The common denominator in this World Series is the architect of both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers, no small accomplishment for a baseball wunderkind, who will turn 44 next month.
Andrew Friedman came to baseball from the world of finance and has built two franchises into champions. Equipped with a business degree from Tulane University, he spent five years on Wall Street dealing with stocks and bonds and all those boring numbers. The numbers that really intrigued him, though were hits, runs and errors, the heart and soul of baseball.
He was hired by the Rays and by 2005 at the age of 28, he was the team’s general manager, rapid advancement to a job traditionally held by baseball lifers. This was not a cushiony job. The team was eight years old and had never had a winning season. Friedman set about a major reconstruction project.
Within three years, he had the team in the World Series and was named Baseball Executive of rthe Year by the Sporting News. Tampa Bay was in the playpffs again in 2010, 2011 and 2013. The Wall Street dropout was officially a baseball maven.
The owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers noticed Friedman’s success with the Rays and lured him to California to become President of Baseball Operations and at $7 million a year, the highest paid executive in baseball.
Just like that, Friedman graduated from a franchise with one of baseball’s most modest payrolls to a team that traditionally had one of baseball’s biggest. He remade the front office and overhauled the roster and the Dodgers won their third straight division title in 2015.
The next year, LA won the division again and returned to the World Series for the first time since 1988, losing to the Houston Astros, amidst the din of trash can banging, part of the Astros’ intricate sign stealing system that was revealed two years later.
There was another World Series loss in 2018 to the Boston Red Sox and Dodgers’ string of division championships reached eight in this Covid-19 truncated 60-game season. Los Angeles posted the best record in the 60-game season at 43-17 and came from behind to capture the pennant in the playoffs against Atlanta. That sent the Dodgers into another World Series, this time against Friedman’s old friends from Tampa Bay.
They are a study in contrasts, especially on paydays.The Dodgers spend big with a glitzy $191.2 million payroll. The Rays come in with a more modest $67.6 million. There is one similarity, though.
Andrew Friedman’s thumb print is on both teams.
Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire