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Dodgers: Controversial Decisions Abound, But Can We Still Like Dave Roberts?

Like any manager in baseball, Dave Roberts draws a lot of criticism. It starts about three hours before each game when the lineup. With each pitching change or lineup switch, the manager takes a lot of heat. At the same time, there are fans who adore him. Is it possible to be critical of Dave Roberts yet still think he is the right manager for the Dodgers?

Lineup Issues

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 17: Joc Pederson #31 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a two-run homerun during the fourth inning of the MLB game against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Rockies 8-2. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

First off, nobody really knows how the lineups are put together. My semi-educated guess is that there is a collaborative effort between front office personnel, analytics data and Doc. I also believe Doc does have the final say. Many issues are because of the constant lineup changes as the analytics are used heavily on a game-by-game basis. Every team uses analytics and they should. However, many feel the Dodgers use them too much and Roberts gets a lot of blame for the lineups, deserved or not deserved.

The other issue that people seem to have with the lineups is a player will have a great game or two and then finds themselves on the bench. This is the theory of playing the “hot hand” and the Dodgers don’t seem to believe in it. My question would be, how far back to they look at the analytics? If someone was good against a pitcher a year ago, 2 years ago or 5 years ago count the same? With the Dodgers, they can have a guy be in a horrid slump yet stays in the lineup while someone who’s been hot sits (see A.J. Pollock and Alex Verdugo on 4/15/19 as an example). Again, Doc takes most of the heat for these lineups.

Pinch Hitters

During the game, some believe Roberts goes to his bench too soon and leaves them vulnerable later in the game. For example, let’s say he pulls Kiké Hernandez in the 6thinning against the Brewers. Later in the game there is a key situation in the spot where Kiké was replaced in the lineup by Joc Pederson. Now Josh Hader is pitching and Kiké should have been in that spot. There are numerous times when those scenarios play out and the Dodgers are in a bad spot against a good closer.

I don’t know how analytics play into these situations and I can see doing something earlier in the game if there is a huge opportunity. Sometimes it just seems that Doc is automatic for pulling certain players early in the game then not having options at the end of the game. How many times have they gone to extra innings and burned through the whole bench already. With only four bench players the Dodgers need to not needlessly limit their options. My first article for Dodgers Nation was about this topic. Look what Joc did against the Reds on Monday night when Roberts followed my advice (I’m guessing he doesn’t read my tweets):

Bullpen Usage

Dodgers
LOS ANGELES, CA – February 19: Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joe Kelly during photo day at Camelback Ranch Stadium on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

The way Roberts handles the bullpen seems to ignite the fan base the most. Personally, I had a lot of heartburn with how he managed the bullpen in the 2017 World Series and I wrote about it extensively during last season. The latest usage of Joe Kelly is just the most recent issue fans have with Roberts and his bullpen management. Whether it is Kelly, Pedro Baez or Ryan Madson there is always someone that people will blame Roberts for using.  Pulling starters early has also been a frequent source of frustration in Doc’s handling of the pitching staff.

Defending Doc

Now that I’ve brought up a lot of issues that fans have had with Doc I will provide some defense of him. One area of defense I will not pull on you is the “you just don’t know the things the front office or Roberts knows”. That is a cop-out that people like to use to shut down discussion. Having discussions about how a manager manages their team is a great way to talk about the game.

The Players Seem To Love Him

As the game has evolved the front offices have taken more control of some of the things managers used to do. The amount of information provided to the managers for every team is a bit different and managers, in some cases, have more leeway than others. The number one job of the manager is to deal with the players. Number two is to deal with the media. That is the life of a modern manager and Dave Roberts handles those two areas as well as anybody. When he signed his new contract the players seemed genuinely happy that he’d be back.

