Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was recognized by his peers as the MLB Executive of the Year for 2020, but it wasn’t because his team won its first World Series in 32 years.
All 30 teams have one vote for the Executive of the Year award, which was established by Major League Baseball in 2018. That vote, like most major awards in the sport, was concluded before the postseason began.
MLB did not provide voting totals, but noted that Rick Hahn of the White Sox finished second in Executive of the Year voting, with 2019 winner Erik Neander of the Rays taking third place in 2020. MLB further said that each MLB team had one vote, but did not specify who did the voting for each team.
The Sporting News Executive of the Year, determined from a poll of major league executives, went to Hahn, who received six of 18 votes. Friedman in that award garnered three votes, tying for third place. Sounds like those other 12 votes helped turn the MLB award blue.
Friedman’s credentials even before October were impressive. The Dodgers had the best record in baseball (43-17), the best run differential (+136) by almost a full run per game than the next-best team, the most runs scored (5.82), most home runs (118), best ERA (3.02) and ERA+ (141).
The big splash in 2020 of course was Friedman acquiring Mookie Betts from the Red Sox, which was likely enough to win Executive of the Year all by itself. The Dodgers reaped the benefits of that trade on the field during the season and into the postseason, and now come the off-field rewards.
“We’ve gotten close in years past and I just couldn’t be more proud of everyone that we work with, everyone who’s in this together,” Friedman said after the Game 6 clincher in the World Series. “It would have been easy to just kind of throw our hands up, and each adversity that we faced, I think brought us closer together. We kind of huddled up and kept trying to figure out ways to get better and to improve, and for it to culminate in this is so incredibly special.”
While Friedman won the award for this season, an executive’s work in team building is a multi-year affair. So credit the Dodgers for building enough pitching depth over Friedman’s tenure to withstand the losses of Hyun-jin Ryu (to free agency) and Kenta Maeda (via trade), who finished second and third, respectively in American League Cy Young voting this year, and being without Rich Hill, who signed with the Twins, and David Price, who opted out of the season due to health concerns during the pandemic.
Fifty-five of the Dodgers’ 60 regular season games, and all 18 postseason games, were started by pitchers who to that point spent their entire career with the organization. That includes Ross Stripling, who was traded to Toronto at the August 31 deadline to make room, or “create a runway” as Friedman has mentioned in the past, for Tony Gonsolin.
So while this award is single-season by definition, it’s a recognition of a multi-year effort by Friedman with the Dodgers. His tenure has included six division titles in six years, three pennants, 528 wins, and a .606 winning percentage, all unmatched by any other MLB team. And now Friedman has an Executive of the Year award to go along with his World Series trophy.