With the Los Angeles Dodgers visiting the Tampa Bay Rays for a rare two-game Interleague series at Tropicana Field this week, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman had another opportunity to return to his old stomping grounds.
Friedman spent the first 11 seasons of his career in the Rays’ front office and enjoyed moderate success with the organization before defecting to the Dodgers at the conclusion of 2014.
Prior to his move to Los Angeles, Friedman served as the Rays’ general manager for nine seasons. Despite a tight budget that left little room for error, the 42-year-old led Tampa Bay to four postseason appearances, including its first and only World Series berth in 2008.
The feat is more impressive when considering the financial behemoths that reside in the American League East, such as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
Friedman recently discussed the Dodgers and Rays’ respective financial situations and gave the clear advantage to Los Angeles, per Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“Double-edged sword,” Friedman says with a smile of the greater resources at his disposal in L.A.
While the Dodgers and Rays share similar philosophies in terms of roster construction, there are many differences that separate the two organizations — the most notable being payroll.
The Rays routinely rank near the bottom in player salaries, but the same can’t be said for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has cracked the top-five in payroll in every season dating back to 2013 — the first full year under Guggenheim ownership.
Such financial freedom has allowed Friedman to take greater risks that wouldn’t have been possible in Tampa Bay. Under his reign, the Dodgers have shown a willingness to absorb bad contracts in exchange for assets, such as Major League players or prospects.
Another advantage Los Angeles holds over Tampa Bay is fan attendance. The Rays struggle to attract fans to their ballpark while the Dodgers annually lead the Majors in total fan turnout.
As for the actual Dodgers-Rays matchup this week, it was a battle between two of the deepest teams in all of baseball and the teams split the two games. Both clubs, at their current pace, could wind up meeting in the 2019 World Series if everything holds up as is.
Friedman, however, is confident that his Dodgers team is best positioned to finally get over the hump this year and end what has been a three-decade-long World Series drought.