Last week, Dodgers Nation ran a poll asking if Dave Roberts has met expectations as Dodgers manager. 65% of the people voted said he’s met expectations.
My first reaction to seeing this poll is agreeing with the majority, but come to think of it, what has Dave Roberts done to really separate himself from Don Mattingly? Just to add, I’m guessing if Mattingly stayed on as manager, 65% of voters would say he hasn’t met expectations.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) July 11, 2016
Let’s take a flashback to 2011. Don Mattingly was hired to replace Joe Torre, as Torre went on to MLB’s chief executive officer. But before the 2011 season, the Dodgers had a tough offseason. Catcher Brad Ausmus retired. Russell Martin was not back on the team. The Dodgers big “splash” that summer was resigning Ted Lilly, who was on the downside of his career, and signing Juan Uribe to a multi-year deal. The Dodgers were still recovering from the loss of Manny Ramirez, who (not surprisingly) wasn’t the same hitter after being caught taking a banned drug. Not to mention, the Dodgers were right in the middle of the Frank McCourt divorce/bankruptcy ordeal.
The Dodgers were in a rebuilding state in 2011 and 2012 (minus Clayton Kershaw’s surge to be one of the best pitchers in baseball and Matt Kemp’s MVP campaign that he should have won). Mattingly deserves credit for bringing the Dodgers back to relevancy by winning three division titles in a row starting in 2013, and making one NLCS. From the rock bottom state they were in when he was first hired, that is saying something.
Mattingly went from “trusted manager” to #FireMattingly when expectations became sky high. In the early years of Mattingly, Kershaw told the New York Times,
He’s so positive. All he asks of us is just go out there and play the way we’re supposed to. Do things the right way on the field, and he’s happy with you. When it’s simple like that, it’s easy to play for and it’s fun to play for.”
But back in 2015, Kershaw and Mattingly had a heated exchange when Mattingly took out Kershaw after just five innings because Mattingly wanted a pinch hitter. Also, one of the more memorable moments of the 2015 postseason was when Andre Either was caught on TBS yelling at Mattingly during Game 5 against the Mets.
Mattingly seemed to have lost trust in the clubhouse, and early exits in the playoffs coupled with bad decision-making in the bullpen led to his departure. Mattingly was run out of town, much to the relief of fans. In comes Dave Roberts, who has the clean state Mattingly had when he was first hired, but hasn’t really shown to separate himself from Mattingly. In other words, Roberts has picked up where Mattingly left off, but there hasn’t been any notable improvements within the team.
The Dodgers have near identical records from last season’s halfway mark (51-39) to this season’s (51-40). Pitching is still an issue, and this year the problem is more with the starters than the relievers. Injuries have been an issue for Mattingly and Roberts (so far). The Dodgers still tend to beat up on the bad teams (they are 5-1 against Atlanta and 6-3 against Colorado this season) and struggle against teams above .500. Nothing has really changed from last year to this year, except the fact that being first feels a lot better than playing catch-up to the Giants in the NL West standings. There aren’t any instances of players yelling at Roberts in the dugout or on the field, thankfully.
The jury isn’t out on Roberts being a good hire or not, but we won’t know for sure until October, where each game management decision will be firmly under the microscope. Everything centers around October. Roberts’ hire comes with expectations that were too heavy for Mattingly’s shoulders, and if Roberts doesn’t deliver this sooner rather than later, he too could be on the chopping black and the hashtag #FireRoberts could start to spread.
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