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Dodgers Dave Roberts Teaches a Lesson in Perspective in the NLCS Pressure



It’s hard to remember sometimes that baseball is so much more than just a game. Dodgers fans are all too familiar with the heartbreak of a season coming to an end too early, and we often forget the human side of things. 

But this story of Dave Roberts in the NLCS helps to remind us what baseball means to so many, and how it can help people through difficult times in life. Doc took the time this October to send a special message to a life-long fan battling stage four lung cancer. Surinder Singh Butalia was a father of four and died after a three month battle. 

Doc sent them a special video message after Butalia’s family put a thank you note on one of the Dodgers social media account. Butalia’s family thank the team for giving their father something to look forward to during his fight with cancer, and you can read the letter and watch the video here. 

Dear Los Angeles Dodgers,

I’m writing this letter mostly as a thank you card. My dad just passed away from stage four lung cancer. Watching your team play really has been the only stable thing in our lives the last three months. My dad was born in India and came to the United States in his 20s. He was an avid sports lover in India, but never played baseball. When he was introduced to The Dodgers, there was no turning back. He has been a fan for more than 60 years and never missed a game. Since his diagnosis, we struggled to make him feel comfortable and “normal.” The cancer really flipped his world upside down, but the minute we put the game on, his eyes light up and it’s like the cancer was gone for a little while. He didn’t have to think about his vitals, what the doctor told him in the morning or what his oxygen levels were…he just thought about whether or not Kenley Jansen can close out the game. The past two weeks he had to be hospitalized, because he more than likely had a reaction to the chemo pill he was taking. There was not a lot we could do for him and there was not a lot we could do to make his hospital stay less terrible, but making sure he was able to watch the boys in blue play was definitely a priority. Thank you for playing as hard as you all do. Please know that you are not only playing for the love of the sport, but also to keep people like my dad going strong. Every day, the first thing he did was look for the morning paper to find out when the Dodgers played. You all are more than a sports team, you are a ray of sunshine in extremely dark days. I pray you read this letter and it motivates you to keep on pushing towards that championship. Even though my dad couldn’t watch your last game, he was still able to listen. He heard you all win and passed away only hours later. My dad needs you all to pull through and get that championship because he did everything in his power to pull through. Thank you for giving my dad and all his kids something to bond over. We have enough Dad and Dodgers memories to last a lifetime. Memories of watching games on the tv, being at games, and traveling for games with him will forever be with us. Thank you for giving us family traditions we can all pass down to our kids. Thank you for those homeruns, where my dad would scream so loud, the neighbors heard him and automatically knew the Dodgers were winning. Most of all thank you for giving my dad happiness during this extremely difficult time. He definitely felt a part of the team. He definitely bled blue through and through.

Doc sent them this message in response. 

Doc reference his battle with cancer and how it impacted his family when responding to the family. The Dodgers manager also spoke about the memories that the team brought the family and what they were able to do for them. 

And though the Dodgers ultimately fell to the Braves in Game 6 of the NLCS, it’s little moments like these that remind us why we love the game. Cherish the moments that you have with your family, and enjoy Dodger baseball. We’re lucky to have it. 

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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      • Hey Paul. To be quite frank, Drrrrrrrrr will still be around so I don’t think things will get better. Drrrrrrrrrrr is a great guy by the hit peace put on here to lobby for him. I’m with you Paul—-If there isn’t a DH this coming season, we could have the 27 Yankees team and it wouldn’t matter. The Apologists love and brag about the 106 wins, but the Astro’s and Braves aren’t too concerned about Regular season stats are they?

        • Kirk, I don’t want get into another argument with you as we obviously see things differently. Just wondering what Doc did to you? I’m not going to try and defend him. Just curious.

          • He Lost D4!!!!!! Again…..How’s that? With the most talent in Baseball. I’ll even go farther and give you a comparison. Have you followed the Mathew Stafford Goff swap? Goff being in charge of a ultra talented team ( As the QB in football IS the manager) with the Rams, was awarded the opportunity with All pros and yes he won, and had good regular season stats, but he just couldn’t seal the deal in high pressure moments, as he got happy feat when the Blitz came. It was determined by the Org they needed a guy to lead the team that wouldn’t. Insert Stafford…..Same exact team with all that talent, and actually a weaker defense due to salary cap and players leaving. GOFF and Drrrrrrrrrrr are the difference, not because they suck, but they are both Avg at managing their teams. You put a manager like Melvin, Bochy,even Dusty Baker with this payroll and line up, and they would be the Mathew Stafford of the Dodgers. You put Drrrrrrr on let’s say the Rockies, and he would be the Jarrod Goff of the Lions……

          • Kirk, ok fine with me. Again I really have zero desire to argue anymore.

            Can we agree on his replacement then? My only acceptable choice? Dusty!

