Dodgers better secure Dave Roberts’s services before somebody else does
Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi recently told MLB Network, “As far as Dave goes, those conversations have been ongoing for the last couple months. As the conversation’s going, certainly we would prefer to work out something longer term than just picking up the option. All sides feel good about it. [We] haven’t been commenting too extensively, publicly, but obviously he’s done a tremendous job with this club.”
Those were some of the first public comments the Dodgers have made about the future of manager Dave Roberts. They were encouraging words, but Roberts’s future has been one of the ongoing sidebars of this World Series. Roberts has said that this is his dream job. Managing the Dodgers fits his lifestyle, his family situation. There are a thousand reasons why Los Angeles is where Roberts wants to be.
There’s an option on Roberts’s contract worth about $1.1 million and the Dodgers could simply pick it up. But that would create a lame-duck situation. Nobody wants that. And though other situations wouldn’t be as well suited for Roberts, he could be the most in-demand manager if he were a free agent.
Where the Dodgers have fumbled a little is that Roberts’s contract situation should have been resolved a long time ago. Zaidi says the talks have gone on for two months, which seems a tad long for a manager’s contract. What’s the issue?
Roberts has earned the right to be in the top five salaries, hasn’t he? Shouldn’t he be in the $3 million-$5 million range per season? If Dodger management is trying to lowball him, shame on them.
Roberts led the Dodgers to 104 wins in his second year last season and got to Game 7 of the World Series, only to lose to Houston. This season, as injuries set in, the Dodgers struggled early and often. On Aug. 22, they were 4½ games behind in the NL West race with a 67-61 record. They went on to win 92 games and win the division by one game over Colorado.
One of the silly narratives developing is that Roberts may be the baseball version of Marv Levy, which is ridiculous. Levy led the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowls, losing all of them.
Step back a bit and understand how tough it is to even get to a Super Bowl, and understand how tough it is to get to back-to-back World Series. In Roberts’s case, can we surmise that both the 2017 Astros and the 2018 Red Sox are simply better teams than the Dodgers? If you’re not coming to that conclusion then your thinking is sketchy.
If there’s a “problem” it’s in the roster, not the person who manages the roster.
The platoons, which we’re certain are managed from the front office, worked well in getting the Dodgers to the World Series. The platoons now look silly. In Games 1 and 2, the Dodgers’ best hitters were sitting on the bench because the Red Sox had lefthanders Chris Sale and David Price starting those games. Chris Taylor, Kike Hernandez, and Austin Barnes were significant contributors in platoons during the season, but you were looking at the Dodgers’ lineup during Games 1 and 2 and just scratching your head.
One of my colleagues pointed out that in the pre-Series matchups I had given the bench edge to the Red Sox and he wondered why after seeing who was on the Dodgers’ bench. They were guys who should have been in the starting lineup even though they were lefthanded hitters.
The Red Sox certainly didn’t shy away from using Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers or Andrew Benintendi against Dodgers lefties Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu. That’s because Alex Cora can make out his own lineup without reprisal from the front office if he doesn’t follow recommendations. Cora is as analytical as anyone, but he also understands how guys are swinging and how he feels they project against a certain pitcher.
I’m not sure that happens with the Dodgers.
We get that in this era the manager’s biggest role is managing the personalities in the clubhouse. The strategic part is normally handled by the analytics department and to a lesser degree the advance scouting. In some organizations, the manager has to go by what the front office says.
Roberts is respected by the players, by opponents, by baseball people everywhere. If Dodgers management bungle these negotiations, Roberts would likely be scooped up in no time.
Roberts is like the dream “out front” guy for any team. He’s respectful of not only players but people around the game. The Dodgers — and give credit to owner Mark Walter here — did a great job identifying Roberts as the person who should be the front man for their organization when they hired him three years ago.
Roberts is a Red Sox hero. He stole second base in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, which triggered one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history and led to the Red Sox’ sweep of the Cardinals in the World Series to break an 86-year championship drought.
