Earlier this month, Bleacher Report had an exclusive opportunity to speak with Craig Breslow of the Boston Red Sox as a part of his Strike 3 Foundation's involvement with GE's 3-D printing technology.
On December 3, GE, represented by Breslow, participated in the first ever National 3-D Printing Day, attempting to highlight the benefits additive manufacturing presents the world.
I had the opportunity to represent B/R in a wide-ranging conversation with Breslow that touched on GE's initiative, chemistry in the Red Sox clubhouse, personal and team-wide impact of the tragic Boston Marathon bombing and free agency.
Bleacher Report: How did you get involved with GE on such a unique campaign?
Breslow: GE asked me to be a celebrity influence for the cause. After hearing the benefits of this technology, it was impossible to say no to a great company. I've always been interested in different realms of technology, probably as an avenue to a post-career life away from baseball, and GE represented something great, along with a chance to learn.
B/R: Last year was a special season in Boston, but it began in the midst of tragedy after the Boston Marathon bombing. How did that impact you and your teammates?
Breslow: Fenway Park became a base for Red Sox fans. They could get away from the troubles of the real world. The team appreciated that and wanted to honor those lost. It's a fine line. No victory, regular season or postseason can compare or change what happened. It's unfair to marginalize tragedy around sports, but we did our best to give grieving fans and a grieving city something to be proud of during the summer and fall.
B/R: Chemistry can be overrated by the sports media, but your team seemed to have something special. Was that organic or by design from the way management put together the roster?
Breslow: Management can put together a group that they feel will work well together, but it has to come within. Leaders like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and John Lackey simply weren't going to let another year like 2012 happen.
B/R: Who were the under-the-radar leaders in your clubhouse? We always hear about Ortiz and Pedroia, but every good team has veterans who lead by example or with vocal wisdom.
Breslow: David Ross and Jonny Gomes fit that description. Both dealt with issues. Ross had concussion problems, missing time and having to overcome a scary ailment for a catcher. Gomes had to deal with half the media questioning his importance to our team and inclusion in the lineup during a slump in the postseason. In our dugout, not one man was surprised when he hit a big home run to turn the World Series.
B/R: Free-agent dollars have exploded around the sport. Your former teammate, Jacoby Ellsbury, recently signed a contract in excess of $150 million to play for the Yankees. How do you react to all the money flying around the hot stove?
Breslow: I'm happy for Jacoby, he's a friend. We'll miss him, but he deserved to be rewarded for a great career. Owners and GM's might never truly understand how to value players. Premier talents are elite, and should be paid accordingly. A player's worth? What a team is willing to offer. With TV and media revenue, the players deserve their share.
B/R: What about your position? Although you were one of the best relievers in the game (226 ERA+) last season, a contract like that will never be in your future. Outside of the Mariano Riveras and Jonathan Papelbons, free-agent relievers don't garner lucrative, long-term deals.
Breslow: I think it will change some as time goes on. We (RP's) don't garner the innings or playing time, but the high-leverage moments are always in our hands. With less managers willing to allow starters to pitch complete games, the games can really be decided by bullpen arms. Big impact, small playing time, misunderstood value.
B/R: Does the discrepancy between the paychecks for starters compared to relievers strike you as puzzling? In this era, some young starters barely pitch five innings, leaving relievers to win or lose the game.
Breslow: To an extent. Anyone who understands baseball knows the value of great starting pitching, but the game has changed. Complete games are rare, and the bullpen has become a major component of how the game is managed and played on a daily basis. A lead, even if a starter does a solid job, is only worth a victory if the bullpen can close it out. Teams are only as solid as their weakest link.