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Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal Wonders if Players and Organization Still Trust Dave Roberts

Is Roberts this generation’s Grady Little?

Tis the season for writing about Dave Roberts. Right now, his moves in game five of the NLDS are providing folks an abundant amount of material to write about.

Notably, Ken Rosenthal is one of them. On Thursday in The Athletic, Rosenthal writes about Roberts possibly losing the trust of his players and the Dodgers’ organization. Equally important, Rosenthal thinks that the fan base will be tough to ever win back; at least in October.

Finally – Rosenthal makes a dreaded comparison – to former Red Sox (and Dodgers) skipper Grady Little. Remember, Little famously blundered things in a big playoff game with Pedro Martinez. Obviously this is not a comparison you want as a skipper who has just been eliminated.

Here’s where Rosenthal starts in the column, without giving it entirely away.

Here’s the problem: Fairly or not, the narrative around the Dodgers is that they have not won a World Series since 1988. Their fans grew restless after Roberts was slow to pull Yu Darvish in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, and even more restless after he was quick to remove Rich Hill from Game 4 in ’18. His actions Wednesday night were even more inexplicable, the damage seemingly irreparable.

And now the question becomes one of trust. — via Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic.

Undeniably, that’s where I sit today. While I like Roberts the man – and how he manages a clubhouse – I no longer trust him to push the right buttons. The problem seems to be that the tighter the game and the bigger the spot, the worse he gets at said button selection.

Of course, Rosenthal continues down that trust path; or lack thereof for Roberts right now.

Not just the trust between Roberts and the fans, which probably is broken, at least when it comes to October. The trust between Roberts and his players, particularly Kenley Jansen and the other relievers he shunned in Game 5. Also the trust between Roberts and his front office, which is the most important factor in determining whether he remains manager.

Indeed, Roberts said all the right things in regards to closer Kenley Jansen leading up to the postseason. Then, he seemed to want to manage around him or avoid him if possible. Moving forward, that could be a sore spot. No one can assume that things will end up as amicable with that situation as they did with Rich Hill forgiving Roberts for the early pull in the 2018 World Series that forever swung it.

Lastly, Rosenthal provides the dagger; words dripping with Roberts’ blunders.

He seemed to manage by feel, particularly with his misplaced loyalty to Clayton Kershaw, who allowed back-to-back homers to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to tie the score in the eighth inning. Where was left-hander Adam Kolarek, who already had retired Soto not once, not twice, but three times in the series? And why in the 10th inning did Roberts go all-in on the mercurial Joe Kelly?

None of it made sense, including the snubbing of Jansen after Kelly had already delivered a perfect inning. Just as with Kershaw, who entered with two on in the seventh and struck out Adam Eaton to end the inning, Roberts could not quit while he was ahead.

The take home message is if you’re sitting around second-guessing a half dozen Roberts moments last night, you’re not alone. One of America’s most credible baseball writers is doing the same. Furthermore, when those things happen on the national stage in the playoffs with the world watching; you simply cannot push the wrong button once too many.

Written by Clint Evans

Clint lives in Ohio, and played collegiate baseball. He loves the Dodgers due to his first memories of Chavez Ravine when he was nine years old. The voice of Vin Scully has been a staple in his life since he was a kid. No amount of baseball talk is ever enough, and he wishes the regular season was year round. He has written about baseball online since 2007.

18 Comments

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  1. Dave Roberts may be a real nice man BUT he cannot manage in playoffs ! KERSHAW was an excellent pitcher BUT is TERRIBLE in playoffs ! He should ride in the sunset and preserve his GREAT PAST ! GO Out ON TOP !
    I am a DODGER fan since 1950 and STILL AM A DODGER FAN !!!!
    Dennis GANSEMER

  2. You don’t have to be a genius why put Kershaw the worse pitcher in playoffs and Kelly he can’t retire my 90 old grandfather in 10 innings bad decision fired the coach

  3. Bellinger, Seager, Freeze, and plenty of other Dodgers bats go silent and somehow it’s Dave Roberts’ fault? I don’t get it. While I understand the disappointment of losing a game and wasting a pretty good outing turned in by Beuhler, I think the blame should be placed at the doorsteps of Kershaw and Kelly. Big time players are paid big time salaries and they are supposed to step up and deliver in big time situations. Kershaw and Kelly didn’t deliver in this elimination game and as a result for the third consecutive season the Dodgers postseason ends in an elimination game with a loss on their home field. Saying we should have put Jansen in, or maybe Maeda instead of Kershaw in the 8th sounds great right now, but that is hindsight, and we all know that hindsight is 20/20 vision. Again though, see my earlier statements about big time players. And let’s not forget that Jansen has been very inconsistent this year. Instead of piling on the blame and dumping it on Roberts, let’s give credit to the Nationals for doing what they needed to do. If there’s any finger pointing to be done, then make sure it’s pointed in the right direction by holding the players accountable for not delivering in clutch situations.

  4. What does Ken Rosenthal know? He’s a journalist with an opinion, he’s not an insider. Another LA journalist just reported that Roberts will be back. Whose right? We’ll just have to wait and see.