If you get the chance to watch batting practice, watch Roberts. He wanders all around the field and do his best to connect with each player. I will also give him a huge boost of credit for handling Yasiel Puig so well. In my opinion, Roberts saved Puig’s career. After 2015 Puig was clearly on bad terms with Don Mattingly and was becoming a part-time player. Roberts (and Turner Ward) worked with Puig and even had to show him some tough love. In 2017 and 2018 he became a productive player again despite some serious issues. If you’ve ever managed a difficult yet talented person it is exhausting sometimes. The fact that Doc was able to deal with Puig shows how well he can manage people.

On-Field Decision Making

Disagreeing with a manager will always happen. There were plenty of times that I disagreed with Dodgers’ legend Tommy Lasorda. The grass is not always greener and you can ask almost any fan base about their manager and they’ll have plenty of issues. We all have opinions and that is a good thing. If decision making alone was the ultimate decider for a manager, then they’d be getting fired almost every year.

In some cases, the bullpen choices are just Roberts using the players he is given. He doesn’t make trades or sign free agents. In 2019 the starters have generally not been terribly strong in terms of logging a lot of innings. The bullpen gets stretched out and become less effective. For the lineups there are decisions that I don’t agree with but it is also legitimate to say “Pollock is due to get better, he’s too good of a player to give up on.” It is also legitimate to say that the numbers favor a matchup over another. Again, we don’t have to agree and nobody is dumb for having an opinion, including Roberts.

Final Thoughts

I do have plenty of areas of disagreement with Dave Roberts. At the same time, I think he’s the right person to bring the Dodgers a World Series win. Many will blame Roberts for losing two World Series but I consider his culpability to be quite low. At the end of the day, the players didn’t come through in too many instances. If the bullpen had a better construction then there might be a new World Series trophy at Dodger Stadium. The season is long and many decisions are made, but is the ones that don’t work out that are considered to be “bad”.

Doc will drive me nuts and I’ll talk about it on Twitter and enjoy interacting with other opinions. He is also a good man (I’ve met him and have mutual friends) who the players seem to respect. For those who want Roberts to be fired, please give me your alternatives in the comments. In conclusion, I’ve found that it is easy to both disagree and really like Roberts at the same time. What are your thoughts?

[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/game-recap-joc-walks-it-off-kershaw-and-puig-return-on-jackie-robinson-day/2019/04/16/” type=”big” color=”red”] Game Recap: Joc Walks It Off, Kershaw and Puig Return on Jackie Robinson Day[/button]

Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

33 Comments

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  1. Tim as a very long time Dodger and baseball fan Roberts is one of my least favorite managers. He pulls starters too readily and destroys bullpens.

    He doesn’t as you stated allow the starting player to go longer into games and uses his bench too early and gets into a tactical disadvantage as he uses the bench too early.

    He has been outcoached in every critical WS game we have had. I thought we should have won the Houston series if it were not for Roberts. Pulling Hill against Boston was a key part of losing that series.

    I would certainly not have extended him but it looks like we are stuck with him.

    • Tmaxter, I fully agree, and the real issue I have with Dodgers is having 8 relievers in the BP and thus only 4 bench players and that leads to all the issues that were brought up here. If we had a starting staff that can or at least be allowed to go deeper into games WE WOULD NOT NEED an 8th reliever and perhaps burning out the BP would not be a regular occurrence.

  2. Robots would make a Great Assistant Coach. He has been given the tools / Players to close the deal but continues to be out coached because he is so hard headed to do things his way that he makes moronic mistakes and gets into bad situations later in the games.

    Here is a great example Joc if he is hot don’t mess with him.

    I understand he stinks against a lefty we’ll leave him alone and let him try in that instance so he can start building the confidence/skills. It’s not like he is giving up runs and causing the team to lose.

    Verdugo a well balance player vs lefty or righty well just let Joc /Verdugo battle it out and winner takes all. Plenty of at bats left in the OF when rest is needed. But give one of the players a piece of mind or something too look forward too the next day

    With Robots style I would not want to return to the Dodgers because they just stunt your potential

    Pitching is even worse I can go on and on and burn Robots a new one. I have been wondering if any of his pitchers have incriminating photos or anything on him to keep Using bad judgement. Will leave it at that.

