As a manager, success did not always come easy. Torre struggled earlier in his career as a manager with the New York Mets, never winning more than 67 games in any season, but he went on to have some winning seasons with the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1995, Torre was fired by the Cardinals after 47 games and a 20-27 team record. In 1996, Torre was hired by the New York Yankees as their manager. Torre, as we know, went on to have tremendous success with the Yankees, winning multiple World Series rings.
In fourteen seasons (1977-1984; 1990-1995) prior to being hired by the Yankees, Torre never led his team to more than 89 victories in any season and had no post-season appearances. In contrast, during his twelve-year tenure at the helm of the Yankees (1996-2007), he had all but one season of less than 92 wins. In 2000, Torre’s Yankees won 87 games, but he still led his team to a World Series Championship that year, with a total of four World Series rings in pinstripes and two additional World Series appearances in 2000 and 2003. In 2009 for the Dodgers, he led the team to 95 wins. For his efforts in the game and his success, he was elected into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
If you did not know, Torre was voted as the Most Valuable Player in 1971 and was selected to the All-Star team as a player nine-times. He was also just named the General Manager of Team USA for the 2017 installation of the World Baseball Classic.
In some sense, Roberts has had the fortunate opportunity and luxury to skip the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals chapters of his young managing career and has moved right into working for a boss like former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in terms of money spent and wanting to win, with a talented farm system, and a roster of high-priced talent. Roberts has not had the prolific playing career that Torre had, but he did steal a very important base for the Boston Red Sox once. However, Roberts has a winning record (38-33) as of 6.19.2016 with Dodgers in his first year as manager, something Torre did not accomplish until his sixth season as a manager and second team (the Cardinals). Albeit, Roberts has a much larger payroll, staff, and a great farm system when compared to Torre.
Back in November 2015, before Roberts was hired after impressing the Dodgers brass, we wrote about the Front Office’s managerial search. Roberts has proved to this point that he was the right hire for the right time. In Dodgers’ Managerial Finalists Speak Volumes of Organizations Direction, we discussed that there the Dodgers had to hire a manager who would be better equipped to relate to players with the various personalities on the Dodgers roster.
If Roberts has done anything, he has related to the players. This is easy for Roberts because he was never a super-star with a complexity for humility, he is younger, and his personality makes it so. His personality and passion for winning with character and respect is what won over the Dodgers decision-makers in the first place.
We wrote previously:
“The Front Office saw something in Roberts when they interviewed him for the job. He was strong-willed, but moldable, trainable, and agreeable. He offered an opportunity to provide leadership, but also the ability to learn and be molded because he had never managed before. Most companies will tell you that they like trainable and intelligent talent versus experienced and knowledgeable talent. The Dodgers acted no differently when they hired Roberts as their Manager. In Roberts, the Dodgers Front Office saw someone that they could get on the same page with to the lead the team and the Organization.”
Also in April 2016, we discussed what the Roberts hire meant for the Dodgers organization:
“With a Japanese mother and an African-American father, Roberts is the first Asian-American Manager in the Major Leagues. He is also only one of two African-American managers in the game today (the other is Dusty Baker, a former Dodger outfielder, now Manager of the Washington Nationals). He is the first non-Caucasian hire in Dodgers history for the Manager position. He followed Ervin “Magic” Johnson with the Dodgers ownership group and many other African-Americans who have served in various advisory roles. He is just beginning what will hopefully be an illustrious and historical managerial career.”
His abilities to manage are clear. He commands the respect of the players, but also give the team, with many personalities, the ability to police themselves. His leadership abilities were on display last week after third baseman Justin Turner and catcher Yasmani Grandal exchanged some words about effort and expectations.
Per Doug Padilla with ESPN:
“Dodgers manager Dave Roberts continues to say he has no problem with teammates policing themselves the way [Justin] Turner and [Yasmani] Grandal did Thursday, and that both players have moved on from the incident.”
Quoting Manager Dave Roberts from the same article:
[It’s one] thing when you have managers or coaches holding players accountable, but I think that when you have players holding one another accountable, that’s the ultimate goal. That, for me, sustains that consistency of greatness. For those two guys, that is something that has been dealt with, is over with, and we are better for it.”
Wise words. Roberts correctly corrected the wrong when Grandal questioned the team’s fire and passion following his base running gaffe. Per Bill Plunkett with the The Orange County Register:
“Talking about a teammate or calling him out on a certain specific situation has no relation to the fight in a team 67 games into a season, no,” Roberts said. “I know as a manager and I can speak to the coaches and I know a lot of the players are not relaxed and content going into a game. I’d love to know which players he feels are content and don’t want to fight. They won’t play that night.”
Through Roberts response, he admonished Grandal, but brought it full circle by bringing it back to the team and his decision-making ability and willingness to sit a player who does not give his all.
Even wiser actions.
Roberts is someone who has had to prove himself repeatedly. He is the third youngest Dodgers manager in history at 43 years-old, but he is already proving to be a success in his first season keeping things together through multiple injuries and difficulties.
Per Ken Gurnick with MLB.com:
“Roberts is a battler. He survived a 2010 diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He overcame long odds to become the starting center fielder for the Dodgers in the early 2000s . . . Roberts impressed [former Dodgers] manager Jim Tracy with his offseason workout routine and he won the starting center-field job in Spring Training after spending most of the previous eight years in the Minor Leagues. He played three years for the Dodgers, then for the Red Sox, Padres and Giants before retiring in 2009. From his first full season in 2002 to his last full season in 2007, he ranked fourth among all Major League players with 226 stolen bases.”
Quoting Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers President of Baseball Operations, from the same article:
“We could not have been more impressed with him through this process. His energy is infectious and he has the rare ability to make a genuine connection with every person he comes across. He has developed strong leadership qualities and accumulated a breadth of baseball experience over his career as both a player and coach. He is a “baseball man” and “people person” in the truest sense of those words. We feel fully confident that he will effectively lead our team in pursuit of its ultimate goal — bringing a world championship back to the city of Los Angeles.”
In Los Angeles, with the Hollywood Lights, glitz, glamour, high salaries, and World Series expectations, anything short of a ring will be a disappointment to many fans. On the other hand, we should appreciate the timing in Dodgers history. It is a special time when ownership, management, and the players are all moving towards the same goal: winning now and for the future.