It is why Red Sox fans gave him a standing ovation before Game 1 this year at Fenway. It is why he came out of the visitors’ dugout and hugged former Red Sox teammates as they were introduced before throwing out the first pitch prior to Game 2. Roberts also had his cancer treatments in Boston, and has been in remission. The city means a lot to him.
The Dodgers have a gem in Roberts — the way he handles people, the media, his positive personality. This isn’t a negotiation Dodgers management should screw up.
Apropos of nothing
1. We’ve been touting Rocco Baldelli as a potential managerial candidate in this column for a couple of years. And finally someone listened. The Twins hired him to replace Paul Molitor. At 37, Baldelli will be the game’s youngest manager. If you’re looking for the next Alex Cora, well, Baldelli might be it. He has developed a strong reputation working as a coach for Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash. He was a first base coach and then this season became the major league field coordinator, adapting well to analytics in game situations.
2. If the Red Sox win the World Series it’ll be interesting to see how many of the non-uniformed personnel get full or partial playoff shares. The trainers, medical staff, PR and marketing people, grounds crew — so many did a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get to this point.
3. This is likely a scenario you’re going to see a lot of down the road: older scouts filing age discrimination suits. That’s what Howard Norsetter did when he filed a suit last Monday against the Twins. Norsetter had been with the team since 1990 and moved up to international scouting coordinator and minor league international supervisor in 2002. He has been responsible for producing many of the Twins’ international players over the years. He was dismissed in 2017 and the dismissal was not due to performance. Older scouts around major league baseball have been dismissed from teams, who are moving toward more analytical ways to evaluate talent.
4. The third annual Pedro Martinez Foundation Gala will be held Nov. 2 at the Mandarin Oriental in Boston. The foundation is “devoted to transforming the lives of children through holistic education and social services and has positively impacted over 10,000 children and families.” Yankees pitcher Luis Severino, former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, Indians pitchers Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar, and Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna will all walk the red carpet with Pedro Martinez.
5. It’s going to be an awkward two years in Pawtucket with the Red Sox Triple A franchise scheduled to move into a new facility in Worcester in 2021. Pawtucket will likely seek another franchise to move into McCoy Stadium, which would need renovations. Short-season Lowell’s agreement with the Red Sox ends after the 2020 season and remains one possibility for a move. Otherwise, McCoy may be looking at an independent team.
6. Aren’t you happy now that Dave Dombrowski depleted the farm system? You deplete a farm system so you can win a World Series. He appears to be on the verge of his second, which would make one in each league (Marlins, 1997).
7. I really respect MLB Network analyst Mark DeRosa for holding off teams who want him to manage. Texas and Toronto contacted him, but DeRosa is considering what’s best for his family and the best managerial situation that doesn’t involve a major rebuild. DeRosa has long been targeted as that next big managerial prospect, but he’s very happy in his analyst role and he’s very good at it.
8. In the few times I’ve had a chance to listen, Alex Rodriguez really carries that Fox pregame and postgame show.
Updates on nine
1. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros — According to one veteran scout, Whitley has been the class of the Arizona Fall League on the pitching side. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was clearly the class of the league on the positional side. The scout said Whitley, who is coming off a PED suspension that limited him to eight starts for Double A Corpus Christi, could pitch in the majors right now “and if the Astros decide not to re-sign Charlie Morton he could easily fit into that back-of-the-rotation slot.” According to the scout, Guerrero “should have been in the majors last year. The one underrated aspect of his game is his ability to run. He can get around the bases for a big kid.”
2. Charlie Montoyo, manager, Blue Jays — With a prominent Latin American player (Guerrero) likely to be the leader of the team in the future, the Blue Jays hired Montoyo, who was Kevin Cash’s bench coach. Montoyo managed the Durham Bulls for three years and in the Rays’ system for 18 years. Like Alex Cora, he hails from Puerto Rico. The Rays considered him a top communicator, popular with the players. It’ll be interesting to see whether Montoyo keeps bench coach DeMarlo Hale or third base coach Luis Rivera, who also hails from Puerto Rico.