    Yes he is a good communicator and can handle multiple different behaviors from players but coaching a team to the finish line, he is the worse. These players hit long slumped and inconsistencies due to the musical chairs.

    We will always compete but we will be bounced out like it has been several years under Robots and the window will close.

    That’s why the Dodgers go on a tear then the wheels fall off. This game is about muscle memory and that come from consistency not by playing Russian Roullete with the players.

  3. It’s the players and mgmt whose opinion matters. Ours do not, no matter how smart we think we are. It would be sad if a mgr got fired because of the fans who don’t like him.

    • Fans pay for this game in many ways, so yes our voice matters. Buying mlb package games on cable internet, gear, visiting nearest mlb parks to see your favorite team Revolve your vacations close spring training so you can make the family happy yet go catch a game ect fantasy baseball. All this in a collective big pictures pays these big salaries. So baseball as a whole exist because of us the fans willing to pay and we ain’t talking about the minor league operations of team that other fans support.

      Fans should be taken into consideration up to a extent but do not undermine that they can’t hurt this game by choosing other events over baseball. The older generation is holding this game and it’s up to us to introduce this game to our kids to keep it going and now your not dealing with fans that are hopeful or are in the dark ages today’s fans are more educated and are more aware thanks to the technology of data and understanding the business aspect

      Anyways not asking to fire Dave Robots but learn if not goodbye I for one have no faith in him to finally end the drought due to his style or if he is being mandated to run it that way I am assuming that’s the case so that’s why I call him Dave Robots

    • Exactly…. Roberts knows the players have to play as much as possible. No matter if you’re the best player or the least talented of the bunch.
      It’s a teams sport……The main goal is to get that Wo4ld Seies Title….. Even though Jansen, Beuller, Seager, Tirner could be working on their
      craft…… They’ll be there no matter in the end…. Dodger Bums we were, but our success is only measured by our Fans Support, Try It Guys!

  4. Here we go again. Everyone outside of being involved with the Dodgers are better managers and coaches than any Dodger. Why aren’t you running it then? Dave is not the worst Manager, it shows because of his record. The Dodgers aren’t the worse team. Not yet any way. Sure there were a lot of things everyone says they would have done or not done but most of these guys/girls are just second guessing and usually after the fact. I include myself in some of those categories. I still consider Dave to be in a learning mode. I know it’s been a few years but every year is different from the last with many changes to contend to. So it may take awhile but he’s still good.
    And yes, like I said before, he’s probably taking some orders from the top brass in those decisions.

  5. What irks me the most about Roberts is why does he sound(in his interviews, post-game, etc.) so diplomatic/political. When did a manager become that? I recall managers such as Sparky Anderson(Reds & Tigers), Chuck Tanner(Pirates), Billy Martin(Yankees). I guess I’m just a “crusty old-man.” I remember when Lasorda yelled to Roberts after the Dodgers defeated the Cubs for the National League pennant in 2017, “you haven’t won(expletive) yet.”

    • Because he’s just that, a company man shill/politician it’s all the same. His job is to keep the team together while the people upstairs force him to do certain things that they know the players won’t like and for that he’s the perfect guy for the job

    • I agree with you, Robin. Roberts is mediocre, at best. You only become a good, or great manager by winning. If He can’t get his act together for a World Series then I believe that He’s in over his head. In fact, his name around my house is ‘Stupid-Head Roberts’. I think that we should trade him somewhere, anywhere AND pay his salary! I don’t think that move would ever come back to bite us. I swear that he was happy to see the Red Sox win the series last year. That’s where his heart is, it’s plain to see. Send him on his way. He could spend every day at ‘Cheers’ and share a beer with Sam Malone talking about the old times. Maybe Utley will consider managing. Now, there’s a man with convictions. The drive and the desire to win every game! Imagine having a manager with those traits. We used to. Tommy would never quit on any game, or player. Like Stripling’s debut almost no-hitter against the Giants. Remember that? Stupid-head Roberts!

