Friedman, Zaidi Given Major Credit For Dodgers' Return To World Series
The Dodgers on Thursday night advanced to the World Series and while the money spent on the team's payroll "surely helped," the club "truly ascended into the realm of the elite" when they hired President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi, according to Jared Diamond of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Both execs "arrived from small-market teams" in the Rays and A's, respectively, and "brought those principles to the big-budget Dodgers." The result was a team that entered '17 with "remarkable depth at virtually every position and a crop of young talent" acquired in the draft. Dodgers P Kenley Jansen said, "You’ve got to give a lot of respect to Andrew and Farhan. They put a ridiculous team together." Diamond writes the Dodgers' long journey back to the Fall Classic began when Guggenheim Baseball Management "assumed control of the team" in '12 and began spending "unprecedented amounts of money, even overtaking the Yankees in payroll" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/20). In L.A., Dylan Hernandez notes Friedman has "prioritized fortifying the margins of the 40-man roster and stockpiling depth, which hasn’t always resonated with the star-driven market where his team was based." But Friedman was "bold from the start, unafraid to go against what the fans wanted." He traded "popular players such as Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon." He "didn’t pursue high-end free agents." Players "privately wondered whether he was more invested in the team’s future than the present." They "grumbled over the influence of Friedman’s front office on lineup decisions." If the team’s foundation was set by previous GM Ned Colletti, Friedman and Zaidi should be credited with "sharpening the edges" (L.A. TIMES, 10/20).
IF YOU BUILD IT: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes for the last three years, the "unabashed, sometimes critical passion" of Dodgers fans "prodded the new executives to mix their renowned brains with schoolyard assertiveness." While still "building for the future," Friedman and Zaidi and their group "chased hard after the present -- like trading for [P] Yu Darvish -- and now they are headed to the deepest part of October." Friedman said of Dodgers fans, "I don’t think until you can appreciate their passion until you are living it every day ... going to get a cup of coffee, running into somebody there, at every turn, then looking out every night at the 50,000 people who are there so consistently. It fuels us. ... When we’re on the fence of being aggressive, I think that contributes in a really positive way to doing everything we can to bring them a championship team" (L.A. TIMES, 10/20).
MONEY STILL TALKS: YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Cwik notes the Dodgers opened the season with an "absurd, league-high" $265M payroll. But to "define the team’s excellence solely on that number would be disingenuous, ignorant and misleading." The Dodgers’ success this season has been "far more about the franchise’s ability to draft and develop players." Of the 14 offensive players the team carried on the NLCS roster, six were either "drafted by the team, or were acquired before making their major-league debuts." But that "doesn’t tell the whole story." The Dodgers also "feature a number of players whose performance greatly improved upon joining the club." However, it would be "foolish to completely discount the team’s financial advantage." A big reason a lot of these players are still around is "due to the team’s ability to pay their players." This is where the "arguments about the Dodgers’ payroll gain some legitimacy." They are able to "keep their players when most other teams would lose them to free agency" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/20). SPORTSNET.ca's Ryan Dixon writes "no MLB team invested more money in its roster than the Dodgers" and Thursday night’s win was yet another example of how the team is "getting contributions from all over the diamond" (SPORTSNET.ca, 10/20). CBSSPORTS.com's Jonah Keri notes much of the Dodgers' "sky-high payroll" comes from players "making minimal contributions in the playoffs -- or less." It is a "damn fine luxury" to be able to spend $92M in "basically dead money, then roll to the best record in baseball and a spot in the Fall Classic." Keri: "But check out the origin stories of many other Dodger players, and you can see how the team's plan of attack worked so well when it came to building a winner." The Dodgers "wouldn't have made it without youth, data, and depth" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/20).