Dodgers continue to keep Dave Roberts waiting
Option takes Roberts’ deal through 2019 with LA Dave Roberts will be back to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers, in 2019, with the team exercising his club option per multiple reports from the GM meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. The expectation is that the Dodgers and Roberts will work out a long-term contract, but the fact that it hasn’t happened yet is pretty ridiculous. The Dodgers had a Wednesday deadline to exercise Roberts’ 2019, worth a reported $1.1 million, per Jon Heyman. Roberts made $1 million in 2018, putting him in the lower third of major league manager salaries per USA Today. Roberts and the Dodgers will have a few holes to fill on his coaching staff. Third base coach and infield instructor Chris Woodward was hired to manage the Rangers, and hitting coach Turner Ward left to take the same position with the Reds. Both were on Roberts’ staff for each of his three seasons as manager. The Dodgers’ early offseason plate got even more full with general manager Farhan Zaidi leaving to lead the baseball operations department in San Francisco, which was finalized on Tuesday. For now, Roberts waits. The Dodgers under Roberts have lost the last two World Series, their only trips to the Fall Classic in the last 30 years. Before Roberts, the Dodgers hadn’t won a National League pennant since 1988. While Roberts was busy leading his team to a third National League West title in his three years and a second straight World Series trip, two fellow first-time managers who were hired at the same time as Roberts got contract extensions before he did. “From all of our standpoints we reached a point where focusing on the season and what we were trying to do was more important,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said last Thursday. “We felt good about the working relationship and the prospects moving forward, and it wasn’t an issue at all to table it and pick it up after we were done playing.” Six days later, Roberts and the Dodgers still don’t have a long-term deal. Roberts was one of four managers hired in the 2015-16 offseason, and is the only one to make the playoffs since. Scott Servais had a three-year deal with the Mariners and signed an extension in July 2018. Andy Green, like Roberts, had a three-year deal plus a club option for 2019, but he signed an extension in August with the Padres through 2021. Don Mattingly was Roberts’ predecessor in Los Angeles, and signed a four-year deal that offseason with the Marlins, through 2019. Roberts has credentials that dwarf his cohorts hired when he was, and the Dodgers in his tenure have the second-best record in the National League, three wins behind the Cubs. Under Roberts the Dodgers have won the National League West in all three of his seasons, including back-to-back World Series trips. He was named the NL Manager of the Year in 2016. Roberts’ 287 wins are the sixth-most all-time in a manager’s first three full seasons, and the most since Davey Johnson (296) from 1984-86 with the Mets. Decisions, decisions The World Series is such a large, hyper-focused stage that any mistakes — actual or perceived — get amplified to the point where criticism for losing the Fall Classic can drown out the accomplishment of getting there in the first place. Roberts had a few missteps in the World Series, including bringing in reliever Ryan Madson in a key situation in Game 1 without ample time to warm up in the bullpen. Controversy surrounded Roberts’ decision to pull Rich Hill in the seventh inning of Game 4 despite allowing only one hit in what to that point was a scoreless performance. Things completely unraveled after that, with all six relievers to follow allowing at least one run, turning a 4-0 lead into a loss and a crushing 3-1 World Series deficit. “We can’t judge things based on single moves here and there,” Zaidi said. “We have to trust an overall process, and as far as that goes we have complete confidence in him.” Lost in the minutiae is that Roberts for the most part nails the larger, more important things. Lauded for his communication skills, Roberts has waded superbly through the sometimes choppy waters of getting several regulars to sacrifice playing time for the sake of the team. He works well with the front office too, which sometimes prompts some to label Roberts a puppet, as if collaboration is a negative trait. My favorite Roberts anecdote comes from someone who didn’t even play for him, except for a month in spring training in 2016. Jamey Wright pitched 19 years in the big leagues, including an incredible streak of making eight straight teams as a non-roster invitee in spring training, and had two stints with the Dodgers. Wright didn’t pitch in the majors in 2015 but tried making the Dodgers again as an NRI in 2016, Roberts’ first year as manager. Wright didn’t make the club, and retired at the end of camp. Wright with his two decades of big league experience had seen it all, yet was still quite impressed with his few weeks with the rookie manager. “I’ll be sad that I don’t get to play for him this year, because he is a class act,” Wright said. “I’ve known since the first day he addressed this team they’ve got something to look forward to this summer in LA because he’s as good as they get.” The wait is over For someone who preaches sacrificing for the greater good to his players, Roberts practiced it too, continuing to waiting in line even after the Dodgers were done playing. Looming option decisions for Clayton Kershaw and David Freese in the first week of the offseason led to new contracts for both, including Kershaw at three years and $93 million. “We talked [with Roberts] throughout the year about how optimistic we are that we’re going to work together for a long time, and we remain that way,” Friedman said Thursday. The wait extended further with Zaidi leaving to join San Francisco. After the final game of the World Series Roberts deflected any talk of contract talks, saying “there’s time for all that stuff” on Oct. 28. “My plan is to manage the Dodgers. I love the city. I love the organization, and everything that it’s about,” Roberts said. “I love the high expectations. And that’s the way it should be.” Zaidi said during the World Series that talks with Roberts have been ongoing for a few months. “We would prefer to work out something longer team than just picking up the option. Both sides feel good about it,” Zaidi told MLB Network Radio during the Series. “Obviously he’s done a tremendous job with this club.” A new, longer deal for Roberts could (and should) still come any day now. He’s certainly earned it.