Because he got shelled.
It’s strange to see one of the hardest-throwing executives in baseball get torched during the most important innings of his season, but, make no mistake, Friedman’s 100-mph aura has been lit up and his team has been left staggered.
The Dodgers, one standout starting pitcher from being a World Series favorite, didn’t get that starting pitcher.
Justin Verlander was up for bids. They didn’t get him.
Max Scherzer was up for bids. They didn’t get him.
Lucas Giolito was up for bids. They didn’t get him.
Eduardo Rodriguez was up for bids. They did get him, but then they didn’t get him because he didn’t want to be here.
A team whose rotation just suffered through the worst month in Los Angeles Dodgers history — that 6.18 July ERA is not a misprint — did not improve that rotation.
Granted, both Verlander and Rodriguez utilized no-trade clauses and Scherzer once quit on the Dodgers and there are surely a million reasons why these deals didn’t work out but still…
This sports landscape does not tolerate excuses. You are one player from a potential championship, you find that player. The Dodgers did not. The Dodgers failed. And that failure will haunt.
“For various different reasons for those top-end guys, it just didn’t work out,” Friedman acknowledged to reporters Tuesday afternoon, later adding, “Sometimes you line up and sometimes you don’t.”
OK, they did acquire Lance Lynn, but he has a 6.47 ERA and leads baseball in earned runs allowed and home runs allowed. A cynic might call that subtraction by addition. Then there was the last-second deal for Ryan Yarbrough, a nondescript lefty with a career 4.32 ERA.
And to think, this time of year used to be Friedman’s shining moment. This was when you wanted the ball in his hands. This was where he would mow down the rest of the league with a mixture of fastballs and off-speed stuff and just brilliance.
This was how he built a team that went to three World Series in four years and won a COVID-shortened championship in 2020.
Then last summer, the landscape changed, and suddenly Friedman doesn’t seem to be fooling anybody. Baseball’s expanded playoffs created more buyers than sellers, The cost of talent soared. Top prospects became the currency. The Dodgers weren’t always willing to pay the price.
Needing a starting pitcher last winter to shore up a young and uncertain rotation, the Dodgers did little beyond taking a crashed-and-burned flier on Noah Syndergaard. They chased Verlander but weren’t willing to meet his price. They entered the regular season with a makeshift bevy of starters filled with questions that all had the same answer.
Shhh. Wait until the trade deadline. If there’s a problem, Andrew Friedman always fixes it.
Well, not always, not last summer, not last winter and now, startlingly, not this summer, when the market for top starters quickly became very clear and apparently too steep.
The Rangers shipped their No. 2 prospect to the New York Mets for Scherzer.
The Astros traded their best prospect to the Mets for Verlander.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, held on to their top prospects, which is great for the future, but presently leaves them with a rotation that is not good enough to reach a World Series, and might not survive a round of the playoffs.
Who starts Game 1 of the first series? No idea. And given the pitching-rich legacy of this organization, that’s unfathomable.
The obvious choice would be Clayton Kershaw, but who knows about his health? The second choice would be Julio Urías, but who knows about his focus? There is no third choice, and imagine that. The Dodgers will attempt to take down the Atlanta Braves with Tony Gonsolin and Lance Lynn and Bobby Miller, oh my!
The irony of all this is that Friedman’s struggles could ruin some of his best work. Both Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts are having MVP-type seasons. J.D. Martinez and Jason Heyward and David Peralta were excellent acquisitions. The Dodgers offense is so good, the team is firmly in first place in the National League West even though their starting pitching is ranked 25th in the major leagues.
“From our standpoint, we feel really good about the team that we have and the depth we have behind it,” Friedman said. “That said, you always want to feel even better.”
Obviously, any chant-filled heroics by Fred-die or Mooo-kie will become irrelevant if the rotation can’t get anybody out.
The Dodgers needed some standout starting pitching, yet Andrew Friedman couldn’t acquire any, and so a team that has so often been lifted by the trade deadline has once again been crushed by it.
They needed an ace, but their ace couldn’t get them one.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.