• Cashman: I Wish I Could Tell You How The Rays Do It

    Posted by on October 22nd, 2008 · Comments (10)

    Via the Tampa Tribune -

    As a kid, Andrew Friedman had dibs on the morning sports section so he could study the box scores. Well before he could drive, he still made a daily pilgrimage to Houston’s Astrodome and was passed off as a player’s kid because he hung around the home team so much.

    While refining a take-no-prisoners playing style during his teenage years, Friedman wrote Lenny Dykstra’s number on the back of his cleats and answered to the nickname of “Nails,” a tribute to the type of leadoff batter and center fielder he wanted to become.

    Everything about Friedman’s approach — everything in his life, really — spoke to his passion for baseball.

    So really, it’s not surprising that Friedman, 31, has become a Midas-touch executive vice president of baseball operations for the Rays, who open the World Series tonight at Tropicana Field against the Philadelphia Phillies.

    But in reality, despite his lifelong dreams, it happened by accident.

    Five years ago, he was on Wall Street, first as a rookie investment analyst for Bear Stearns & Co., where 15-hour days are considered the work of slackers, then as an associate with MidMark Capital, a private equity firm.

    He was making good money, closing deals worth millions, really going places.

    The only place he really wanted to be was at a ballpark.

    “Andrew once told me, ‘Crunching all these numbers every day, that’s fine, but it’s not where my heart is,’” said Steve Lipman, who was Friedman’s boss at Bear Stearns. “He’d ask if I knew anybody with one of the baseball teams. He said he’d wash the floors there, if that was the way in.”

    Then came an unexpected break in 2003. Through his investment-banking buddy, Matt Silverman (now president of the Rays), he met Stuart Sternberg, who was about to purchase controlling interest in Tampa Bay’s baseball franchise.

    The group convened at a diner near Sternberg’s home in Rye, N.Y.

    Sternberg and Friedman hit it off immediately. They talked for hours.

    “He had the same thought process I did,” Sternberg said. “I sensed his passion. His willingness to step away from a lucrative career meant an enormous amount to me.

    “Andrew isn’t afraid to walk through the fire to execute his game plan,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “How Andrew does what he does, I couldn’t tell you. Coca-Cola doesn’t give out its secret formula. But whatever he’s doing, it’s working.”

    Friedman played for a USA national team that toured China. He earned a baseball scholarship to Tulane, where his father also played, but a series of injuries ended his career prematurely. Friedman got his finance degree — on the advice of an Astros executive, actually — and was accepted into the two-year Bear Stearns investment program.

    “Financial boot camp,” Lipman said. “Not for the faint of heart. Andrew wanted to understand everything. He wasn’t just blindly following orders. That distinguished him from the other people he worked with in banking. He’s a go-to guy, very versatile.”

    Built For The Job

    Ultimately, that versatility attracted Sternberg.

    Sternberg heard about Friedman’s devotion to the “risk-reward” style of deal-making. At the same time, who knew Friedman once did skydiving over Las Vegas “just to see what it feels like,” and also hang-glided off the side of a mountain in Switzerland?

    Friedman was expected to add discipline and financial savvy, but who expected him to break down players like a grizzled scout?

    “Andrew sees things others don’t,” [Joe] Maddon said. “He’s more mature than I am. Here’s how I describe our relationship. He’s like my father and I’m like his son.”

    For what it’s worth, Dan Jennings and Chuck LaMar had a hand in getting the Rays where they are today too. So, who knows…maybe someday, say, around the year 2018, Friedman will be talking about Cashman’s replacement in New York…saying that he wished he knew how that guy was doing it? (This assumes the Yankees, by then, get some guys with a scouting background and let them call the shots for a few years…)

    Comments on Cashman: I Wish I Could Tell You How The Rays Do It

    1. Pat F
      October 23rd, 2008 | 12:29 am

      some guys like, i don’t know, damon oppenheimer and mark newman? too bad we don’t have any guys like that on our baseball ops staff…

    2. gphunt
      October 23rd, 2008 | 7:33 am

      Top 5 draft picks are bound to pay off sometime. All they really did was run a draft…

    3. October 23rd, 2008 | 8:43 am

      gphunt – tell that to the Pittsburgh Pirates…

    4. October 23rd, 2008 | 8:43 am

      Pat F. – agreed. Now, let’s give those guys more pull in the Yankees F.O., OK?

    5. MJ
      October 23rd, 2008 | 9:09 am

      FYI – You bemoan Cashman’s lack of a scouting background without recognizing that Friedman was an investment banker whose closest contact with the game was, really, as a high school player.

      Enough already with the Hate-Cashman blinders.

    6. Pat F
      October 23rd, 2008 | 9:51 am

      steve – personally, i prefer the current power structure. like most things, cashman doesn’t make decisions on his own. he leans heavily on his baseball ops team. all we heard about last year was how cashman’s “team” was almost unanimous in not wanting to trade for santana, not just cashman. and, it seems like oppenheimer and newman are two of, if not his top two guys. cashman has the ability to deal with the media, ownership, and the public, which is not easy in new york. he allows the baseball people to make baseball decisions uninterrupted, and without constantly getting publicly criticized and second guessed. that is left for him.

      also, have to agree with mj here. if anything, friedman is evidence that someone without an expert scouting background, and has merely been around the game, has a passion for it, and played some college ball can be a really good general manager. doesn’t sound that different from cashman.

    7. October 23rd, 2008 | 9:54 am

      ~~You bemoan Cashman’s lack of a scouting background without recognizing that Friedman was an investment banker whose closest contact with the game was, really, as a high school player.
      ~~

      Re-read what I wrote MJ.

      More so, I’m saying that AF looks good now, thanks to DJ and CL…and, maybe, in the future, AF will look like Cashman does now…

    8. butchie22
      October 23rd, 2008 | 2:18 pm

      AS soon as I saw the top draft comment, I immediately thought of the Pirates! They have stunk for so long in a mediocre division and have nothing to show for it. Please, the Rays have a great organization that has brought in select free agents and has made really good trades. The Rays have done it in the toughest division in baseball so Friedman has done something right.

    9. MJ
      October 23rd, 2008 | 4:02 pm

      They have stunk for so long in a mediocre division and have nothing to show for it.
      ————————
      Give Pittsburgh’s new staff, hired before the 2008 season, the same chance to prove themselves. They’ve already done well by drafting Pedro Alvarez and turning Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and Damaso Marte into a crop of potentially good young players.

    10. butchie22
      October 23rd, 2008 | 6:13 pm

      MJ there was buzz that Tampa would be better this year BUT just not this great. THe Bucs had absolutely negative buzz this year if anything! The Pirates got rid of Nady AND Bay(two of their most productive players). You can’t tell me that the players that the Yankees sent were good. The inmates are running the asylum in Pittsville and looking at those two trades they gave up two very good players for what. Were those trades like a Delmon Young for Garza and Bartlett?

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