The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday by a 3-1 final behind timely hitting and a strong joint outing from their bullpen, thus winning the title for the first time since 1988. This is the Dodgers' seventh title overall, and their sixth since the franchise moved to Los Angeles ahead of the 1958 season.
Prior to Tuesday's victory, the Dodgers had occupied an awkward and unenviable space in Major League Baseball: they were, in essence, the best team to never win it all. No club had won more regular-season contests than the Dodgers had since 2015, Andrew Friedman's first year at the helm, yet their success felt incomplete without the finishing touch, a World Series trophy. That the Dodgers had lost two of the past three Fall Classics didn't help to change the sentiment.
Now, though? A bow can be placed upon the stories of this Dodgers team and its key contributors, be it longtime ace Clayton Kershaw, manager Dave Roberts, and yes, even Friedman, whose legacy is arguably more complicated than anyone else involved here.
If there's one thing the Houston Astros' cheating scandal should have made clear, it's that front offices needn't be the subjects of hagiography no matter how many games they win or smart acquisitions they execute. It's possible to acknowledge their work without pretending they're infallible or above reproach, and it's vital to do so nowadays, with the industry teeming with financial types who know a thing or two about operating in moral and ethical gray areas.
Friedman just so happens to be a good test of this. There's no questioning his savvy as a talent evaluator or as a team builder. He's demonstrated as much since his days balling on a budget with the Tampa Bay Rays. He then made a seamless transition to the Dodgers, who have become a player-development machine capable of outspending and outsmarting nearly everyone else. This marks Los Angeles' third World Series appearance in four years, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if they make their way back to the World Series a few more times this decade.
For as good as Friedman is at his job, there's another side of his legacy that must be weighed: the aforementioned moral and ethical blemishes. Even if one can justify his tendency to manipulate service time, his willingness to acquire players of questionable characters and criminal records during his Rays days, or his creation and implementation of other anti-labor practices -- attributing it to the lousy circumstances that come with the Rays job -- it's harder to overlook the legal issues the Dodgers have experienced under his watch.
After all, it's the Friedman-era Dodgers who are under investigation by the Department of Justice for potentially improper dealings in the international free-agent market, and it's the Friedman-era Dodgers who failed to act when informed of abuse of an underage girl by their prospects. Friedman's exact involvement in either is unknown, but, as with Jeff Luhnow before him, it's only fair for them to receive blame when things go wrong with their organization if they're going to receive credit when things go right.
Consider the scene after Game 6, Friedman was ostensibly in position to stop Justin Turner fromafter he learned he tested positive for COVID-19. Instead, Friedman could be found posing feet away from Turner in the team photograph, with neither wearing a mask.
It may seem silly or counterproductive to note that aspect of Friedman's legacy, but think about it this way: MLB already has a credibility problem stemming from its past sins; the last thing the league needs is for a celebrated, championship-winning front office to become sullied after everyone overlooked years of warning signs. As such, the best way to handle cases like this is to acknowledge the truth upfront: Friedman is good at his job, but his organizations have behaved in questionable ways that reflect poorly on either him and/or the league's culture as a whole.
That acknowledgement doesn't take anything away from the Dodgers, and it doesn't withhold credit to Friedman for a job well done. It does lay plain that for as important as winning a World Series is, it doesn't serve as a panacea for all of a front office's ills -- or, at least not those they created themselves.