Column: If Dodgers are to survive October, Andrew Friedman must understand change is needed
“The question is, is it just baseball?” Friedman asked. “Or are there things we can do to improve upon that? Are there levers we can pull, are there things to put us in a better position there?”
The more Friedman spoke Tuesday at his end-of-the-season news conference, however, the more it became clear he believed the Dodgers were just unlucky in their defeat to the San Diego Padres in their National League Division Series.
The president of baseball operations pointed to his team’s regular-season numbers with runners in scoring position.
He recalled the late-season injuries sustained by Gavin Lux and Justin Turner.
He went as far to mention how Dodgers catcher Will Smith’s seventh-inning sacrifice fly in Game 4 was hit right at Jurickson Profar while Padres shortstop Ha-Seong Kim’s grounder in the bottom of the same inning skipped by Max Muncy because he was playing in.
Friedman didn’t highlight anything the front office could have done better. If anything, he went out of his way to defend the group.
“I’m biased, but I feel like it’s the best in baseball,” Friedman said.
So there you have it: Friedman doesn’t think he did anything wrong, even though he constructed yet another Dodgers team that dominated the regular season and flamed out in the playoffs.
Dodgers president of operations Andrew Friedman said Tuesday the team’s NLDS loss to the Padres was an “organizational failure.”
Friedman downplayed the necessity for change, saying Dave Roberts will “100%” return as manager next season. He said he also expected the other members of the coaching staff to return. He offered no indication he would go about building his roster any differently than he has over the last eight years.
If the first step in fixing the team’s October problem is admitting there is an October problem, well, then the Dodgers still have an October problem.
Instead of expressing contrition beyond obvious lip service, Friedman was defensive. Instead of sounding introspective, he came across as haughty and condescending.
From the sounds of it, he wasn’t interested in learning what went awry either. He said he didn’t know why a sign failed to reach right-hander Yency Almonte in the seventh inning of Game 4. Rather than throw to first base to buy more time for left-hander Alex Vesia to warm up, Almonte delivered a ball to Jake Cronenworth. Vesia was forced to enter the game with a 1-0 count in an at-bat that resulted in a go-ahead, two-run single by Cronenworth.
Asked if he knew why the sign was missed, Friedman replied, “I don’t. I’m not gonna spend any time [talking about] that either.”
To be clear, Friedman didn’t claim the Padres didn’t deserve to win the NLDS. He acknowledged the Dodgers were outplayed.
Except this isn’t boxing, in which fighters have eight-week training camps designed for them to peak on the nights of their fights. This isn’t track and field, in which athletes adjust their workouts leading up to major competitions.
No baseball team has figured out how to play its best when the games matter most. So, if teams are subject to the inexplicable rhythms of a season, how can anyone be held responsible for what happens in October?
That was basically Friedman’s point.
“If you’re asking me if I think the best team wins the World Series every year, I would say no,” Friedman said. “I think the hottest team wins the World Series every year.”
But some teams are better constructed to withstand a 162-game regular season than to win in October, and vice versa.
“I guess my point is, is I guess partly, how you define the best team,” said Friedman, who launched into a nonsensical monologue about fan expectations and how Roberts doesn’t deserve the criticism he is receiving. If only Almonte knew how to stall like this.
Once again, Friedman turned to the team’s 111-win regular season for cover. Never mind that hitting in the regular season isn’t anything like hitting in the postseason, especially now with how many teams are tanking.
“It’s all relative,” Friedman said. “Other good teams also play all the other teams. I feel like against good teams and good pitching, we performed near the top in general.”
Everything you need to know about how the Dodgers’ 2022 season ended in a four-game loss to the San Diego Padres in the National League Division Series.
Despite none of the Dodgers’ starters pitching into the sixth inning in the NLDS, Friedman rejected the notion he should have acquired another pitcher at the trade deadline.
“I don’t regret not doing a bad deal for us,” Friedman said. “I don’t feel like it was our starting pitching or our pitching in general that is the reason we are sitting here today.”
His pride wouldn’t allow him to admit he made any mistakes, which made him an unsympathetic figure Tuesday but not necessarily irredeemable. More important is whether he’s admitted to himself that something has to change, that he isn’t just getting unlucky every October, that there’s a reason the only championship he’s won came in a pandemic-shortened season in which the playoffs were most like the regular season.
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