Maybe the Red Sox will surprise everybody and land one of those previously-not-interested front-office marquee names to run their baseball operations department. All it takes is a late-night phone call … a sweetened pot … a piece of the action.
These things do happen in big business. Well, OK, it’s not likely to happen in this situation. So many people have turned down the Red Sox that it’s become a fun new parlor game throughout New England for fans and media alike to come up with outlandish make-pretend candidates who’ve said no. The submissions have ranged from amusing to laugh-out-loud funny.
It wasn’t long ago that Sox president/CEO Sam Kennedy was boasting, “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. So if you’re not up for that challenge, thanks but no thanks.”
Talk about not reading the room. It’s as though Kennedy runs a company that’s committed to making eight-track tape players and he’s looking to hire, say, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering.
We’re all making with the jokes. But here’s where it could get serious: With so many heavy hitters in the exciting (and cutthroat) business of baseball operations asking themselves if they need Red Sox employment in their lives and saying, “Indeed I don’t,” there’s a chance two things could happen after the team announces its new hire:
No. 1: The introductory news conference turns into an uncomfortable, awkward affair in which more questions are asked about the people who didn’t want the job than about the smiling, ready-to-get-going person standing next to Kennedy at the podium.
My apologies in advance for the sportswriter hyperbole, but consider the first question at the news conference: “Sam, considering that 27 other people weren’t interested in this job …”
No. 2: The new head of baseball operations arrives in Boston with nothing resembling an Oval Office-like first-100-days grace period that was gifted to Chaim Bloom, Dave Dombrowski, Ben Cherington, etc.
True, both of these scenarios can be overcome. As a for-instance, one of the truly awkward introductory news conferences in Boston sports history took place on Nov. 19, 1996, when Jimy Williams was unveiled as manager of the Red Sox. Williams paced uncomfortably back and forth as he spoke, the poor videographers in the back of the room frantically moving their cameras back and forth in an attempt to keep the new manager in the frame. Williams uttered such head-scratchers as, “If a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its booty.”
Let the record show that Williams served nearly five seasons as manager of the Red Sox until being dismissed in the last weeks of the 2001 season — a season that fell completely apart the moment Jimy was jettisoned.
Williams took the Sox to the postseason twice, was never in over his head, and never lost his sense of humor. Unorthodox, yes. But in no way was Williams unqualified. He was an outstanding hire by then-GM Dan Duquette, just as it was a bad decision for Duquette to fire him when he did.
So there’s that. If Jimy Williams could sail past lowered expectations, so might the new head of baseball operations.
As for the grace period, all bets are off on Day One. But if the new Person in Charge makes a big splash — welcome to Boston, Shohei Ohtani! — then happy days are here again for Red Sox fans.
But here’s another possibility to consider: There are some interesting people out there who haven’t gotten around to blocking Sam Kennedy. Yet.
Such as Craig Breslow, a former lefty reliever who pitched 12 seasons in the big leagues, five of them with the Red Sox. He had one of his best seasons with the 2013 World Series-winning Red Sox (5-1, 1.81 ERA in 61 relief appearances), but, more importantly for this discussion, he’s been getting rave reviews for the work he’s done as assistant general manager of the Cubs. According to The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney, Breslow “has been in advanced discussions with the Red Sox, according to sources familiar with the search process, interviewing for their No. 1 job in baseball operations.”
Breslow, 43, is a Yale graduate with a keen understanding of both the on-the-field and in-the-baseball-ops-department aspects of the game. Raised in Connecticut and now living in the Boston area, he thus has New England roots — which would look rather pretty as part of his bio in the Red Sox media guide, but that’s about it. What matters is that Breslow likely has a better idea about backstairs stuff at Fenway Park, having pitched for the Sox, and it’s a good bet his former boss with the Cubs, fellow Yalie Theo Epstein, has given him a primer on Sox ownership.
Would this be a good fit for Breslow? It’s also worth wondering if it would calm down, perhaps even excite, impatient Red Sox fans. Breslow wouldn’t be able to just sit there and say he can take the Green Line to Fenway Park. Brookline, Mass., native Sam Kennedy already owns that franchise. But Sox fans might like his resume.
And then there’s Kim Ng, who until Monday was general manager of the Miami Marlins, a team that’s coming off its first postseason appearance since 2003 if we choose not to count the hazy 2020 pandemic campaign.
Ng, who turns 55 in November, is a baseball lifer. She started out with the Chicago White Sox in 1990, was an assistant GM of the New York Yankees for three World Series-winning teams, served in a similar capacity with the Los Angeles Dodgers for nearly a decade, and for the next decade was senior vice president of baseball operations for MLB.
Ng interviewed for this and that head-of-baseball-ops position over the years. She was finally hired as general manager of the Marlins on Nov. 13, 2020. As Marlins assistant GM Oz Ocampo told The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli earlier this month, Ng getting a chance to lead baseball operations “should have happened five or 10 years ago.”
Ng has a strong resume. She knows how to build a winning team, as she showed this past season. From her years with the Yankees, she knows a winning culture when she sees it.
So maybe it’s Kim Ng. Maybe it’s Craig Breslow. Maybe it’s a current Red Sox front-office type, say, Eddie Romero or former Harvard University pitcher Ben Crockett. (And, man, would the late, great Harvard baseball coach Joe Walsh be popping his angel’s wings over that.)
Whatever decision is made, the introductory news conference is going to be must-see TV. And it’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that about the Red Sox.
(Top photo of Craig Breslow: Joe Camporeale / USA Today)