Late yesterday news broke that the Houston Astros have asked for, and received, permission to interview Andrew Friedman for their newly-vacant General Manager position.
This caused some understandable consternation in The Ray Area. After all, we have come to believe that Andrew Friedman’s brain is the factor separating our Rays from the days of Ryan Rupe and Damian Rolls. Right?
So, what is Friedman pulls an Urban and decides to takeover his hometown team and return it glory? (For the record, I think there is a slim possibility of that happening. He has an owner he loves, the freedom to do what he wants, the support he needs to re-invent the wheel, and, according to some reports, an ownership stake in the Rays.)
I am actually, not too worried about the possibility of Friedman departing. (I know, shocking right? I mean, I did just write what a genius he is like, 24 hours ago). I think the fear is based on three miconceptions:
- Andrew Friedman is the only person that can do what Andrew Friedman has done;
Baseball is easier to understand when their is just one man making the roster decisions but, this myth is built on a little naivete. While the GM is certainly the most important part of the baseball operations structure — he sets the tone, philosophy, and makes the hard decisions — he doesn’t do the job alone. During his tenure Friedman has built a remarkable analytical machine that takes in and successfully processes more information than just about any other team. That infrastructure would continue to exist without Friedman so, the next GM would have the tools Friedman created at his disposal.
- The expansion of Friedman-ism to other teams will dilute the Rays’ advantage. Look at Oakland post-Moneyball.; and
This is a real fear but, it exists regardless of whether Friedman leaves or not. Other teams are already trying to steal the magic the Rays have caught in a bottle during the last four seasons. In fact, as I have alluded to before, the Rays are probably moving on to a new way of doing things already while other teams move into their previously unoccupied space.
Also, the Rays’ ownership is a big reason that Friedman is Friedman. He gets to take chances and try unorthodox things because Sternberg and co. trust him. What do we know about Jim Crane? Would he be similarly lenient or, would he get nervous and force Friedman into a more traditional approach thereby leaving Friedman’s old department to work without competition?
- Andrew Friedman is the best-possible GM the Rays can afford.
GM is a tough gig. In my opinion, some of the best GMs in baseball are already toiling away in some other team’s baseball ops department. I mean, who thought Friedman would turn out this good? Right? Didn’t we want someone proven? Not only do I think Friedman is replaceable by some number-cruncher somewhere, but I think you could argue a change might actually benefit the Rays. Friedman has pulled off so many remarkable deals that some GMs appear reluctant to deal with him. When he makes an offer, other teams wonder what they are missing. He has burned a lot of political capital and, a new guy might be able to re-capture some of that magic.
So, the departure of Andrew Friedman wouldn’t be the end of the world for this club and it wouldn’t mean a return to last place. That said, I really really hope he stays.