Armed with a Yale degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry along with a 12-year Major League Baseball career, Craig Breslow is a man of opportunity.
When his playing career ended two years ago, Breslow was thinking about his next chapter. Would the native Trumbull continue his long-standing interest in medicine and return to the classroom? If baseball were his career path, would Breslow remain in uniform as coach or manager? Or would a role in the front office be more appropriate?
As it turned out, it took only a few months before Breslow joined the Chicago Cubs in January 2019 as director of strategic initiatives for baseball operations. After two seasons in various front office roles, Breslow was recently promoted to assistant general manager after the departure of other Yale-educated Theo Epstein.
Breslow will report to Wesleyan graduate Jed Hoyer, who was promoted to team president when Epstein resigned. So now the guy known as the “smartest man in baseball” during his playing career will take an even bigger role in running a franchise.
“There was always a small part of me who maintained a certain interest in pursuing a future in medicine in one capacity or another, but realistically, given my family situation, my age and some other factors, I did not want to jump back into a classroom. , and spend extra time away, ”Breslow said in an email. “I quickly turned to what I knew, was interested in, and where I felt I could give value … baseball.
“I was always interested in route construction and player transactions, and had been an active participant in my own contract negotiations. Like most people, I also spent a lot of time thinking about how I would have done things differently if I had ever been in a leadership position. I guess this is the opportunity. ”
Breslow, 40, lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. He had taken the MCAT and was expelled from the NYU School of Medicine, but the demands of his medical studies did not necessarily coincide with his life as a father of three children five or younger.
Baseball, however, was a logical fit. And at a time when ex-players are entering management jobs with limited or no experience, Breslow has become a name associated with a handful of openings.
Breslow said he was not initially fascinated by a job on the pitch, but he is interested. For now, though, his focus is on a front office role.
“Not that he could not do it, but I did not see him go back on the field,” said Yale baseball coach John Stuper, a former major league pitcher. “There were some rumors that someone was even interested in him for a management job. Nothing in the game today surprises me. The game has changed so much since I played.
“But with the personality, the human skills, the intelligence, I mean, he could do anything in the game. I do not think there is a question of him becoming general manager. And it probably won’t last long. ”
Congratulations to our alum Craig Breslow ’02, who has been promoted to Assistant General Manager / Vice President, pitching for @Unger! This is his third season at Chicago’s front office after 12 years @MLB pitching career.
– Yale Baseball (@YaleBaseball) November 30, 2020
Breslow competed for seven teams over 12 seasons. He was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers, and he ended his career in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, but he did not strike for any of the teams. He won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013, but also spent a summer in the independent Northeast League.
So there is not much Breslow has not experienced in baseball.
“I do not know if anyone had a stranger or a more unique career,” Stuper said.
Therefore, Stuper Breslow believes can thrive in any role. All the peripheral aspects of the game – bouncing from minors to adults, finding housing, living out of the suitcase, handling rejection – are familiar to Breslow.
“He’s been through all this,” Stuper said. “He knows what it means to struggle. He has been on top of the mountain, he has been released, he played independent ball … I think that is one of the reasons why he has come where he has come, because of all the trials and tribulations. So if he ends up as general manager and he has to release a player or decide not to sign a player to a long contract or whatever, he can bring them in and he has credibility because of his resume. He’s been there. ”
Said Breslow, “Our experiences shape who we are. My special path was filled with discipline, failure and finally a little overachievement. I think the success that I had as an undersized and under-skilled major leager, tells about the value of skill, open mind and commitment. I think the willingness I had to use any resource I could (technology, data, analysis) to stretch my career, empirically, speaks to the value of embracing growth and hopefully to the importance of creating this type of culture and environment. “
Stuper, who calls himself an old-school baseball guy, likes to say that Breslow can marry all aspects of the game. He has the intellect to embrace analysis and fit comfortably among the new breed of Ivy League-trained executives, yet he also has the 576 major league games on his resume.
Epstein referred to him as a “rock star” when he caught up with a friend at Yale. Epstein and Hoyer were with the Red Sox during Breslov’s first season in Boston (2006), so they knew him well. After spending the 2018 season in the Toronto minor league system, Breslow began evaluating jobs after playing.
Joining Epstein and Hoyer was a draw.
“The record of success is undeniable,” Breslow said. I think we are all aware of the curse that each contributed to (reading was responsible for).
But what is probably not as public is the level of compassion, empathy, consideration and cooperation they are committed to. Theo and Jed value opinions from across the office. Everyone is encouraged to take a seat at the table. It has been a very inclusive environment. ”
And while Epstein is gone – he has said he will take a year off before deciding what is next – his presence at Wrigley Field remains strong, and he left his mark on Breslow.
“I had the chance to work for the most successful sports management in history, and I learned a lot,” said Breslow, who oversees pitching at the Cubs. “Through some of my previous roles, which gave me wide exposure, I have also been able to work closely with players and coaches, and to keep the game perspective fresh. I think the biggest surprise I have realized so far is just how much thought, planning and collaboration lies in each decision. I had foolishly assumed that I knew a lot about baseball operations after spending a decade on the field. My eyes were opened to how much more I had to learn. ”
Breslow said he expects to travel a lot and will work remotely from his home in Massachusetts. Stuper is convinced that Breslow will soon run his own team, or perhaps run the game – “He could be the next commissioner,” Stuper said. “It would not surprise me at all. Just his background … he looks amazing on paper and is even better in person. ”
Another of Stupers’ former players, Mike Elias, is now the GM of the Baltimore Orioles. Other former players from recent teams are scattered across baseball in front office and scout jobs.
Stuper said it is a sign of how the game is changing. The Houston Astros came to the Yale campus to recruit for front office roles a few years ago. A baseball player from Yale is a prominent candidate for today’s baseball organization.
Breslow? He’s as good as it gets.
“If you were to build a candidate for a job like that, I’m not sure you could build a better one,” Stuper said. I always say, the CV gets you in the door, the interview gives you the job. Bres is just a great person. He is so impressive. … Honestly, nothing that Bres achieves will surprise me. ”