Interview with Andrew Friedman-June 2006

Occasionally, there are some articles that you post which need an explanation to go along with them. An interview posted 16 months after the questions were originally asked is one of those articles. So allow me to explain.

In late June of 2006, I had a brilliant idea to improve my content for the site. Our readership at that point was lagging; we had only about 1/5 of the hits that we are projected to take this month. My columns to that point were pretty much mundane, game thread, game recap, minor leagues, and the occasional transaction analysis. My idea to add a little interest to the site, and by extension my stories, was to interview someone who mattered.

So, I contacted Andrew Friedman, Vice President for Baseball Operations for the Rays, about possibly doing an interview for the site. Much to my surprise, he was very willing to do so and was quite prompt in returning my e-mails. The best part about the whole thing was that his answers were not a vague, two sentence PR answer. He actually put time into answering the questions, and for a busy man (this was right around the time of the Hendrickson/Hall trade) I was very impressed.

So why did I never consummate the interview? Well, it was pretty much a cocktail of several different reasons, all of them coming back to me. First of all, my original interview document consisted of a total of 57 questions. That was just a tad bit pushing it. Had he answered all of them, I'd still be publishing installments of that interview today. I broke down the interview into short clumps of questions for him to answer, and he got through the first six.

After that, we lost contact. That was entirely my fault. I was going out of town right around this period, and my lack of internet access during this period of time shuttered any further communication. I was gone for much of the next month, and by the time I returned, so did school. All of that combined quashed the momentum of doing the interview.

I tried to re-kindle it around February of this year, right during the end of my trip to Brazil and right around the time that this site published the Stu Sternberg interview. I don't know whether it was jealousy at that which prompted me to try again, or whether the Sternberg interview simply reminded me to try again. In any case, the interview again went nowhere. I contacted Mr. Friedman in late February asking him if he'd be willing to answer a few questions when I got back, and he responded promptly saying that he would. The only problem? I never got back to him, and that left things where they are today.

I have to both thank and apologize to Mr. Friedman profusely for his part in this whole process. Not only was he willing to devote some of his time to answering my questions, but he was very prompt at getting back to me. I very much regret having given him the shaft at least two times.

Fortunately, R.J. prompted me to try again earlier this week when we got to chatting on IM, and so I did. I contacted Mr. Friedman about finally consummating the interview which began 16 months ago, and to my good fortune, he agreed. I will send him a brand new set of questions, and we will work from there. I can't really just recycle my old material, as they contain such questions as 'What is the status of injured Rays pitcher Shinji Mori, and do you expect him to be ready by Spring Training next year?.'  

With Thanksgiving coming up, I'm not sure exactly how fast this will proceed, but I should finally bring this long, 70 week saga to a close shortly. Mr. Friedman certainly deserves a big benefit of the doubt on time, so we'll see. In any case, here are the original six questions that he answered for me back in late June/early July of 2006, just for kicks. Most of them are still somewhat relevant since these questions were general, but nonetheless I look forward to getting some more up to date ones published shortly.

Patrick L. Kennedy: Coming from an investment firm in New York, how did you end up in the Devil Rays organization these past two years? From that, how did you make the giant leap to a position at the helm of baseball operations? Was it just being in the right place at the right time?

Andrew E. Friedman: I was fortunate enough to get to know Stu Sternberg through Matt Silverman when Matt had begun to work full-time on acquiring the Rays, and joined them thereafter during the due diligence phase.  When the deal was initially struck, Stu said to both of us that he didn't intend to relocate his family to Tampa Bay due to how young his children were, and asked us both to get down here and get involved and familiar with the organization - Matt on the business side and myself on the baseball side.

At that time I didn't expect to be in this role, and so soon.  Certainly, I hoped that I might one day, but a number of timetables were expedited.  The time that I spent here prior to assuming my current role has proved invaluable thus far, and I am humbled by and grateful for the trust that Stu has placed in me.

Patrick L. Kennedy: You rose to your position at a relatively young age, along with Red Sox GM Theo Epstien and Rangers GM Jon Daniels. To aspiring young GMs, what would your advice be in getting to that position?

Andrew E. Friedman: People take many different paths to get where they are, which should not be surprising given the unusual and competitive nature of this industry.  There's no magic pill, and often you have to be in the right place at the right time to get your foot in the door.  It won't come to you, though -- you need to be dedicated and persistent.  Seize any opportunity to develop your mind and your ability while you are trying to get in, and make the most of any chance you earn.  Be respectful, humble and mature, and worry less about moving up the ladder than about being someone who will be able to succeed when you do.  There's plenty of luck in this business, but they say fortune favors the prepared, and I've found that to be true.

Patrick L. Kennedy: The Devil Rays are unique in that they don't have traditional GM setup. You are 'Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations' and Gerry Hunsicker is 'Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations'. Because of this setup, there has been some confusion in actually who does what. In everyday roster moves and, for example, the Joey Gathright deal, what was your role and what is Gerry's; who does what?

Andrew E. Friedman: A primary reason that Stu configured our front office as he did is his belief in having different people work together to take advantage of each person's expertise and strengths, and it shows in how the Rays do business.  Gerry and I consult closely on many areas, including trades, although the final decision rests with me.  Each of us is involved everywhere, with Gerry more closely overseeing scouting, player development and our international operation, while I devote more of my attention to our big league club.  It's promoted great dialogue and I think it's been tremendously productive.

Patrick L. Kennedy: What was your relationship like with former GM Chuck LaMar and the old ownership group?

Andrew E. Friedman: At times it was strange, without a doubt - it was no secret who had brought me here.  But everyone who has left us still worked hard, and with the best of intentions, to improve this team while they were here.  I don't like to dwell on the past, and I think it's telling that when Chuck did leave, he did so with class, not lashing out at us in the media as he easily could have.  The past is over, and there is some real talent left from it.  It's our job now to look towards the future and build that into a championship organization.

Patrick L. Kennedy: What about Joe Maddon set him apart from all of the other managerial candidates?

Andrew E. Friedman: You've already seen some of what makes Joe so impressive.  Nobody in baseball has his energy and optimism, and we knew we needed that in our building process.  He's also an extraordinary communicator.  That's important to a young team, and important to our fans as well as we look to reconnect with the entire region.  And as you've seen with the way we've defended against David Ortiz, Joe's innovative.  Have you ever seen the third baseman turn around and charge out into left field in the middle of an at-bat?  That excites us -- we know we're going to have to try some new things here in order to get where we want to go.  Finally, Joe has an extensive player development background and spent a lot of time as a coach in the minor leagues.  Player development is our lifeline, and it was crucial for us to hire a manager who understood the importance of building not just one team, but a whole organization.

Patrick L. Kennedy: Tim Wilken is praised around baseball as one of the best draft gurus of any front office, but he left this offseason to go to the Cubs. What led to his departure, was it you wanting to install your own scouting department, or did he want to go to Chicago?

Andrew E. Friedman: Tim has been friends with Jim Hendry, the GM of the Cubs, since childhood, and when that job opened it was too tempting for him to turn down.  We didn't feel right standing in the way of that kind of opportunity, and I'm glad that Tim's expertise during his time here has helped make our scouts even better.  And we are thrilled with the job that R.J. and his staff did with this year's draft.

See R.J., even Andrew likes the job you've done!

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