3. David Price, LHP, Red Sox — Price recently commented on how slow he is between pitches: “I think there’s three minutes in between innings for commercials and every pitch is so big, you’re not going to go out there and rush through pitches. You’re taught ever since you were a little kid to be able to slow the game down, and now baseball wants to speed it up. I don’t care, I’m taking my time. I know I’m slow.” How slow? During the regular season, Justin Verlander at 27 seconds between pitches was the slowest in the majors, while Price was next at 26.9 seconds.
4. Brock Holt, utilityman, Red Sox — Holt discussed why John Farrell is no longer managing the Red Sox and why Cora has been better for the team: “There wasn’t a whole lot of communication in the past. And just kind of the vibe that [Cora] brings, the looseness. Not being too far removed from playing himself, he understands the game is hard. And he believes in us. I just think the overall vibe that he brings to the clubhouse is so positive that it’s easy for us to go out and kind of do what we’ve been doing.”
5. Jeremy Kapstein, special assistant, Orioles — With all the talk about former agent Brodie Van Wagenen getting the general manager’s job with the Mets, Kapstein, who was the most prominent players’ agent of his time, went from agent to president of the San Diego Padres in 1990. Kapstein eventually executed the sale of the Padres on behalf of the Kroc family to Tom Werner. Kapstein was then hired by the Red Sox as an adviser and helped run the team with Bill Lajoie. Kapstein spent the last three years as an adviser to Orioles general manager Dan Duquette.
6. Ben Cherington, vice president of player development, Blue Jays — There’s a feeling out there that if Cherington got the Baltimore GM or president job that Farrell would be a prominent candidate for manager. Of course, the Orioles’ situation would be a massive rebuild and one wonders whether Farrell would want those working conditions.
7. Kim Ng, senior vice president of baseball operations, MLB — Ng has long been linked to GM jobs, but there’s growing legitimacy for her candidacy in both San Francisco and Baltimore. One scenario is the possibility of a Ng/Ned Colletti tandem. They worked together in Los Angeles. Ng was also assistant GM for the Yankees before going to the Dodgers.
8. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers — He led all major leaguers with a .377 average against fastballs. Kemp beat out J.D. Martinez’s .357 and Christian Yelich’s .364. Mookie Betts topped everyone in hitting .352 against changeups. Kemp is a free agent and would appear to be someone’s DH next season.
9. Hanley Ramirez, free agent — Ramirez played his last game for the Red Sox on May 24. He had been on an 0-for-21 run when it happened. Ramirez was hitting .254 with six homers and 29 RBIs at the time. The Red Sox were 34-16 and up by 1½ games in the AL East. Dustin Pedroia was about to return as the starting second baseman, and a roster spot was needed. Alex Cora didn’t feel Ramirez would be suited for a role coming off the bench or to platoon with Mitch Moreland, who was hot and gaining more playing time. The Sox eventually replaced Ramirez with Steve Pearce, someone they thought could platoon and hit lefties. Since then Ramirez has not been heard from. He had also played for the Dodgers from 2012-14.
From the Bill Chuck files — “In 163 games this regular season, Dave Roberts deployed 155 different batting orders using no order more than twice. In 162 games this regular season, Alex Cora deployed 134 different batting orders using his favorite one eight times.” . . . Also, “The middle innings are critical not just for relief pitchers but for bats as well. It should come as no surprise then that in innings 4, 5, 6 in the regular season, the Red Sox led all teams scoring 314 runs with the Indians right behind them with 313. The Dodgers led the NL with 292.” . . . Happy birthday, Kirk Bullinger (49), Bob Melvin (57), and Bob Veale (83).