Column: Friedman must understand change is needed for Dodgers

Andrew Friedman initially sounded open to the possibility that he was responsible for the Dodgers’ final nightmare back in October.

“The question is, is it just baseball?” Friedman asked. “Or are there things we can do to improve that? Are there levers we can pull, are there things that make us better positioned?”

However, the more Friedman spoke at Tuesday’s season-ending press conference, the clearer it became that he believed the Dodgers were simply unlucky in their National League Division Series loss to the San Diego Padres.

The president of baseball operations pointed to his team’s regular season numbers with runners in goal position.

He recalled Gavin Lux and Justin Turner’s late-season injuries.

He even went so far as to mention how Dodgers catcher Will Smith’s sacrificial fly was hit right at Jurickson Profar in the seventh inning in Game 4 while Padre’s shortstop Ha-Seong skipped Kim’s grounder at the end of the same inning skipped by Max Muncy because he played.

Friedman didn’t highlight anything the front office could have done better. If anything, he did everything to defend the group.

“I’m biased, but I feel like it’s the best thing in baseball,” Friedman said.

So there you have it: Friedman doesn’t think he did anything wrong, despite building another Dodgers team that dominated the regular season and blazed in the playoffs.

Friedman downplayed the need for change, saying Dave Roberts will return “100%” as manager next season. He said he also expects the other members of the coaching staff to return. He gave no indication that he would build his roster any differently than he has over the past eight years.

If the first step in fixing the team’s October problem is to admit there is an October problem, then the Dodgers still have an October problem.

Rather than express remorse beyond obvious lip service, Friedman remained defensive. Instead of sounding thoughtful, he came across as haughty and condescending.

From the sound of it, he wasn’t interested in knowing what went wrong either. He said he didn’t know why a mark didn’t reach right-hander Yency Almonte in the seventh inning of Game 4. Instead of throwing to first base to give left-hander Alex Vesia more time to warm up, Almonte delivered a ball to Jake Cronenworth. Vesia had to go in with a 1-0 count in an at-bat, resulting in a two-run go-ahead single from Cronenworth.

When asked if he knew why the sign was overlooked, Friedman replied, “I don’t know. I won’t waste time [talking about] neither.”

To be clear, Friedman didn’t claim the Padres didn’t deserve to win the NLDS. He conceded that the Dodgers were outplayed.

The Dodgers players watch from the dugout during the ninth inning of Game 4 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres.

The Dodgers players watch from the dugout during the ninth inning in Game 4 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park October 15 in San Diego.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Only this isn’t boxing where fighters have eight-week training camps designed to peak on the nights of their fights. This is not athletics where athletes adjust their training before major competitions.

No baseball team has figured out how to play when the games matter most. So if teams are subject to the inexplicable rhythms of a season, how can anyone be held responsible for what happens in October?

That was basically Friedman’s point.

“If you ask me if I think the best team wins the World Series every year, I would say no,” Friedman said. “I think the hottest team wins the World Series every year.”

However, some teams are better equipped to survive a 162-game regular season than to win in October, and vice versa.

“I think my point is, I think partly how you define the best team,” Friedman said, launching into a nonsensical monologue about fan expectations and how Roberts doesn’t deserve the criticism he’s receiving. If only Almonte knew how to stall like that.

Once again, Friedman turned to the team’s 111-win regular season for cover. Never mind that batting in the regular season has nothing to do with batting in the postseason, especially now that so many teams are tanking.

“It’s all relative,” Friedman said. “Other good teams also play against all other teams. I feel like we came out on top against good teams and good pitching in general.”

Although none of the Dodgers’ starters pitched in the sixth inning of the NLDS, Friedman dismissed the notion that he should have acquired another pitcher at the close.

“I don’t regret not getting a bad deal for us,” Friedman said. “I don’t feel like it was our starting pitch or our pitching in general that’s why we’re sitting here today.”

His pride didn’t allow him to admit he’d made any mistakes, making him an unlikable character on Tuesday, but not necessarily irretrievable. More important is whether he admits to himself that something needs to change, that not only is he unlucky every October, that there is a reason the only championship he has won came in a season curtailed by the pandemic, in which the playoffs most closely resembled the regular season. Column: Friedman must understand change is needed for Dodgers

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