  5. Ned Colletti said that the Dodgers were never tested against good teams regularly in the regular season. He is right. They were .500 versus the Nationals and the Cardinals. Playing the Nationals 4 times is not like playing the Padres and the Giants 20+ times.

    • And with everyone in our division rebuilding it doesn’t look like we’re going to have any real challenges for years to come. I guess we’ll keep winning 100 games and going nowhere

      • Hey NODH! I am not one to always make predictions ahead of time but perhaps ya saw my post about the results now having been established for 2020. If ya didn’t here it is…the 2020 season is now over before it ever starts.

  6. I have heard when asked about whether a manager/coach in whatever sport should be fired/replaced, the players still Need to perform. Bellinger was AWOL(no homeruns, rbi’s, etc.), the same with Seager and these guys are crucial to the Dodgers success.

  7. Certainly, you can question Robert’s decisions and it does seem the unfortunate ones are piling up the last three years. Grady Little was roasted for one bad decision, (as was previous BoSox skipper Johnny McNamara) Roberts now has made several. But I still wonder if the Dodgers obsession with “winning the 162” is continuing to hurt them in the playoffs. For example, the Dodgers would never go in on a JD Martinez type of player because he is too one-dimensional. Yet, in a playoff series is exactly when someone like that delivers in a big at bat and completely changes the series. You can count on one hand the number of Dodger players (out of the deepest roster in the game) that have stepped up to the big moment and the guys who help you “win the 162”: such as Kershaw, Bellinger and Seager are not on the list. Having a guy who hits pretty well and plays multiple positions will get you to the playoffs, but wouldn’t you like a couple of guys who could dominate when they get there? This year Muncy, Buehler, Turner, Freese and Maeda showed up.That was about it.

    • I’d add Martin to your list, albeit for only a single game. But not his fault he didn’t play more.

    • Turner was not his usual “clutch” self IMO. Also, the signs of Bellinger’s “slump” were evident over the last several weeks of the regular season. Had he been benched (rested) for the last several weeks of the regular season, we just might have seen the MVP Bellinger show up for the post season. As for Kershaw, we have traded HOF pitchers prior to the end of their careers before. Sutton, Sutcliff and Hershiser come to mind without researching further. If Clayton cannot come up with some new pitches to offset his decline in velocity, then IMO he is a candidate to be traded. Also IMO, he currently sits as a number 4 or 5 starter and should be left off of future post season rosters. I love the guy as a human being, but unfortunately baseball in not a philanthropic business. Clayton will surely have a special place in Heaven someday.

  8. What the heck is Rick Honeycutt for, if Roberts is just going to ignore him? Let the man who knows the pitchers coach the pitchers. I would have sent Honeycutt out to talk to Buehler before I would have taken him out. By what he knew about what Buehler had actually done in the game he could have done a quick assessment and let the game play on. The Dodgers had their best on the field and a two run lead. Why would you take him out when the probable result was an out to end the inning or something which would have tied the score. In that case, you would still have your best out their pitching Roberts does coach by emotion but you can’t always depend on your gut. It was not the time to give up on Buehler in the face of a little heat. And definitely not time for Kersh. Maeda should have been the next guy up, if only by the numbers! Head scratchers all around…

    • I agree Blue Vinman. Also, IMO, May was under-utilized. Yes, he gave up one run, but that was due to inactivity IMO. Gonsolin also should have been on the roster instead of Stripling.

  9. The Numbers Game will get you to the playoffs, but will never win the World Series, obviously. Let the strongest players play and know their positions; Turner at third, Seager at SS, Muncy at second, Freese at first, Bellinger in RF, Pollack or Taylor CF, Pedersen or Kiki LF. The guys can also back up when there are injuries.
    Guys fumbled when you moved them around too much.
    Lux and Smith should never have been in the playoffs. We needed Martin’s experience and strength. Kershaw was the secret weapon? How about Ryu? Belli has said he plays best and hits best when in RF.
    Ryu pitches best to Martin. Dave do you listen?
    You need to play with heart and guts to win the World Series, not stupid numbers.
    Talk to your pitchers before you yank them. “Do you have it? If not, I’ll go to ….”
    Dave, please talk to your pitchers and listen to the players.
    Don’t say you should be able to pitch well to anybody.

    • AK, IMO the bodies lay at the feet of Seager, Bellinger, Pollack, Freese, Kelly, and Clayton. Also, like I have previously said, Turner was not his “clutch” self, May was under-utilized, and Gonsolin should have been on the roster instead of Stripling. I realize May gave up a run, as did Stripling, but in May’s case, IMO it was a result of inactivity.

  10. I’ve been a fan since the early 60’s when the Dodgers won period! But after the OMALLEY’S SOLD THIS TEAM IT ALL WENT TO HELL! it seems now it’s just a cash Cow! No drive for World Championships just the make over of the Stadium to appease the fans a museum etc what a gimmick just to keep the fans who by the way go thru the turnstiles in the tune of almost 4mil a GM and manager who both haven’t a clue I’m done until they sell this team to a real BB GUY PERIOD

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