I like Dave Roberts. In his first season as manager with the Dodgers, he probably exceeded most people’s expectations. He managed a roster filled with dynamic personalities, and was able to develop a good team chemistry while garnering respect and appreciation from the players. He took a team plagued with injuries, and led them to a fourth straight division title, coming up just two wins shy of a World Series. His efforts earned him the 2016 N.L Manager of the Year award, and it sure seems like he’ll be the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers for a long time.
Again, I like Dave Roberts.
With that said, his recent lineup decisions have been somewhat discouraging, specifically with how he’s handling some of the struggling veterans, and his persistence to stick with them despite better options available.
Let’s randomly (wink wink) take Chase Utley for example. As the Dodgers begin play tonight, Utley will be bringing in his .100/.196/.120 slash line and .316 OPS, along with one extra base hit on the season. Those numbers aren’t typos either—I double checked. To put that in perspective, Brandon McCarthy is hitting .143/.333/.143 this year and Hyun-Jin Ryu is batting .286.
When Logan Forsythe went down a couple of weeks back, the Dodgers called up Chris Taylor to help fill the void at 2nd base, and all indications pointed to Dave Roberts utilizing one of those platoons that he loves so much, with Taylor and Utley splitting time.
Now, personally I would have liked to see Taylor step in right away and get the majority of the starts from the get go. He had a very good spring training and the case could be made that he probably deserved a roster spot on opening day. Additionally, at 38 years old, Utley was brought back by the Dodgers this year to be a role player, not a semi-starter. His experience and team leadership is unquestionably valuable to the team, however, the days of playing almost every day are surely over for the veteran, and attempting to do so wasn’t one of Roberts’s smarter decisions, in my opinion.
With that said, I can understand at least trying the platoon out initially. Perhaps Utley would turn back the clock and surprise us all like he did last year, when he put up pretty respectable numbers overall, especially in the first half. However, that’s not was happened. And as each game went by, and Chase’s offensive struggles continued, one had to wonder when Roberts would pull the plug on his 2nd base platoon.
Well, it still hasn’t happened.
Meanwhile, all Taylor has done since being called up is hit, slashing .353/.488/.588 with two homeruns and a 1.077 OPS on the year. Everything he hits seems to be hard. In games where he’s got at least three official at-bats, Taylor’s went hitless once. In those same circumstances, Utley’s went hitless eight times.
Most times during a position battle, when one player is struggling a bit, and another is playing fairly well, a move will usually be made to start giving the player playing well more playing time. Well, Utley isn’t just struggling a bit, he’s struggling mightily. And Taylor isn’t just playing fairly well, he’s playing extremely well.
But again, no move has happened yet, and as of Friday, Roberts was still penciling Utley into the starting lineup against right-handed pitching.
Look, mangers are going to have their decisions questioned all the time. It comes with the territory. We all have our own opinions about what we would have done for any number of situations throughout the year. When should you go to the bullpen? What reliever should have come in first? Who should bat leadoff? At the end of the day though, most decisions have various pro & cons to think about and different aspects to consider. Basically, they’re almost always debatable.
However, the decision to keep putting Utley in the lineup over Taylor is really not one of those anymore. And to be honest, it’s getting to the point where it really reflects badly on Roberts’s decision making ability. The platoon was debatable from the start. But now? Not so much.
I’m not sure what Roberts’s rational is at this point, and it’s almost as if he’s just stubbornly sticking with Utley without regard for what’s best for the team.
Hopefully that can, and will, change in the near future. The Dodgers face right-hander Trevor Williams Monday night, and we’ll see who’s out there manning 2nd base. Whoever it is though, it’ll be hard not to remember these types of managerial decisions, and the fact that it would take this long for a change to be made for a seemingly easy call. Imagine if Utley had “only” slipped down to .200 or if Taylor had simply produced “fairly well.” Maybe nothing would change, and that’s unfortunate.
When Adrian Gonzalez returns from the DL in the next week or so, the Dodgers will have another situation where a struggling veteran may stand between a surging young player and a starting role. Cody Bellinger is doing everything in his power to make sure that decision is somewhat of an easier one for Dave Roberts and the Dodgers. Whatever they decide, it’s hard to picture any scenario that sends him back to OKC at this point.
The situation at 2nd base is just as clear in my opinion. Chris Taylor should be out there every day until Logan Forsythe returns, and even when that happens, there’s the question of what that means for Taylor’s roster spot. Are the Dodgers really ready to send him down in favor of someone batting .100?
One thing is for certain. While Taylor is up, and preforming well, he needs to play. Period. Only Dave Roberts can make that happen though. And he really needs to. He’s waited too long already, and each passing game that he refuses to make that change, the more poorly it reflects on him.