeton. Breslow is 43. Young is 44. Both were pitchers in the big leagues, though Young did it longer and with more success. But what is more important to the baseball jobs they now have, isn’t what position they played. It’s that they did play the game.
“[Breslow] doesn’t just like players,” someone who knows Breslow told me on Friday, “and doesn’t just like being around them. It’s more than that, and more than just numbers with him. He respects baseball players.”
Breslow may be the first baseball executive whose double major was molecular biophysics and biochemistry. But now he takes on the extremely complex problem, involving both physics and chemistry, of taking the Red Sox from last place back to first. Breslow takes over running the team, with the blessing of principal owner John Henry, at what has become a crucial crossroads, even if the team is just two years removed from being two games away from going back to the World Series, and five years from having won the Series with what is considered to be the greatest Red Sox team of them all.
People familiar with the inner workings of the Red Sox are aware of exactly what Henry’s mandate was to Craig Breslow, disciple of Theo Epstein:
“We need to win again.”
In so many ways, there has not been a more important offseason for Boston since Henry and then-president Larry Lucchino turned the baseball operation over to Epstein two decades ago when Theo was still in his 20s. There have been a lot of boy-wonder executives since. None has been more significant than another Yale man named Epstein, whose 2004 Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918. The Red Sox won the Fall Classic again in ’07, then Epstein was running the Cubs when they ended 108 years of waiting for a title when Chicago won the World Series in 2016.
Ben Cherington ran the Red Sox after Epstein left, and Boston won another World Series, its third of the century, in 2013. Dave Dombrowski succeeded Cherington, and Boston won the Fall Classic again in ’18. Then came Chaim Bloom, who saw the ’21 Red Sox get ahead of the Astros two games to one in the ’21 ALCS, before they stopped hitting.
The Red Sox finished in last place the past two seasons. Breslow, a former Red Sox pitcher (he was a lefty reliever on the ’13 World Series champs), has taken over for Bloom.
This isn’t about Breslow making the team matter again, from Rhode Island to the northern tip of Maine. The Red Sox will always deeply matter to their fans. The old line about the Red Sox is that New Englanders don’t regard the Sox as a matter of life and death, the team is far more serious than that.
But it is definitely Breslow’s job to make them a serious contender again in the American League East, where everybody has passed them lately, and put them back in the World Series for the fifth time since they came from 0-3 down against the Yankees to win the ’04 ALCS, and then never lost another game that October on their way to winning the World Series.
“It’s important not to lose sight that the goal of any organization is to win Major League games,” Breslow said. “It’s not to have the greatest farm system. It’s not to have the most prospect depth. It’s to win games.”
What Breslow needs to do, as he starts thinking about signing free agents and making trades, is convince Red Sox Nation that the whole operation is fully committed to doing whatever it takes to make the team a legitimate contender again.
If there is one big thing we’ve learned about Henry, it is that he is not afraid of change, even if that seems like impulsive change sometimes, the way it was when he dismissed Dombrowski less than a year after the Red Sox had won 108 regular-season games and 119 in all. Bloom was brought in and was ultimately let go after two fifth-place finishes in a row. Craig Breslow, an Ivy League guy -- which is suddenly very much in vogue in a baseball front office -- got hired.
Theo Epstein will always be the most important front office hire the Red Sox ever made, because of the historic way things turned out on his watch, starting with an end to the Curse of the Bambino. Breslow is the most important hire since. Really, his job description is this as he comes out of the bullpen at Fenway all over again: Turn the Red Sox back into the Red Sox.