Dodgers’ Andrew Friedman went from small-market wizard to big-market mogul

first_img Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco Friedman says he still follows the Rays when he can and roots for them – though not this week. But how much of his imprint remains on his former organization?“I mean, he created the entire infrastructure they have right now,” Zaidi says. “I’m certain he would deflect credit and give a lot of credit to (Rays GM) Erik Neander and (senior vice-president for baseball operations) Chaim Bloom and the job they have done – and they’re certainly deserving of it.“But I think as much as anything that organization and the way they make decisions and the way they think about baseball is unrecognizable from before he first got there. Just even creating, cultivating a culture of openness where the players embrace some of the less conventional, more innovative strategies that they employ – and employ successfully – is a big part of his legacy.” How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Instead, some of the Dodgers’ most significant expenditures in the past five years have been what Friedman categorizes as “investment spending” – improving minor-league facilities and training staffs throughout the organization, dipping heavily into the international market and expanding the major-league support system, including new-age training tools like neuroscouting.“We’re big in everything – including on-field trainers and facilities,” Kasten says. “You know, that first year we went really big in international. It hasn’t always worked out. But the fact that you can stretch and do those things and not worry about the occasional misstep – that’s a difference (from Tampa) in your prep, your mindset. I call those ‘at the margins.’”CUTTING EDGEUnder Friedman, the Rays were at the forefront of taking analytics from evaluation tool to a driving force in strategy with defensive shifts and lineup construction. That has spread quickly throughout the game and the Dodgers have assembled one of the deepest, most sophisticated (and influential) analytics departments.“That competitive fire burns deep inside him,” says Rays team president Matt Silverman, a good friend of Friedman. “No matter the setting, you can count on Andrew to try to outthink, outwork and outmaneuver the competition, and he inspires others around him to do the same.”There has been “bad investment” spending as well – dead money. Some of the biggest checks written in the past five seasons have been to players such as Carl Crawford, Scott Kazmir and Alex Guerrero when they were not playing for the Dodgers.“Double-edged sword,” Friedman says with a smile of the greater resources at his disposal in L.A.Friedman gets high marks from players for his ability to connect personally – a failing of some in the wave of business-school products who have taken over front offices. Veteran infielder David Freese has played in four organizations and says “there’s not a lot of guys like Andrew Friedman. He’s unique.” A pitcher in Tampa and now an assistant GM in the Dodgers’ front office, Brandon Gomes says Friedman is “completely approachable” for players.“I really appreciated the honesty he had with all the players,” Gomes says. “As a player, you buy into that and feel like you can ask a question and it’s not going to be judged in any way. It’s a really good quality.”It’s one that Friedman doesn’t just put on for his walk-throughs in the clubhouse, according to Zaidi.LEADERSHIP STYLE“He does things in such a collaborative way that it never feels like he’s imposing his will on a specific decision or particular area of the operation,” Zaidi says. “That’s really hard to do – kind of empowering people that way but still taking responsibility for the decisions and the path of the organization.”The challenge of managing limited resources has followed Friedman from Tampa to L.A. – but now it is time as much as money.When he made the move west, Friedman had two sons, one 5 years old, the other not yet 3. A daughter was born in August 2015. During homestands, his wife, Robin, has often brought the kids to Dodger Stadium where they would soak up some dad time even slipping into their pajamas and brushing their teeth before Friedman would read them a bedtime story and send them home.IMPACT REMAINSWhatever magic Friedman practiced in Tampa seems to have lingered. The Rays won a surprising 90 games last season and come into the series with the Dodgers 10 games over .500 (27-17) and a half-game behind the New York Yankees in the American League East.Related Articlescenter_img Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies “Never a factor in Tampa. Here, it’s a factor.”During his years as the Rays’ GM (2006-14), the team’s entire player payroll never exceeded $76 million. During his first four years with the Dodgers, Friedman has already negotiated two different individual contracts worth more than that – Kenley Jansen’s five-year, $80 million deal in 2016 and Clayton Kershaw’s three-year, $93 million contract extension last fall. The Dodgers’ payroll was the highest in baseball each of Friedman’s first three seasons – breaking through that CBT each time.“I enjoyed every minute of my time in Tampa Bay and loved the challenge. I had just reached a point in my career where I wanted to throw myself into the deep end in terms of having to re-think how I do my job,” Friedman says. “Certain aspects would be important to maintain and other things I would have to re-wire how my brain processes different things.”As the Dodgers arrive in Tampa for a two-game interleague series against the Rays, some of that wiring is apparent – and some of it is unpopular with Dodger fans despite a .588 winning percentage since Rollins’ homer and back-to-back National League pennants.Any expectations that, unfettered from Tampa’s financial restrictions, Friedman would behave like a shopaholic with a new credit card should have faded by now. In five offseasons, the Dodgers have spent to keep their own free agents but have only occasionally flirted with making a big-money commitment to bring in a free agent (such as Bryce Harper this past winter). The Dodgers’ most expensive signing of a free agent from outside the organization has been A.J. Pollock, who could make $60 million over the next five seasons. The first time it really hit Andrew Friedman that he wasn’t in Tampa anymore was Opening Day in 2015.“Jimmy Rollins hits that big three-run home run and 50,000 people erupted,” Friedman recalls now. “I took a minute and looked around and said, ‘Wait a minute – I’m happy and 50,000 people are happy?’ because I was used to being at Fenway or Yankee Stadium and when those crowds were happy I was not. So it definitely set in.”There were other, quieter moments after Friedman “kind of took my professional snow globe and shook it up” by going from the small-market wizard who somehow got the Tampa Bay Rays into a World Series to a big-market mogul as the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations – where he has built teams that have reached two more World Series.“He and Farhan (Zaidi, GM during Friedman’s first four seasons in L.A.) were sitting down with me in the office and something comes up about the competitive-balance tax, the CBT,” Dodgers team president Stan Kasten says. “Andrew looks at Farhan and goes, ‘Oh (shoot) – I think I have to learn those rules.’ They had no idea about those rules. It was kind of funny that he had to learn different things. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more