Andrew Friedman is the President of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Friedman played one year of college ball at Tulane, went on to graduate with a BS in management with a finance concentration. He worked as an analyst with Bear Stearns before moving on to a private equity firm.
Other than his year at Tulane, he had no previous baseball experience when he was hired to work in the Tampa Bay front office after meeting new Rays owner, Stu Sternberg. (Sternberg had this radical idea that many teams, his own among them, were being mismanaged by outdated concepts. Go figure.) For those of us old enough to remember, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were one of the most pathetic franchises in sports history prior to Sternberg and Friedman taking over. Then in no small part due to Friedman’s guidance, from ’08 to ’13, the Rays went to the World Series once and made the playoffs three other seasons.
Just to put that into some perspective, they played in the same division as the Yankees and the Red Sox. Not just any Yankees and Red Sox teams – two franchises that were fully locked and loaded to spend every resource to win more World Series’. Between them they won almost half of all championships from ’96 to ’13 – and the Rays – the poor (literally and figuratively), moribund Rays beat both them at various points.
Since Friedman took over in LA, the Dodgers have won their division each season and had the best team in baseball this season, despite of what former jocks told you about the Indians.
A financial guy, from outside the baseball world, is kicking the asses of teams that don’t want to acknowledge that selecting players and game strategies is far less about what your eyes and opinions say and far more about math.
Side note: For more on Friedman and his colleagues’ performance in Tampa, which was nothing short of amazing, check out “The Extra 2%” by Jonah Keri. (Link is on the right of this page). Jonah is a great baseball writer who does a great job of telling the story of how the Rays went from God awful to a great franchise – it’s one of my favorite baseball books.
Jeff Luhnow, is the General Manager of the Houston Astros. He has two Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in both economics and engineering, and an MBA from Northwestern University. After working as an engineer, management consultant and technology entrepreneur, he was hired by Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. to work in their front office. (DeWitt had noticed that the Oakland A’s were outperforming other teams dollar per dollar, primarily because of statistical analysis.) Other than playing baseball in high school, Luhnow had no previous baseball experience.
During his time in the St. Louis’ front office, the Cardinals made three trips to the World Series, winning twice.
And as if his successes in Houston haven’t been obvious enough (4 seasons ago they won 51 games – this season 101) the Cardinals were infamously caught hacking into the Astros’ databases to get access to their former employee’s plans and lines of thinking. A guy with no previous experience in baseball (DeWitt and he have a mutual friend) took a 51 win team to 101 wins and the World Series in four years, and was so good his former employers tried to cheat off his work.
You may think this is beating a dead horse, but I don’t. Not as long as guys are getting jobs because “they’re real baseball men” (see Tony LaRussa or Dave Stewart) or some other such nonsense without other qualifications. Playing baseball is very, very hard. Managing professional athletes and the media for 162 games is very, very hard. Making decisions on rosters and game play is not, IF you know how to identify important data, apply math and logic and put it to use. That is why people who can do those things are kicking the asses of the people who either can’t or won’t.
And I guarantee you that neither John Smoltz nor any of the bitter former jocks who will be grunting into microphones during the series will bring it up. I guess when you do things one way your whole life it’s hard to admit you’re wrong – the brain, meager as it may be – simply can’t overcome the cognitive dissonance. But that doesn’t change the facts:
The war is over. The nerds won.