        • Sounds like we need Phil Jackson to come over here and show everyone how to create a dynasty. But seriously I see both sides. Given how hard it is to make the nlcs let alone the WS and win, how much credit or criticism is DR due? Would Baker, Bochy, etc. really have multiple rings with this same squad? I don’t see anyone else doing this. Gotta go back to the 90s with NYY.

          • So Kirk……..in summation, when the Dodgers win it’s in spite of Roberts and when they lose it’s because of Roberts?

  1. Dave Roberts is a man with class, all true Dodgers fans are proud of him and his successful season. No other manager would have stuck with Kenley, or Bellinger but he did, loyalty works both ways. He brought out the best in all his players when needed. He made no excuses for his injuries he was dealt.

  2. Doc is a great person. Period. I think and hope we all know that. Now as for a manager…. Come on… Stop it. Whoever defends him and his managing skills know nothing about baseball. The personalized human aspect of his thoughts can be gripping and we’ll thought out. There are also needed greatly by many that need inspiration, heath, or something to progress on health or life. Ok back on track…. But… He is the manager (unfortunately) of the LA Dodgers. He has cost us dearly since 2017. We should be a dynasty and he turned a powerhouse team into a gold team once again. I and we Dodger baseball fans have had enough. He should not be able to hide behind his good nature (non- baseball) when he fails each year miserably with the best team in baseball. 106 wins?! What a shame. Think big people. How about 114 or 115 ish. Someone please buy Roberts a clue on baseball and how to win. We should have no less than 4 titles in last 5 years. Uhg…. If you like him as a dodger manager…. You are obviously a braves fan, an Astros fan or a Red Sox or nationals fan. Good for you all. Dummies.

    • Now that the window of opportunity has closed, and there is time to reflect. Yes, it could have been a dynasty team I agree. It was mismanaged into injury and heart ache. I agree this team had the talent just not the direction. I believe the talk before the season was speculating around setting the all time wins record and even surpassing it. 106 was good, but with a healthy line up it easily could have won 115 or more. The Moneyball mentality and robot decisions coupled with Drrrrrrrrrr , were always outmanaged and exploited by lesser teams with better decision makers in the post seasons when it all comes down to countering and exposing teams weaknesses. The absence of situational ball along with Drrrrrrr’s over usage of his starters, sitting hot hitters because of metrics was the reason for all of the late season collapses. Changing the line ups on a daily basis was ridiculous, never allowing any continuity or stability to the teams chemistry. It’s been good being in the play off’s for a good amount of years, but watching the same mistakes 6 out of 7 years has been painful to watch. We had to wait 32 years for ANY dodger team to raise a trophy, it would have been nice to enjoy at least 2 more. At least the cheating Astro’s have lost 2 out of 3 WS’s lately, so we’re not alone…..

      • Kirk, can I ask one more question? Do you believe Dodgers lose NLCS with home field advantage? Have a great day.

    • Ok fair enough, although a Doc fan, I too have misgivings about many of his in-game decisions, agreed for sure.

      What I’m saying is…I believe the in-game decisions are not the sole determining factors comprising a good manager. I will not belabor the point that Doc most definitely has warts…so does everyone else.

  3. Bobby Cox was a terrible manager in you guys’s eyes comparing apples to apples. 1 WS title. 13 playoff years. Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz. Chipper Jones. 4 HOF players. He just didn’t get it. WOW. Roberts has the highest win percentage of ANY manager for the number of games he has managed. ONE WS title. Hmm tied with Bobby Cox in half the time. And 2017. Kershaw with NOT ONE swing and miss on 38 curve balls in Houston game 6. We lost that game 13-12. Garbage cans clanking away. Clayton was robbed of several outs in that game. If he has 30% swing and miss rate (which he did that year) how many more outs recorded during his stint? How many fewer hits, runs? How many more innings does he pitch? We win that game. We win the series in 6. And Roberts has 2 WS titles. Do I like all his decisions? No. All his lineup decisions? No. But he gets us to the playoffs every year. THAT is what gets you the chance to win the WS.

  4. Anyone want to see what a great manager does, watch the 1988 documentary on the Dodgers. “The Stunt men”….Tommy and the entire scenario revolving around the Gibson moment.. The Bob Costas remarks that Tommy used to fuel the team in that series. One Hall Of fame manager outsmarting another. Mike Davis taking the walk, Tommy having him steal. Hiding Gibson until that moment. The chess match between 2 incredible managers. Lasorda and his players ALL IN for the National League style of baseball, and they ALL believed in their manager. They KNEW they could win against a powerhouse team that had won 104 games, a powerhouse team in the Mets that had dominated them in the Regular season. The MANAGER was the difference… And you guys sit here and try and blow smoke about Drrrrrrr being better than Lasorda or Alston because of his REGULAR season ? When Drrrrrrrrr get’s a team to play like that, defying all odds with inferior talent and wins the Title, I’ll have to agree he’s the man for this job. But so far, he’s led this team to stumble far more than he’s thrived.. Post season and the title is all that matters to folks like me, if you don’t win it all, it was a losing season…

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