      In Boston, the memory of Roberts’ stolen base is now their #2 favorite. Playing against him as a manager is their #1. Did anyone else catch the interview with Alex Cora after they won the Series? He said that they, the Red Sox’ did it the ‘Dodger’ way. He meant the old Dodger way. The way that he was taught. Not the way that the Dodgers do it now. Cora plunged the knife in deeply and then twisted it all around with that statement. We old guys remember the ‘Dodger’ way. Tommy is right. Roberts hasn’t won sh–! The players around him have won in spite of him! Mic drop.

    • I don’t think he sounds diplomatic. I think he sounds inarticulate. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t an English major at UCLA, but I don’t think he’s ever spoken in complete sentences. Every answer of his seems to go in multiple directions, maybe his brain is going too fast for his mouth.

  6. I think the Dodgers need to be forthcoming with the fans. To what extent does the front office influence the line ups. Do they make in-game decisions? I am a long time Dodger fan and I think Roberts is too quick to pull the trigger, but I am more unhappy with the front office. Joe Kelly???

    • Carl, I don’t have all the time today to tell you or anyone about how I feel FO and Roberts are running this team. I could write a book about it but the fans here have covered it pretty much and if they insist on doing these same things expecting different results, well let’s put it this way, it will be a long long long time before Dodgers ever see a WS ring.

    • I get wanting for FO transparency, but they can’t just tell the public how every lineup is constructed, and what determines who starts where when. If they did that, other teams would have way too much insight into our gameplans.
      FWIW, I think FO has already been pretty direct about how much they rely on analytics. Roberts has final say, but I’m sure each has overruled the other at various points in time.
      Example: 2017 Brandon Marrow basically pitching every game in WS. Analytics most definitely wouldn’t have supported that decision. It was a “gut” thing that worked out until it didn’t.

      • Well, sitting the hot bat because of the hand a pitcher throws with, having a short bench because of the result of the starting pitcher not being allowed to go deeper into games, thereby a supposed need for an 8th reliever are things that don’t necessarily have to be brought out in public but most everyone sees the results of these moves.

      • Roberts is not even in the top 20 best managers. Tommy Lasorda can manage these guys in his sleep. High pay roll and best team in NL. No excuses for Roberts.

  7. “With Robots style I would not want to return to the Dodgers because they just stunt your potential” I am sure like myself, many fans here would say the same thing and this sentence from 1988blues is RIGHT ON THE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!! My other issue with both Roberts and that puppet master Andy upstairs is what they indicated about platooning excessively prior to this season, and they both are liars IMHO because Roberts recently EMPHATICALLY said they will platoon like last year. and whether they admit it or not this WS ‘window’ will NOT stay open for ever either.

  8. One other thing here as far as Roberts and FO go… Can anyone of you just imagine either Alston or Lasords being willing to be made into a puppet by those upstairs and being told how to run things on the field of play? My guess is that both Alston and Lasorda would have told ole Andy to take a flying leap!

  9. Nice balanced take. Personally, I love Roberts, and I think no other manager could have brought us this close to a World Series. Has he cost us games, for sure. But then again, everyone involved in dodgers org has. For all his mistakes, the number of achievements cannot be outweighed. His winning record, never falling short of NLCS, 2 WS appearances etc etc. If he gets blame for the lows, he should get just as much credit for the highs.

    Pulling Rich Hill in playoffs is probably his biggest blunder (and the worst time for a communication breakdown lol).Put I fell in love with him in 2016 with how he managed game 5 against the Nationals. From that point on, I have never doubted that he has what it takes to help us win a World Series. Again, failure is part of baseball, and it hurts getting so close, but I won’t be shortsighted.

    FWIW, all my friends who are fans of other teams are straight envious of the Dodgers and all our success. We hold our guys to a higher standard and are their toughest critics (as we should), but I have had the time of my life as a dodger fan these last 6+ years.

