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.
Dave Roberts, meet Grady Little: https://t.co/TEk5ODlGip
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 10, 2019
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, as detailed by The Athletic’s Andy McCullough, were even more inexplicable, the damage seemingly irreparable.
And now the question becomes one of trust.
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.