Congratulations to Andrew Friedman, new President for Baseball Operationsfor the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles (and shhhh don't tell anyone, but he's really the new GM). Can I just assume that readers of this website are familiar with his handiwork in Tampa Bay? If not, there's a book by some Expos fan who used to work here that gives a rough overview of the topic.
The phrase "Moneyball with money" has been bandied about more times than I care to count… just like when people realized that the Red Sox had hired Bill James or when the Cubs hired Theo Epstein or when I found a copy of the Michael Lewis's book at Barnes and Noble and the cashier asked how I was going to pay for it. There's no denying that Andrew Friedman is a smart guy. Even if you chalk some of the Rays half-decade run of playoff caliber baseball to the fact that they were so awful for so long that high draft picks like David Price, Evan Longoria, and… Tim Beckham just happened to fall into their laps, he deserves at least some of the credit. He took a slingshot and a pebble and stood up to two Goliaths in the AL East and won. People are salivating at the thought of what he might do with an assortment of nuclear warheads. And Chris Perez.
It's not going to be as easy as all that. Grant Brisbee has a good write up of the real value that Friedman will bring to the Dodgers. Once you get past the stage of "OMG, he shall have a surfeit of pecuniary resources!" phase, there's the uncomfortable question of… well now what? It's easy to pretend, before he even hops off the plane at LAX with some dreams and a cardigan that he will spend all of the money on all of the players and that because he is Andrew Friedman, they will all magically work out. It doesn't work that way. Big money contracts are risky, no matter who you are, and as Grant points out, many of the things that made the Dodgers a contender again had very little to do with money and more to do with good ole fashioned baseball intelligence. Or maybe luck.
Here's an analogy that will illustrate the problem. (I suppose I could just link to the Yankees team page for 2013 and 2014, but where's the fun in that?) Suppose that someone handed you a (tax-free) check for one million dollars. How would you spend that?
Think about that for a minute. What would you do with it?
Maybe you'd buy a house or furniture for that house. Maybe a nice Chesterfield or an ottoman. Maybe you'd buy a green dress (but not a real green dress, that's cruel.)
For most people, there are a series of perfectly defensible answers (I'd pay off my mortgage. I'd set up a college fund for my kids.) In baseball terms, that's about the equivalent of outright dumping some bad contracts (Andre Ethier? Carl Crawford?) and investing in player development. Other than the fact that under the new rules. releasing Andre Ethier isn't a franchise crippling move, Perfectly reasonable, but I don't think anyone is going gaga over Friedman's new job because of the perfectly reasonable things that he would do.
But once people are done being responsible with their newfound million, they start thinking of what they might do with the rest of the money. Often, people will say that they would buy some high-end car, mostly because they think that they are supposed to buy a high-end car. If your passion is high-performance driving, it makes sense, but at the end of the day, driving a Ferrari to the grocery store is kinda silly. You end up with an expensive toy that sure, you can afford, but that doesn't do much for you. It's just a status symbol. It's nice to be able to afford whatever sort of car you want, but maybe the more prudent investment would be a K-Car. A nice reliant automobile. And yeah, you can get the one with the cupholder arm rest if you want, but just because something is expensive, it doesn't mean that it's a good idea. Just ask Friedman's new neighbors in Anaheim about Josh Hamitlon.
If finding out where the good values for your money sounds a lot more like St. Petersburg than Hollywood, you're right. Maybe the best use of some of that million dollars of yours would be in putting a new roof on your house. It doesn't look nice in your driveway, but it will keep you dry and that's more important. Maybe the best use of some of that $200 million payroll is in starting a really good nutrition program in the minor leagues.
By hiring Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers did not hire a good luck charm that will make their big ticket free agents produce better numbers. They hired a guy who has excelled at knowing how to spend money where it actually matters and not where people think it matters. The extra money means that he now doesn't have to skimp if something is needed, but it isn't a license to just spend on bright, shiny objects because the money is there. And I hope that Dodger fans are ready for that mentality.
And no, Anaheim, even though we have a million dollars, we have not always wanted a Rally Monkey.
Thank you for reading
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