  10. I have some of the same frustrations with Dave Roberts decisions as other fans, but I also recognize that while managing the Dodgers in 2016-18 the team has averaged just over 95 wins per season. The team never reached 95 wins under Mattingly, Torre managed to win 95 games one time and averaged only 86 wins, and before Torre you have to go all the way back to 1985 when the Lasorda led Dodgers reached 95 wins. Walt Alston had a winning average of .558; Lasorda .526 — and both are in the HOF as managers. To date, Roberts has a winning record of .589 as the Dodgers manager — with all of the mistakes, poor bull pen management, lineup variances, pulling pitchers too early, etc., etc. — FIRE THE BUM! No doubt the team could hire any one better suited to winning more games. LOL!

    • The manager doesn’t hit, he doesn’t pitch, he doesn’t catch. I think the reason for Roberts’ records is that management has put together much better rosters then ever before. There are very few holes in the lineup. It’s ironic that his record would be even better if it weren’t for his mistakes.

      • Consider how the team did even with significant injuries to Kershaw, Turner, Seager, Ryu, Jansen, Urias, et al.

      • I think too much is made of the impact of a manager. He gets a lot of input and his team wins. The Dodgers look like a championship team this year and we the players love the guy. Get off his back and enjoy the ride.

    • When Mattingly was managing they were not spending the big money. The Dodgers have been lucky for instance Muncy & Toles where ever he is now.

  11. I’m on record elsewhere directly blaming Roberts for losing the 2017 World Series. I would greatly prefer someone else (Chase Utley or Mike Scioscia), but for the current team and the way it’s managed From Above there probably is no better person than Roberts (he says grudgingly). And probably it’s because of his style that most of the players accepted the way the lineups were being constructed, otherwise we would be hearing more grumbling now rather than after the fact (see Puig, Yasiel).

  12. his unabashed love of mediocre players like kike are killing any respect I have for him. Play same 9 every game

  13. Well, here’s one from Left Field. I think Roberts may be ill. Nope, I’m not a doctor but he looks bad compared to last year and his manner has changed, at least as I see him every game on TV. Is the man healthy? Someone needs to explore that question in depth and not get blown off with glib PR-style answers.

    I’m not going to judge Roberts because I don’t think he makes the decisions. If he did, I think he’d do better. But I think he’s a cog in the great Dodger machine and his views are probably marginalized by 12 others people and a computer.

    Unless the Dodgers win the WS this year (???), I think Roberts will be gone next year. It will either be because of health issues or he will get tired of compromising his team people skills and his baseball knowledge to the ravages of computerized play.

  14. The fact that all of these people leaving comments didn’t offer a solution at all, is hilarious to me. Who are you going to hire to replace Roberts that better? One guy said Roberts hasn’t won shit and proceeded to say they should consider utley as his successor. Because he’s won sooo much as a manager.

    In my opinion, Roberts has exceeded expectations.

    If anyone has an option that they’d like to see replace Roberts, let me know and we can have a conversation, but just saying fire him and not considering the alternative is dumb.

  15. OK, you guys, let’s put this Roberts thing in perspective. He is a numbers guy, plays the percentages most of the time, but Friedman is calling the shots. Roberts has the final say or does he? If you don’t believe Friedman isn’t calling most of the moves we see each night, why haven’t the brass or Friedman hired a new GM? He doesn’t need one. A lot of fans give Friedman credit for the players on the field each night, but it was Colletti that is responsible for most of the guys playing today including those that are gone. Friedman has made some good moves and bad ones as every acting GM does. It’s not the moves he has made that bothers me as much as those he didn’t make to save the dollars. Yes, this is a business but to make money you have to spend it and no Dodger fan wants to see another year go by while we have the players to win a World Series and not have it happen. We still have a bullpen that has questionable personnel in it. Will this pen come through if we make it into the playoffs or more important beat NY, Boston, Houston or whoever is our opponent in a WS. I doubt it and we all know it. Roberts track record in the past two WS isn’t good but we will have to ride it out with him and hope he has learned from his past mistakes.

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