Zaidi: Mattingly has done a 'great job'
Dodgers first-year GM sits down for Q&A with MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers reached the postseason in Paul DePodesta's first year as general manager. They made the postseason in Ned Colletti's first year as general manager. And the streak of new-regime success continued this year, in Farhan Zaidi's first year as general manager under new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Los Angeles will play the Mets in the National League Division Series beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. PT (TBS).
Zaidi knows, however, that expectations are high. He addressed that, and other important topics, in this session with MLB.com.
MLB.com: Knowing that this is just the first step, how satisfying is it that the club has won a third consecutive division title?
Zaidi: Obviously, winning the division is not the end goal, but it would certainly be dissatisfying if we didn't get to this point. I think with our payroll and resources, there's always the assumption we're going to compete and be the favorite. The bottom line, though, the 25 guys on the field have to get the job done, no matter what resources the front office has or the payroll is. It still is an achievement for those guys to be the best team in the division this year and in that sense it certainly is satisfying for them and for us, but we still have a ways to go to reach the ultimate goal.
MLB.com: That said, you're in a city that has had a 26-year World Series drought. I'm sure you've sensed the frustration and expectations.
Zaidi: With a third division title in a row, after the first two there's an expectation of winning this and the reality is, there still were four other teams with sights set on the same goal. There are expectations, but Andrew and Josh [Byrnes] and myself were asked a lot about that when we came to this organization and we all said we embrace the challenge and responsibility that comes with those expectations.
MLB.com: Have you been pleased with the work of manager Don Mattingly?
Zaidi: I think he's done a great job. We've had, again, one of the biggest themes we've had is roster turnover with the injuries and having a lot of young players with options and trying to make maximum use of the 25-man roster. That definitely puts added stress on a manager and staff, not just to deal with the logistics of those moves, but also to deal with managing personnel turnover. From an on-field standpoint, every time you move a player in or out, you have to sort of recalibrate yourself on how to use everybody. So, I think he's done a real nice job with that and mixed and matched in some platoon situations, tried to navigate through some of the issues we've had in our bullpen. There certainly have been challenges with our roster that he's had to navigate and I think he's done a nice job.
MLB.com: What keeps the front office up at night?
Zaidi: Just making sure we leave no stone unturned for the playoffs and the Division Series, where we already know our opponent, to get to a key point in the series where we make a pitch maybe we shouldn't have made or are positioned in a way that maybe we shouldn't have been. Just making sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed to put our guys in the best position to succeed, because once they go on the field and have to execute, it's really up to them. But our job is to put them in the best position to do so.
MLB.com: Is the front office as concerned about the bullpen as observers outside the organization seem to be?
Zaidi: It's obviously been an up-and-down year for that group. In April, it was one of the best groups in baseball. There was a lot of talk about how going young with this bullpen was maybe the right way to go. Those young guys had initial success, then I think the league caught up to them. We were a little fastball-heavy early and when the league figured that out, our young guys got knocked around a little. I think our guys have made the adjustment, are mixing their pitchers better and our catchers have really worked hard to figure out the best mix of pitches for them to succeed and I think we've seen better results the last couple months, with Yimi Garcia and Chris Hatcher performing better since they came back to the big league club. So that's what we're looking for. We've always believed in the potential of these guys; it's always been getting the potential out of them and they've made a lot of progress.
MLB.com: How did the management team celebrate Tuesday night's clinching?
Zaidi: We were in the clubhouse, celebrate with the staff and players. No matter how many you've been in or how high the payroll is, it's always a great time to have that moment.
MLB.com: Any theories on why the Dodgers have had so many injuries this year?
Zaidi: Honestly, no. Not to say we're not looking at it and trying to figure if there's anything in our routines, pregame or otherwise, that we can do better to mitigate that effect. We're doing a lot of work on injury prevention and post-mortem how this season has gone. A lot of time when a team has a rash of injuries and you look back, the explanation more often than not is just a string of bad luck. For the most part, I think that's the case here, but it's not going to stop us from looking for a better answer.
MLB.com: You maneuvered the roster during the season, taking advantage of the flexibility allowed by the rules. How do different rules for the postseason roster make that more difficult?
Zaidi: There are a couple things that help. You have more off-days, which protect you. Also carrying one fewer starting pitcher gives some flexibility. But you do have the confines of a 25-man roster and don't necessarily have the flexibility to move guys in and out every few games that optimizes things. You kind of have to pick your 25 guys you're going to war with and that's that. The advantage I think we have is that over the course of a lot of the moves we've made, we've kind of discovered different players and pieces that fit together on a 25-man roster we couldn't have necessarily imagined back in April. So some of the roster turnover is still going to benefit us pretty significantly when the series starts.