When the Los Angeles Dodgers went out to find the successor to Don Mattingly last off-season, many saw the hire as someone that would field the team the way the front office wanted it to be fielded. Whether or not that was the mission of Andrew Friedman and company, many expected Dave Roberts to at least be a great “players manager”, especially since Roberts was only eight years removed from his playing career. However, through almost one season, it looks like the Dodgers not only found a manager that players could relate to, but a manager who can put the goals of his players aside when necessary.
Dave Roberts’ Winning Mentality
The team has noticeably more chemistry this year than in other recent seasons. In times where it seemed like the Dodgers were doomed for a slide, the team has rallied around each other, and fought to the last out. Roberts has plugged in different players following injury after injury, and even after veteran Dodger and Clayton Kershaw favorite A.J. Ellis was traded, and the team hasn’t skipped a beat.
Roberts has also made two head scratching moves that one would expect to rattle team chemistry and lose the faith of players. Earlier in the season, Roberts made the regretful decision of pulling Ross Stripling, who had recently recovered from early-career Tommy John surgery, from a no-hitter in San Francisco. It was a move that even rival San Francisco Giants fans were booing. Unfortunately for Roberts and the Dodgers, the Dodgers would end up losing that game.
As if making the decision once wasn’t enough, Roberts pulled Rich Hill from a perfect game this past Saturday against the Miami Marlins, after only 80-plus pitches. Hill, recently acquired from the Oakland Athletics, has been fighting a blister this year, and for much of his career. Given the shape the Dodgers have been in rotation-wise, Roberts wasn’t going to risk a guy’s chance to pitch in October just so he can he could join the list of pitchers who pitched perfect games.
Short-sighted fans can easily be mad at the calls to remove Hill and Stripling, but the fact of the matter is that Dave Roberts made decisions that were best for the team’s long term potential. The Dodgers, who still haven’t clinched the NL West, and who just barely got Clayton Kershaw back, have just three solid pitchers that they send to the mound confidently in a five game series. Hill, without a doubt, thanks to the way he has pitched in his starts with the Dodgers, could be a lock in that three man rotation.
On the contrary, history has left a big “What If?“ with the 2012 Washington Nationals, who sat Stephen Strasburg for the postseason. Imagine if the Nationals lightened the load upon Strasburg’s return from Tommy John surgery. Maybe the Nats would have won it all that year. While some argue Strasburg is still pitching today as a result, there is no guarantee the Nationals will get one with him healthy now as opposed to him pitching at his best then.
If anyone is wondering if the players have bought in to the decision Roberts made this past Saturday, look to Brett Anderson, who has spent almost all season on the disabled list, but still more than likely would have hated coming out of the game in that situation.
Nobody would want to come out in that situation..however it will be nice to have one of the best pitchers in baseball healthy going forward.
— Brett Anderson (@BAnderson3737) September 11, 2016
Dave Roberts said it best himself in the postgame conference on Saturday:
“There’s a lot of fans in Los Angeles that are very upset with me, I’m sure,” Roberts said from his Marlins Park office following a 5-0 victory. “But the city of Los Angeles, the Dodgers, in my opinion that was the best thing to do for us to win a championship.”
Every front office striving for a championship team should look for a manager who parallels Dave Roberts’ winning mentality.