At Dodgers Nation, we do what we can to fuel water cooler talk, but what we prefer are facts and logic. There was an outcry recently that the Los Angeles Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman was a puppeteer controlling the strings and thus the future of the Organization. Over the past year and change, since Friedman was hired by President Stan Kasten and the Ownership Group, we have seen several situations play out that challenge such thinking.
Here, we will dispel the myths about Friedman with facts and then relate those facts to our expectations for the 2015 Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, which is going to be fun to watch.
1. Andrew Friedman hires whom he wants.
Did anyone see that Dave Roberts was hired and not Gabe Kapler? Well, Gabe Kapler, the heir apparent, the mentee, the right-hand man and nutritional guru for the Dodgers to Friedman, was not hired. For good measure, the bench coach position went to former New York Mets Bench Coach and Oakland Athletics Manager Bob Geren. Kapler will still be with the Organization, either with the team or the front office, but Friedman’s protégé is not the Dodgers Manager. Side note: Kapler showed class with his welcoming of Roberts with the hand-written note he posted on Twitter. Geren followed suit buy interviewing for the Manager Job, but then took a lesser role for the good of the organization. This is exciting news for team leadership and comradery.
2. Andrew Friedman signs whom he wants.
Why was Mark Walter, CEO of the Dodgers Ownership Group Guggenheim, negotiating directly with free agent pitcher Zach Greinke’s agent Casey Close? We do not know. We can make inferences though. Friedman does have a small market background with the Tampa Bay Rays, but it is a waste of time to guess much else. Point being: it is unlikely that Andrew Friedman has a “The Buck Stops Here” display on his proverbial desk.
Those with the purse strings, not the puppet strings, generally make the final decision, which is true in any business. That person is Mark Walter, who likely has his own vision and limits of the team needs. To further that point, Stan Kasten has consistently stated that decisions are a collective effort.
3. Andrew Friedman trades whom he wants.
Have you heard any rumors about trading Yasiel Puig lately? It was reported in July 2015 that Yasiel Puig was a favorite of CEO Mark Walter. We can safely assume Yasiel Puig will be staying put for at least this off-season. It is also likely that Friedman loves Puig’s talent, potential, and comparatively low salary. The truth is that Puig will not be traded without Walter’s blessing.
4. Andrew Friedman only cares about new age statistics.
Let us profile Andrew Friedman. He is a man who keeps his cards close to his chest to the benefit of the Organization. He is a bluffer, an Action Jackson even, but he is not naïve or un-tested. Cue the music here: Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler.”
Like Oakland Athletics’ Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and minority owner Billy Beane, Friedman played baseball before working in baseball. He played at Tulane University like his father before him. He knows the sport as a player and now as an executive. However, unlike Beane, as played by Brad Pitt in the 2011 movie Moneyball, Friedman took the money and the opportunity.
He values hard work. Friedman worked his way up the through the Rays system and eventually became their General Manager.
He knows how to win with little. By the time he was promoted to General Manager, the Rays had eight straight losing seasons. In a short period, Friedman took the Rays to the World Series and four playoff appearances before being wooed to the Dodgers by Mark Walter, Stan Kasten, and Magic Johnson.
Now imagine what he can do with a lot of money and talent.
Mark Walter and the Dodgers are not unlike any other baseball team. They want to get the most wins for the best price. This does not mean the Dodgers will be cheap, but it does mean they will be smart. Walter is a self-made man and is worth $2.2 billion USD (as of 12/5/2015). He got there by making smart decisions and hiring smart people to help make those decisions. Those facts and lessons of life do not go out the window because he owns a baseball team.
Walter is not much different from Dodgers legend and Hall of Fame inductee Branch Rickey in one very important sense–bringing together a lot of talent. If Branch Rickey started the farm system of player talent, then the modern day experiment is front office farm systems of executive talent.
Check out some additional great reads on the subject here, here, and here. Here is a list of all current General Managers, with bios, which is interesting.