Yesterday, Ian shed some light on the announcement that the Dodgers decided to exercise their 2019 team option on skipper Dave Roberts. This came after many folks familiar with the situation anticipated that a four-year extension was imminent. Admittedly, boss Andrew Friedman has been bogged down with human resources duties, but many are still left wondering if Roberts’ future is secure in Los Angeles.
The option calls for Roberts to earn $1.1 million for the 2019 season, a salary that keeps him in the lower-tier of MLB skippers.
“We remain optimistic about working something out long term,” Friedman said on Wednesday from the GM meetings in Orlando. “The reason we’ve kind of slowed down a little bit is we’ve got a lot of coaching staff decisions to make and interviews. I think it speaks more to the optimism that something is definitely going to get done and allows us to focus on what we need to do in the near term.”
Throughout the 2018 World Series, Roberts was the victim of a virtual firing squad, especially when it came to some of his maneuvers when managing his bullpen. Social media, seemingly, was in a state of frenzy. While much of the fan base knew a victory over the Red Sox was improbable, many expected the series to be much closer than what it turned out to be, especially when considering the talent level of the Dodgers. When Rich Hill was pulled for another lefty pitcher in the seventh inning of Game 4, Boston capitalized on the decision and started pounding the nails in the Los Angeles coffin. Even the folks in the White House, who probably knew nothing about the dynamics of the Dodgers’ roster, shouted out criticism of Roberts’ late game relief pitching choices.
Nevertheless, a few days after the end of the series, the fallout felt as if it settled down a bit. Friedman give his customary year-end spiel to the media, emphasizing how it was the lack of offense that prevented the Dodgers from bringing home a coveted World Series trophy. There were still a few disgruntled protests about the inconsistency of the Los Angeles lineups and the thought processes behind the batting orders, but for the most part, the majority of people in the Dodgers’ camp began looking towards the winter and the prospective squad the club would field in 2019.
Still, some were surprised about the reports of the possibility the team was considering extending Roberts four more years. Yet, these concerns arose from folks who almost certainly did not know how the management crew functioned. There were theories that most of the lineup decisions and prospective in-game substitutions came from the analytics department in the front office, while other theories suggested that the executive management team only made “recommendations” to Roberts and his coaching staff. Some even believed that Roberts was operating in the capacity of a puppet, allowing Friedman and his crew to call all the shots from the luxury box.
Whatever the case was, though, there are few managers with the personality, people skills and communication ability of Roberts—qualities that set him apart from the majority of his counterparts across the game. And, when considering all the talent the Dodgers left on the bench on a nightly basis, very few managers have the interpersonal skills like Roberts to keep the temperament of his roster in check. Combine all that with his expertise in motivation—the Dodgers dug themselves out of a 10-game under .500 hole in May—and it’s tough to say that anyone else would be better for the job, despite consecutive World Series defeats.
Sure, the Dodgers could have played much better, but at the same time, some of the blame needs to be put on the players. If the Dodgers hypothetically considered replacing Roberts as skipper, who would be a superior choice? When looking at all the evidence and the body of his work over the last three years as Los Angeles manager, there likely isn’t anyone better suited to guide the club.
At the end of the day, a four-year extension isn’t the worst thing in the world.