Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers president of baseball operations, joined the team at AT&T Park before Monday’s game against the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers had just lost all seven games in a homestand amid a 10-game losing streak and a 1-15 stretch.
Even so, the Dodgers still own the best record in the majors. The Times spoke with Friedman before the game about the factors behind the skid, the performances of Yu Darvish and Curtis Granderson, and how the team has been managed the last few weeks.
This is a transcript of the interview. It has been edited for clarity.
How would you explain this recent skid?
“If you simplify it to the three main components of a team, starting pitching, bullpen and offense, I feel like most of the year we’ve had at least two of those three components clicking. I feel like in the last couple weeks it’s been an imperfect storm. Where on nights we’ve hit, we’ve pitched worse than that. On nights we’ve pitched well, we’ve hit worse than that.
“Obviously, there are a lot of really frustrated people. But from a front-office standpoint, Dave [Roberts], the coaches, everything we’ve talked about is trying to look ahead. And assessing our guys individually, how they’re preparing, their work ethic, and doing everything possible from a process standpoint, and we will place our bet on the group that we saw over 130 games.
“And that perspective carries our belief. As opposed to focusing on a fraction of that sample, of 15 games.”
How difficult is it to maintain focus on the process when the results aren’t there?
“Intellectually, I think we all totally get it. Emotionally, it’s incredibly difficult. It’s funny, being around the team before games, everyone feels like that night is going to be the night. The biggest thing is because our guys are such pros, that making sure that they actually maintain some looseness and don’t press too much is, I think, one of our most important jobs.”
With the way you approached late August and early September — resting players, giving Corey Seager two weeks off, etc. — is there frustration about how some of those moves backfired?
“I don’t think anything that happened in late August and early September played out any differently than what we would have done in mid-May. … I really don’t believe that we’ve done anything differently than how we’ve managed things in April through August.”
Could it be argued, if it was a five-game lead, that Seager would have played through his elbow issue?
“I’m not sure. The risk associated with it — maybe we would have, to the detriment to our October team, we may have been in a position where we had to do that. I don’t know how it would have shaken out.”
How would you assess Darvish’s performance?
“Obviously, the first [start] was really good. The second one was pretty good. And then he got into some delivery stuff that took a little bit to iron out. The most important thing for me is that the ball out of his hand, the stuff, is good. I felt like the other night was the first time in this little stretch that he pitched way better than his line.
“It obviously didn’t help us that night. But it did give us confidence as we look ahead that he will be a big part of our success in the next four to six weeks.”
What about Granderson?
“Grandy obviously struggled earlier in the year, in April, and right now this stretch looks a little bit like that. The good thing is that he’s the consummate professional. And not only has he gone through this a lot in his career, he’s gone through it this year, and come out of it and caught fire.”
What are the challenges when you have talented players who aren’t performing and you have a limited track record with them?
“I think we do everything we can to get to know our guys, as much as we can. Dave [Roberts] is such a good relationship guy. Our coaches have such good relationships with our players that obviously someone who comes over in August, you’re not going to know him as well as you’re going to know other guys.
“It also gets back to the specific player. Grandy has come over and just been an open book. But, when you’ve worked with a guy all year and you see something, some changes in his swing that you’ve worked on before and you have cues about how to get back, maybe you’re able to nip it in the bud a little bit sooner.
“From the glass half full perspective, I would contend that this is a helpful thing as we get down the stretch here, and hopefully through a long October, of them going through this, it’ll be a helpful thing to help get them back on track.”
So you’re still glass half full?
Have you spotted any players drinking beer and eating fried chicken during games?
“Yes. In fact, I have. I was hoping you were not going to ask that, but, yes, I have.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Friedman was joking.)
Do you understand why fans have questioned certain aspects of the team’s strategy — aggressive usage of the 10-day disabled list, juggling the lineup based on matchups — comes under scrutiny during a stretch like this?
“I think any time a team is scuffling, narratives are formed. Whatever someone can try to pick out — which I totally get. Watching basketball, I’ll create some narrative watching something that I think is totally natural. It’s human nature. But I think the most important thing is the communication with our players, I think Dave [Roberts] and our coaches have a really good feel for things that are more real.”
Is there anything you feel the team should have done differently the last few weeks?
“Win more games.”