Is Andrew Friedman Paul Depodesta 2.0?


As we welcome in the Andrew Friedman era, we must understand that he is brought in under a microscope that is unique to our city.  After moving from Brooklyn, the Dodgers had only employed three general managers in their first forty-one seasons in Los Angeles.  During that time, the philosophy was that the organization was built from within, including executives Billy Bavasi, Al Campanis and Fred Claire.  In their tenure, each one led the Dodgers to at least one World Series Championship.

Mar 5, 2014; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman prior to the game against the New York Yankees at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the Andrew Friedman hiring–as new President of Baseball Operations–and the new GM he will end up hiring, the Dodgers will have their fifth GM in only fifteen seasons. That means the Dodgers will have their fifth decision maker in only fifteen seasons. Their commonality: all outsiders. And we’ll also mention that none of his predecessors have led the team to any World Series appearances, let alone rings.

While there has been a clout of dysfunction for one of the league’s premier franchises, no one received more hate than Paul DePodesta. His hire accompanied Frank McCourt’s purchase of the team, which was seen as a euphoric event escaping the corporate behemoth that was Fox.

With Friedman coming from a small market and numbers background, the Dodger faithful fear a DePodesta 2.0 is on the horizon.

DePodesta was a hot name coming with his notoriety from the baseball book of the century, “Moneyball” which was released one year earlier. Upon arrival, he had struggles within the organization as the old guard feared his sabermetric ways.

Ultimately, he was replaced in less than two years by Ned Colletti from the San Francisco Giants. While working for the Dodgers eternal rival, he was seen as an old school baseball man coming from a big market team. His success is questionable, but he did hold that role for nine seasons.

With Friedman coming from a small market and numbers background, the Dodger faithful fear a DePodesta 2.0 is on the horizon. Is that fair? Yes, but did we really get a chance to understand Paul DePodesta?

In his defense, most don’t truly understand the concept of Moneyball. It wasn’t about making decisions solely based on statistics, but exploiting the inefficiencies in the baseball world. The A’s found on-base percentage to be undervalued and built an effective offense for pennies on the dollar. Once the league caught on, Oakland then shifted to acquiring defensive talent as they found saving runs was a trend that hadn’t caught fire yet.

Another key point to the book was the drafting of college pitchers, seeing how their longer track record gave a greater indication for success. With the league being run by a bunch of lemmings, other teams followed suit to the point that the A’s went against the flow by focusing on high school pitchers.

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While DePodesta had a great numbers background, that wasn’t all he employed in his short time. One of his key moves was retaining Logan White, the head of amateur scouting who was already receiving accolades for the previous two drafts.

DePodesta recognized that White gave the Dodgers a competitive advantage in identifying high school talent even though his methodology didn’t rely on sabermetrics. In 2004, Baseball America named the Dodgers draft the best in the National League, even though eventually none of their signees developed into competent major leaguers. White did draft David Price in the 17th round, but Price opted to enroll at Vanderbilt.

In his first year, DePodesta made a series of moves that changed the look of the team. He acquired Jayson Werth and Milton Bradley on the eve of the season in one-sided trades. At the trade deadline, Steve Finley was added for spare change and was a prime contributor for the home stretch, but the discarding of Paul Lo Duca rankled the Dodger faithful.

Lo Duca was highly popular for his grittiness, offensive numbers and being an unlikely prospect who climbed his way up through the Dodgers organization. Making things worse, the primary return for Lo Duca, Brad Penny and Hee-Seop Choi, didn’t immediately provide dividends. Most felt that this was a numbers trade and angered the core that believed in playing the Dodger Way. The team did end up making the playoffs for the first time in nine years, while losing to the Cardinals three games to one. Then again, who can forget Lima Time!

Oct 7, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez (13) scores a run past St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) in the 6th inning during game four of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The following year, the fabric changed further as Derek Lowe, JD Drew, Jeff Kent and Ricky Ledee were all brought in. With a slew of injuries, the add-ons under-performing (sans Kent) and Tommy Lasorda grabbing McCourt’s ear, DePodesta was unceremoniously shown the door at the end of the year. If you look back at his entire body of work, you can argue that DePodesta did a good job, but ultimately his ways never won the popularity contest.

Even though Friedman is being brought in for his success with a tight budget, Dodgers fans do not want the team to be run like a small market Moneyball team. With the team already owning the highest payroll in the majors, he’ll immediately have to face some of these tough Tampa Bay-ish decisions.

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Hanley Ramirez is exploring free agency and will be a prime target in the open market. While the Dodgers do not have an immediate replacement at shortstop, odds are that Friedman would not be willing to sign Hanley to the length of contract he is aiming for.

Friedman also inherits a $70 million four-man outfield that blocks prized prospect Joc Pederson from valuable playing time. With Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford having nearly untradable contracts (never say never), the best move may be moving the already enigmatic, but popular star in Yasiel Puig.

While Colletti was given a blank checkbook as the Guggenheim group took over, Friedman is searching for some of Ned’s receipts to get back some return value. Some of the moves that need to be made will be prudent, but might not be seen as popular. Friedman will apply advanced statistics to his decision-making, like nearly every team does, but he must balance it with the tradition of scouting and development the Dodgers have been known for. He has to be adept at walking the tightrope mixing the old school with the new and communicating it with both the organization and the fanbase.

Otherwise, that’ll be a short rope he’ll be using.