Rick Weiner at Bleacher Report penned a very interesting piece this morning. In it, he talked about the decisions that new Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will have to make this season, and how the decisions could “make or break” his first year as manager.
Among the key topics discussed by Weiner were the bullpen, Yasiel Puig (of course), and the clubhouse culture. All three things will be vital to the Dodgers’ efforts to win not only the National League West for a fourth straight season, but a World Series championship.
Perhaps none of Roberts’ decisions will be scrutinized as closely as those he makes when it comes to managing the bullpen, something that was always a point of contention during former manager Don Mattingly’s tenure.
The bullpen is definitely going to be Roberts’ vital decision on a year-round basis. The Dodgers ranked 11th in the National League last season in bullpen ERA, but did rank 3rd in bullpen FIP. That means that there should be some progression by the bullpen this season.
And, to be honest, that seems like what Andrew Friedman and the rest of the front office is banking on. They led the National League in strikeouts-per-nine, which is a good indicator of their swing-and-miss stuff. But the bullpen, as mentioned, isn’t the only thing Roberts will have a hand in.
As long as Roberts decides to be straightforward with Puig—whether he’s praising him, disciplining him or providing some constructive criticism—those past issues will be nothing more than a distant memory.
The Wild Horse needs a jockey who can tame him. For all intents and purposes, it seems like Roberts is on the right track there. Taming Puig, or at least getting the most out of him, could also lead to a change in clubhouse culture.
“The No. 1 goal … is for us … to create an unbreakable bond within the group,” Roberts told McCullough. “Where no distractions … get us away from staying together … or getting our focus off track.”
Roberts knows he has his work cutout for him, but that might be a good thing. It’s going to keep him hungry and on a path to success with the team as a whole. If he’s able to help the bullpen, keep Puig in line, and foster a general camaraderie in the clubhouse, then 2016 could be special.