The hot stove season is here, heating up already for teams that actually have a plan and are going places. The Dodgers meantime are mulling the most manipulative managerial candidates to replace scapegoat Don Mattingly. Andrew Friedman (and his minions) manages from his luxury suite he has to decide between unqualified Gabe Kapler, collegiate manager Darin Erstad (also someone he could control), or Bud Black and Dave Roberts. The latter two could be forced to listen to Friedman’s superior metrics but might be a little less apt to bend over and hold their ankles for the dashing young GM/president du jour/emperor of Dodgerland.
It will be interesting to see what Friedman does after plan A flopped. For a guy with all the financial wherewithal in the world, his genius and sidekicks in all things Saber, it sure wasn’t pretty what happened in 2015. His cult-like supporters would argue “Hey, they won the West!”, to which I would laugh and chortle, “Gee, $300M+ in a shitty division and you’re happy about THAT?!” No, let’s not beat around the bush… the team Friedman crafted (if you want to insult the word) is exactly the team he thought would be cute and sly and steal the post-season. Umm, not so much.
It turns out in real baseball – not what’s played in a board room by giggling, taking-matters-into-their-own-hands fan boys – requires more than data. I don’t know personally what data would tell someone Brandon McCarthy should be your big pitching acquisition, or that AAAA pitchers dug up from unknown minor league towns could cobble together a championship bullpen, but hey, I’m not a mastermind like Friedman.
I love pointing out the failures of guys like Friedman and Paul DePodesta because A) it’s easy and B) data be damned, facts are a pretty hard thing to ignore. For example, sending the team’s heart and spark, Dee Gordon, to Miami, paying his salary and acquiring some sort of potential setup man (who failed for 3/4 of the season) and a utility man who wears tight pants, didn’t seem like a bright idea then, nor does it now. Since, Dee’s proven Friedman’s “sell-high” plan was a foolish mistake, no matter what puppet GM Farhan Zaidi will tell you. Batting championship, stolen base leader, Gold Glove, Defense Player of the Year for 2b, Silver Slugger and enthusiastic energy bunny trumps the lackluster station-to-station approach and leadoff devoid lineup Friedman sold us. And now Friedman is desperately trying to figure out who can play 2b in 2016. Old Chase Utley? His best “action” in 2015 was a dirty slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s leg. Kike Hernandez? Jose Peraza? Or re-up with Howie Kendrick, who’s a very good player but has chronic hamstring concerns (as do most Dodgers). Personally, I would have kept the young, under team control Gordon, all the excitement he provides, speed, steals, driving the pitchers and defenses crazy, etc., but then as a Moneyball lover would say, “You don’t know the game.” Then they would laugh like teenager girls glimpsing Bieber’s “leaked” dick shot online.
No, I am completely aware that nowadays someone who thinks like me is a minority. Common sense has given way to mean-spirited idiocy and numbers that never quite add up. When some genius like Friedman comes in and I can forecast a year in advance how he will flop, and he does just that, something is flawed in the analytics. In the real world, the world I grew up in, and where great baseball was played up to the steroids era, things like pitching, defense, team chemistry, leadership, timely hitting, speed and character mattered. Now… just obscure stats that say traditional measures no longer apply. Yeah, right.
I keep seeing good play in Oct by teams not wearing “Dodgers” across their chests. The difference with these teams is they play the game it is supposed to be played. There is no magic formula. There are gamer pitchers, clutch hitters, terrific defensive plays, relief pitchers that have ice water in their veins and throw 100 mph, excitement, energy, team camaraderie, etc. In very few cases do I see career bench players starting, or partial rotations or no bullpens advancing. Friedman can go back to the drawing board this year, but until he is humbled and admits some of his cleverness was just youthful foolishness, the Dodgers will experience the same letdown in 2016. Remember – the team that stumbled against any team over .500 in 2015 was EXACTLY the team Andrew Friedman wanted.
We will see how much Friedman wants to retain his job. While the generous but dense ownership group has unlimited resources taken from insurance clients, at some point their faith will wane. If fans slow down coming through the gate and grumble about the mediocrity and 3 decade dry spell, Friedman and his groupies may be sent packing. I sincerely hope so. I saw DePodesta fuck up a perfectly good Dan Evans Dodgers team and now Friedman has sapped any fun out of being a fan of the blue. Only a young, narcissist could root for this, and I am neither.
It’s possible Friedman will have learned and acquire bullpen arms, somehow piece together a rotation that is now 2 men and get the most out of a tepid lineup of overpaid playboys. I wouldn’t imagine this will happen, given what “data” I have seen on Friedman, but you never know. I will tell you exactly what will happen in 2016 once his winter shopping is over. Like last year, if he doesn’t address real baseball concerns, his team will fail. Sorry, the Kansas City Royals do not play the brand of baseball Friedman is trying to sell. I would rather have a team in blue and white like that, than the mess shaking their asses at the Ravine these days. Agree or disagree; I could care less. If you like this type of approach, you don’t know anything about baseball.