The Dodgers have started the 2018 season 2-5. It’s tough to find the positives right now. What better time to take a look at the contract situation of the manager, Dave Roberts. Roberts’ current contract runs only through this season, which may be surprising to some readers.
It’s hard to call Roberts a ‘lame duck’ manager simply because he’s without a contract extension, but it is interesting to note that until it’s done; it’s not done.
Roberts burst on the scene as the organization’s first minority manager in 2016, only to lead the Dodgers to the NLCS. The Dodgers went 91-71, finishing 20 games over .500 on the season. Following his rookie campaign as skipper. he was named National League manager of the year.
Roberts’ follow up act was even better. He led the club to a 104-58 record and the first World Series appearance in nearly three decades. Of course, the Dodgers would fall one win short of a championship. Counting his slow start to this season, Roberts is 197-134 as the skipper of the Dodgers.
There are two sides to every coin, and when discussing the Dodgers manager at dinner with a group of fans; viewpoints will always differ. It’s that way in every big league city, no matter how much a manager wins.
There are a lot of reasons to like Dave Roberts. I liked him since he overcame long odds to become the starting centerfielder of the Dodgers in 2002. I remember when he was a young player – and I was an even younger man – he broke into the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians. He stole a bag that swung the series and allowed the Boston Red Sox to complete an improbable comeback against the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. He is a survivor of Hodgkins Lymphoma.
I list these things because these are qualities you want in a guy who leads your team. Roberts is in many ways; a guy you want in your ‘foxhole’. Watching the team night over night, you get the feeling that his players like him and respond well to him.
He’s not without his warts. I watch a lot of other teams and all managers have tendencies to get too cute with things. I would do a few things different in managing the lineup, resting players, and especially bullpen management. But there’s a reason I have a day job and Roberts rests on the top step of the dugout. In terms of big league managers, the Dodgers are very fortunate to have found him. Winning at a near .600 clip in the big leagues is no easy task regardless of what talent you boast on your roster.
The Dodgers Extending Roberts Should Be a No-Brainer
During spring training, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times was one of the first to mention that a Roberts extension should be a foregone conclusion. He found it hard to believe that Roberts had less job security at the current moment than the San Diego Padres Andy Green, who is signed through the 2021 season.
It’s important to note that the organization holds a fourth-year team option. They could decide to bring Roberts back next season on their own accord. But it would be a nice olive branch offering to see Andrew Friedman call a press conference some time in early May and announce that Roberts has been signed for three or four more years.
Good organizations have stability. Roberts has more than earned the right to continue growing with his nucleus of young players. It’s not simply the wins and losses that have earned him this. It’s been his ability to manage in one of the most pressure packed cities in the world and deliver. Roberts has more than once helped the Dodgers overcome adversity like great managers do.
There have been two situations that come to mind first. Clayton Kershaw’s injury in 2016 – when the team played some of their best baseball in the Roberts era. The other was in the 2017 NLCS when it was announced that Corey Seager would miss the series due to injury. Roberts plugged in Charlie Culberson and seemed to push all the right buttons. He would not let his team fall short of their destiny.
The Case Against Roberts
Some of you reading this may feel that Roberts fell short of the Dodgers ultimate goal: winning a World Series in 2017. You may lay the blame of bullpen misuse at his feet. You might criticize his use of his starting pitching against the Astros, which led to the high workload of guys like Kenley Jansen and Brandon Morrow. And it’s fine to feel that way.
The Final Word
The bottom line is if you’re going to decide to move forward without Roberts, you have to have a worthy replacement in mind. Feel free to sound off on what you would do if you were Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers in the comments. What do you like about Roberts? What would you like to see him do differently as manager?
If I am forecasting, I think Roberts likely manages the Dodgers until he decides he no longer wants to do so. I see a long tenure forthcoming, and an extension before this season is up. Even if the Dodgers fall short of 2018 expectations. I think the Dodgers have a very good to potentially great manager at the helm.
The best part about him is he’s organic. He’s home-grown. Roberts wasn’t a re-tread that failed in another city or two before coming to Los Angeles. He’s ours, for better or worse. We discovered him and he continued onward, trailblazing the path with the Dodgers as perennial winners. There’s something to be said for that.
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