Since Dave Roberts was named Los Angeles Dodgers manager before the 2016 season, his team has made the National League Championship Series every single year and won the pennant in 2017 and 2018.
While the Dodgers remain in pursuit of their first World Series championship since 1988, they are already the heavy favorites to reach their third straight Fall Classic and on track to contend for the best regular-season record in baseball for the second time in Roberts’ four-year tenure.
The Dodgers have won in all sorts of ways, from blowouts to pitching duels to unlikely walk-offs like Russell Martin’s two-out, two-run chopper that went for a single in the bottom of the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals.
With a massive lead in the NL West, the Dodgers could easily look ahead to the postseason and dial back the intensity during mid-August games with little meaning. That is not the way the Dodgers go about their business, however, which is one of the things Roberts is most proud of with this team.
“I think we all do a very good job of focusing on today,” Roberts said. “We know ultimately what our goal is. We can’t control the future, and I think our guys have 100% bought in to doing whatever it takes to win a game today.
“I think when you’re down three runs with one strike to go, and you don’t give away an at-bat, or you’re still hustling to make a play when you’re up nine runs in the ninth inning or down nine runs, there’s a certain way we play. To think you can elevate your play once you get to the postseason, that’s very unrealistic. All the credit goes to our guys.”
Roberts is optimistic that the Dodgers’ current playing style will translate well to the playoffs. However, there are also five weeks to go before then, and the Dodgers wish to avoid the pitfalls that come with their postseason spot virtually secured.
In 2017, it appeared the Dodgers could challenge the 2001 Seattle Mariners for the most wins in Major League history before dropping 16 of 17 in September. Roberts recently attributed that slump to a “quirky” dynamic that he believes no longer exists in the Dodgers’ clubhouse.
Now, Roberts is proud of their overall culture, believing it will contribute to even greater success in 2019.
“From Opening Day to the dog days of July or August, regardless of opponent, this is how we play,” he said. “That’s the mark of a great culture, a great team. Every out, every game is important. One of the things I’m most proud of is the way our guys go about each day.”