May 27, 2024

The Dodgers have suffered back-to-back “organizational failures,” in Andrew Friedman’s words.

Based on what the club’s top executive said Tuesday, however, the Dodgers don’t seem to think they have any glaring organizational problems, either.

That was the tone Friedman struck during an end-of-season news conference alongside general manager Brandon Gomes at Dodger Stadium, bemoaning the club’s three-game sweep against the Arizona Diamondbacks last week — a second straight shock exit for a team well-accustomed to October disappointment — while offering few explanations or actionable offseason answers.

After another 100-win campaign and National League West division title — the fifth and eighth times, respectively, the Dodgers achieved those feats in his nine-year reign as president of baseball operations — Friedman insisted the club’s internal processes remain sound and that few sweeping changes are needed for the team this winter.

A few examples: Manager Dave Roberts will be back for his ninth season next year. The rest of the coaching staff is likely to remain intact. And the core of the front office doesn’t seem to be grappling with any existential crisis.

“When we look back to the regular season, obviously, there’s a lot to be proud of,” Friedman said.

After the franchise suffered its second straight NL Division Series elimination (both of them to teams that finished 16 games or more behind them in the division) and first postseason sweep in 17 years, however, there is plenty about the team’s recent October troubles to be bothered by, as well.

“Our goal was to win 11 games in October and we didn’t win one,” Friedman said. “So we need to figure out what we can do differently and how to go about it.”

What that means —- and the type of changes it could entail — will indeed be the key question of the Dodgers’ offseason.

Six days after their elimination to the Arizona Diamondbacks, though, Friedman and Gomes left any further specifics unclear.

“A lot of these things, it’s hard to know the answer to,” Friedman said of the Dodgers’ recent playoff problems, which include a 3-10 record in their last 13 postseason games, dating back to 2021.

“There is an element that is October theater, and just what plays out on a daily and nightly basis. And there’s other things that we can do a better job on,” he added. “How to separate those, it’s incumbent upon us to figure out.”

As the Dodgers move on from another October disappointment, here’s a rundown of the key points from Tuesday’s news conference.

Do the Dodgers have an October problem?

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts reacts to losing.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts reacts to losing the NLDS to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Friedman’s direct answer to the question was “I don’t know.” His explanation, however, sure didn’t make it sound like there are any inherent issues they’re working to address.

Like last year, when the Dodgers were bounced in four games by the San Diego Padres, Friedman centered this year’s NLDS postmortem on the offense — which scored a Los Angeles franchise record 906 runs in the regular season (5.6 per game) but managed just six in three games against the Diamondbacks.

“I think the number of mistakes that each pitching staff made wasn’t that different,” Friedman said. “I think they converted at a freakishly high rate. And we converted at a freakishly low rate.”

But, like last year, Friedman struggled to pinpoint more exact explanations — other than to downplay the effects of the team’s five-day layoff before the NLDS (a feature of MLB’s new playoff format) and dismiss the notion the Dodgers were struggling to adjust in-game to opponents’ pitching plans (“I would bet on our hitting guys being on top of that,” he said).

“Obviously, there are three-game snippets throughout a year where our offense doesn’t perform,” Friedman said. “How much of it is that? How much of it is other things? I don’t know the answer.”

What about the pitching?

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw reacts to being pulled in the first inning.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw reacts to being pulled in the first inning during Game 1 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Unlike some factions of the fanbase, Friedman sounded less alarmed about the state of the staff.

“Obviously, our starting pitching didn’t pitch as well as they could have,” he acknowledged — in an understatement — after the rotation gave up 13 combined runs in less than five total innings.

When asked if he could have done more to bolster the club’s starting pitching this year, Friedman even offered a rare concession.

“Yeah, sure,” he said, noting that while there were several “unforeseen” developments to the Dodgers’ pitching plans this year (most notably, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin suffering season-ending injuries and Julio Urías going on administrative leave following an early September arrest), “whether we should have foreseen them or not is a fair question.”

That doesn’t mean the Dodgers would have operated any differently if given another chance.

