Pedro Martinez hurled a verbal fastball last October.
“They’re not going to have the essence of the franchise that we left, the culture that we left is going to be lost. And we don’t know when we’re going to get it back and how we’re going to get it back,” Martinez warned reporters.
“We need to bring back the culture,” the Hall of Famer reiterated at the end of September.
In hiring Craig Breslow, the Red Sox signal an attempt to restore that kind of culture, which made Boston the winningest baseball club this century.
How fitting that they made the official announcement on Wednesday, Martinez’s birthday.
By giving Breslow the keys to the kingdom, the Red Sox are repeating history and hoping to repeat history.
For the second hiring cycle in a row, they’ve eschewed leadership experience in favor of upside. Like Chaim Bloom, Breslow will be a first-timer in the driver’s seat; his most recent, highest-ranking position with the Chicago Cubs was assistant general manager and vice president of pitching.
But Breslow isn’t an unknown entity in Boston, far from it. His 12 seasons in the Majors included stints with the Red Sox in 2006-07, and 2011-15. In 2013, he posted a career-best 1.81 ERA in 2013, helping bring Boston its third World Series championship in a decade. Either by coincidence or fate, his introductory press conference is scheduled for Nov. 2, the 10th anniversary of the World Series parade.
Championships, the Red Sox claim, are still their North Star, but they need pitching to make it happen. It’s Breslow’s area of expertise; Chicago’s pitching development was woefully inadequate earlier in the decade, they won their long-awaited 2016 championship with a starting rotation full of acquired arms, not unlike a certain Boston baseball team’s most recent victory.
Finding someone to head up baseball operations wasn’t exactly a walk in the ballpark. Expectations are higher in Boston, and the safety net is virtually nonexistent.
“This is the Boston Red Sox,” team president and CEO Sam Kennedy said during the end-of-season press conference. “If you want to run a baseball organization, this is where you want to be. You want to be in Boston. Why? Because it matters here more than anywhere else.”
Who understands that better than a lifelong New Englander who’s already brought a trophy to Boston? (Other New Englanders, including Phillies GM Sam Fuld and Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes, turned down the Red Sox’s interview offers, though.)
Intelligent and thoughtful, Breslow comes highly recommended by, well, everyone. It’s about as easy to find someone with a bad word to say about Breslow as it is to find a needle in a field full of haystacks. One member of the organization described him as the “most truly decent man.”
“The praise from fellow baseball executives was impressive,” Kennedy said in the press release. “But what truly distinguished him were the resounding character references from former teammates, including David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, David Ross, Brock Holt, and Kevin Youkilis.”
Game recognizes game. Winners recognize a winner.
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Breslow winds up against the Cleveland Indians in the 10th inning of a June 15, 2014 game at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)