Six Simple Things That Andrew Friedman Needs To Do To Save The Dodgers
A couple of fun facts about Andrew Friedman, the new President of Baseball Operations for the Dodgers (as reported today by several sources): 1. He played for the Tulane Green Wave on a baseball scholarship as an outfielder, following in the footsteps of his father Kenny. But a wrist and shoulder injury ended his career. 2. Still in his 20s, as general manager at Tampa Bay in 2008 he led the Rays to the World Series -- the team's first postseason in their history. This despite the team having the lowest payroll in baseball.
Now Friedman is faced with the daunting task of righting the U.S.S Chavez Ravine, a vessel that won 94 games but failed once again to advance to the World Series -- a place they have not been since 1988. That's three years before Yasiel Puig was born, when cell phones looked like this and Faith by George Michael was Billboard's No. 1 song.
Friedman, a former financial analyst with Bear Stearns (1999–2002) was somehow lured from the Rays, probably with some sort of mind-altering drug slipped into his coffee. Now if only they can manage to do the same with Puig (3x12, 8 SO this postseason).
By all appearances this is a great move by the Dodgers, who heretofore have tried to solve their problems by throwing fistfuls of gold coins at them. But if Friedman wants results, here's what he's going to have to do.
1. Stop shopping at the higher-end stores. The Dodgers' $270 million payroll is the highest in baseball -- they have five players earning more then $20 million each. Prime example of the trouble: Reliever Brian Wilson announced recently that he was exercising his player option for 2015, which is worth $9.5 million. Not willing to test that 4.66 ERA over 48 1/3 innings on the open market, eh? Wilson has been less than stellar since coming over from the Giants in 2013, which is hardly surprising for a power reliever who has been on the DL three times and has undergone Tommy John surgery. The Giants didn't want to re-sign him in 2012, and they had a good reason. And now that San Francisco has won two of the past four World Series, and are one step from getting there again, perhaps their rivals to the south have realized that they need sharper minds making personnel decisions. One year, $10 million for Brian Wilson? It was LA's bullpen, to a large degree, that has them watching the NLCS from their sofas this year. It's no wonder Ned Colletti was put out to pasture.
2. Fire Don Mattingly. This probably isn't going to happen, because despite his weaknesses (and there are many), Mattingly is beloved throughout the Dodgers' ownership group. Controlling owner Mark Walter is solidly in his corner, as is Magic Johnson, who told the Los Angeles Times that the manager's performance in 2014 "has been off the charts." (He meant that in a positive way). And Mattingly's new contract takes him through the 2017 season. But still, someone in the organization must have doubts (maybe it was Colletti?). Why else did they fire Mattingly's hand-picked bench coach, Trey Hamilton, and replace him with Tim Wallach? Also, some players have complained that Puig is getting special treatment. Here's Mattingly's expert analysis of Colletti's job security from last week, from MLB.com:
Mattingly said he "would be surprised" if there were a new general manager for him to work with.
"I came in today and it seemed like business as usual," he said.
3. Put Tommy Lasorda in a home. Lasorda had become a parody of himself before he retired as manager in 1996, his "bleeding Dodger blue" jingoism echoing shallowly within a sport that has highly-paid superstars file through a revolving door. His profanity-laced clubhouse tirades; his comical, pear-shaped waddling; his continued defense of the way his pitching staff approached Dave Kingman, who hit three homers in one game in 1978. Lasorda is still employed by the team in some capacity -- I'm not even sure what that is. Nor, I imagine, is he. Lasorda did manage the U.S. to an Olympic gold medal in 2000, though: you have to give him that.
4. It's the farm system, stupid. When the Giants lost Marco Scutaro to injury this season, Joe Panik was brought up from Double-A, and all he's done since June was hit .308 with 18 RBI. San Francisco's farm system has consistently fed a growing dynasty, with an emphasis on pitching. As Friedman showed in Tampa Bay, that's his MO as well. It will take some time, but if the Dodgers are to succeed in the long run, they have to grow their own talent. And they have to improve their scouting.
5. Avoid hotheads and inconsistent head cases. But we've talked enough about Puig: get him to toe the line or dump him. Bruce Bochy is up 2-1 in the NLCS with Travis Ishikawa and Gregor Blanco as two of his starting outfielders. Think about that.
6. Get a mascot. The team's stubborn refusal to to employ a carpet-based emissary is wrong-headed and capricious. In 2013 they brought in this character you see at left, who they wouldn't come out and say was a mascot, and was not allowed into the ballpark for actual games. He was creepy and caused children's nightmares, and as far as I know was discontinued. The team has no talent for this.
Meanwhile other potentially fine mascots have fallen by the wayside: like Dodger Elvis, and Dodgers Bear. They should be hired immediately, and if Friedman doesn't do it he's a failure right out of the gate.
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