Dodgers man­ager Roberts signs 4-year ex­ten­sion

Gulf Times Sport - - SPORT - By Bill Plaschke

The ros­ter changes daily. The lineup changes nightly. The bullpen re­or­gan­ises. The ro­ta­tion ro­tates. Through­out the last three Los An­ge­les Dodgers sea­sons, amid the con­stant rear­rang­ing of a club­house that some­times feels like a bus sta­tion, there has been one con­stant pres­ence, one un­wa­ver­ing voice, one clear care­taker of the cul­ture.

It has been Dave Roberts.

He’s the one who has con­vinced even the most hard­ened vet­er­ans to buy into the per­sis­tent pla­toon­ing. He’s the one who has gained the trust of even the most pre­co­cious of pitch­ers as they ad­just to play­ing mu­si­cal roles.

Roberts has used old-school nur­tur­ing to sell a cold an­a­lyt­ics blue­print to a team that has re­sponded by fol­low­ing him deep into Oc­to­ber, and if you don’t think that’s crazy strong, you try telling Clay­ton Ker­shaw he’s not start­ing the first game of the play­offs. A cor­ner­stone amid the ca­coph­ony, Roberts has been the un­ques­tioned leader of this team, some­thing the Dodgers smartly recog­nised on Mon­day in mak­ing what could be their most im­por­tant move of the off­sea­son.

About a month af­ter ex­er­cis­ing a one-year option on a con­tract that could have cut into his club­house cred­i­bil­ity and made him a lame duck, the Dodgers an­nounced Roberts had agreed to a four-year deal that gives him the se­cu­rity his job re­quires and his ac­com­plish­ments de­serve.

“Like I said from the be­gin­ning, this is where I want to be, I love this city, I love this fan base, and we’ve done some good things to­gether,” he said on Mon­day night in a phone in­ter­view. “For me to get that vote of con­fi­dence from the or­ga­ni­za­tion is just great.”

There were in­di­ca­tions that if the Dodgers had in­sisted Roberts man­age this sea­son un­der that one-year deal, they would lose him to another team next off­sea­son. Now, if he keeps the job for three more years, he will be the long­est-tenured Dodgers man­ager since Tommy La­sorda, and it only fig­ures that Roberts cel­e­brated it with La­sorda swag­ger.

“With the cul­ture we’ve cre­ated, this team has a le­git­i­mate chance to win the World Se­ries ev­ery year,” Roberts said. “And we’re go­ing to do it, we will win a cham­pi­onship here soon, I ex­pect it to be in 2019, and it ain’t go­ing to be just one cham­pi­onship.”

In rank­ing fourth among all man­agers for reg­u­lar-sea­son wins (287) in his first three years, Roberts has led the Dodgers to con­sec­u­tive World Se­ries ap­pear­ances af­ter a Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries berth. Three sea­sons, three West Divi­sion cham­pi­onships, three fi­nal fours, what’s there to ar­gue?

Well, OK, those Dodgers fans who chanted for Roberts’ fir­ing through­out this year’s World Se­ries loss to the Boston Red Sox might de­bate. I know why some of you are still mad at him. Lots of peo­ple were mad at him. He made some lousy bullpen de­ci­sions. He was crit­i­cized for them by this colum­nist.

He should never have re­placed Pe­dro Baez with Alex Wood in a Game 1 loss. He never should have gone to Ryan Mad­son in­stead of Baez in a Game 2 loss. And he never, ever, should have pulled Rich Hill while the left­hander had a one-hit­ter in the sev­enth in­ning of a Game 4 loss.

Of that Hill de­ci­sion, I wrote, “A horrible man­age­rial move,” and then I de­scribed a postgame scene fea­tur­ing cheers and jeers.

While Boston fans chanted, “Let’s go Red Sox,” there were Dodgers fans chant­ing, in the same rhyth­mic pat­tern, “Let go of Roberts.”

Ac­tu­ally, some of you folks are still mad at Roberts for pulling Yu Darvish too late in Game 7 of the 2017 World Se­ries against the Hous­ton Astros, and I get that, too. Cer­tainly, he has had some tough mo­ments when the Dodgers have been on base­ball’s big­gest stage, and fans have had ev­ery right to boo.

“That’s what I signed up for,” Roberts said. “This pas­sion and care that our fans have for their team, that’s some­thing I don’t take lightly.”

But it says here, the Dodgers would have never reached the World Se­ries with­out him, par­tic­u­larly this sea­son, when they were to­tally out­classed by the Red Sox and were for­tu­nate to even slip past the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers in the NLCS.

And, un­der­stand, once they reach the post­sea­son, the frontof­fice in­volve­ment can be in­tense. Although Roberts makes the fi­nal calls on the pitch­ing changes, the front-of­fice di­rec­tives are even more de­tailed, and that can make things tricky.

The guess here is, over the last three years, no man­ager in base­ball has had to deal with more dugout scripts, more club­house up­heaval, more front-of­fice de­ci­sions that re­quire a strong will to ex­e­cute them.

The ob­scure per­son­nel moves and mad­den­ing lineup switches made by the An­drew Fried­man regime have been suc­cess­ful in the reg­u­lar sea­son - he’s four for four in divi­sion se­ries - but the com­mo­tion has come with a price. It is the price of hav­ing to ex­plain to a guy that is get­ting benched the night af­ter he hits two home runs.

It is the price of ask­ing a start­ing pitcher to come out of the bullpen in a high-lever­age sit­u­a­tion.

It is the price of deal­ing with the hu­man side of a num­bers racket, and Roberts pays that price daily, with a smile and a swag­ger, and does it well.

(Los An­ge­les Times/TNS)

Los An­ge­les Dodgers man­ager Dave Roberts cel­e­brates af­ter a 5-2 win against the Colorado Rock­ies in a NL West tiebreaker game at Dodger Sta­dium in Los An­ge­les on Oc­to­ber 1, 2018.

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