Friedman called Clayton Kershaw’s six-run debacle in the first inning of Game 1 a “two or three times” out of 100 occurrence.

He still felt “very strongly” that rookie starter Bobby Miller “was ready for October,” even though he gave up three runs in the first inning of Game 2.

He also declared that, after the Dodgers limited the Diamondbacks to four runs each in Games 2 and 3, “I would’ve bet a lot of money that we would have won at least one of those two games with our offense.”

So, was the Dodgers’ elimination just the result of bad October luck?

“I think there’s an element of it,” he said.

Ultimately, however, “we didn’t hold a lead in this division series,” Friedman added. “For a team this talented to play 27 innings where we do not hold a lead is beyond that. It’s something we have to figure out and do what we can to put ourselves in a position to not have that happen.”

So will pitching be a priority this offseason?

San Diego Padres pitcher Blake Snell works against the San Francisco Giants.

San Diego Padres pitcher Blake Snell works against the San Francisco Giants during a game in San Francisco.

(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Yes, with Friedman saying the Dodgers will “certainly be focused on starting pitching” this offseason.

Exactly what that means, though, presents another uncertainty.

Friedman disputed the notion that, this past year, there were impact postseason pitchers the Dodgers passed on when constructing their roster, either last offseason or at the trade deadline.

“There aren’t many guys going six or seven in postseason games, anecdotally, as I look around,” Friedman said.

That argument, of course, overlooks one-time Dodgers trade targets such as Pablo Lopez (who had two strong starts for the Minnesota Twins in this year’s playoffs) or Jordan Montgomery (who has gone six-plus innings in two of three starts for the Texas Rangers, helping them build a 2-0 lead in the ALCS).

The Dodgers inquired about both of those pitchers over the last year. Both, however, would’ve required trade costs the team likely felt were beyond fair value.

This offseason, those same dynamics could be in play for free-agent pitchers.

The top of the market will be headlined by likely NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, Phillies veteran Aaron Nola and Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Some second-tier options include Sonny Gray, Marcus Stroman and even Montgomery.

Whether any of those names falls in the Dodgers comfort zone — good enough to warrant a lucrative, long-term deal, but cheap enough to not be too much of a risk — remains to be seen.

None did this year, with Lance Lynn (who gave up four home runs in the third inning of Game 3) serving as their only notable rotation addition.

“Our bullpen is great,” Friedman said. “But when you’re not clicking in two-thirds of those facets [with offense and starting pitching], it’s hard to win a baseball game. Unfortunately, we saw it front and center.”

What about other free agents?

Angels' Shohei Ohtani reacts during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Angels’ Shohei Ohtani reacts during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Philadelphia.

(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

There are two key names to watch.

The first will be Kershaw, the 35-year-old free agent who will also contemplate retirement after being dogged by a late-season shoulder injury.

“I think he and [wife] Ellen are going to take some time right now and assess. The ball’s squarely in their court,” Friedman said, noting that the Dodgers would be eager to welcome Kershaw back.

The other high-profile name this winter: Shohei Ohtani, the two-way Angels star who will also be a free agent.

Though elbow surgery last month will limit Ohtani to hitting-only next season, the Dodgers are still expected to pursue his services.

And while Friedman declined to discuss Ohtani specifically, he indicated the Dodgers would be able to operate near the top of the free-agent market for a star addition like him.

“We’re in a good spot,” he said with a hint of sarcasm. “Thank you for your concern.”

In some ways, that statement summed up Friedman’s entire message Tuesday.

No, the Dodgers aren’t happy about the early October exits of recent years. But no, they don’t seem to feel like they’re in a bad spot either, instead entering this offseason convinced in their methods even after another playoff disappointment.

“Organizational failure means it’s on all of us,” Friedman said. “We all have a hand in it. If this were one person or a small collection of people — in my estimation — then we would make changes. We just wouldn’t do it to say, ‘Look, we’ve made changes’ and try to cover up what has happened. Instead, we have a lot of extremely disappointed, angry people who are all gonna work really hard together to avoid being in this position next year.”

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