After mutually agreeing with Don Mattingly to part ways after the 2015 National League Division Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers set out on an exhaustive search for their next manager. During which time president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman left no stone unturned.
That was despite the widespread perception the Dodgers would promote director of player development Gabe Kapler to manager. Instead, Dave Roberts was formally hired last November, in part due to a stellar interview.
Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi likened it to having the answer sheet for a test. Roberts arrived without previous managerial experience, but had core morals and values he intended to implement.
Chief among them were establishing an open line of communication and building trust. That proved paramount in a season that exceeded even the wildest predictions.
On Tuesday, Roberts was named the 2016 National League Manager of the Year. “This is a team award, it really is. It’s an organization award,” he said. Beyond Roberts winning the award in his first season guiding the club, he carried out his vision when the Dodgers’ resolve was relentlessly tested.
“It’s about the process. … To set goals, play every out and try to get better, I think as an organization we did that,” Roberts said. “Obviously, we came up short in the sense of winning a world championship, but I’m proud of the way our guys battled adversity all year.”
Several Dodgers, including noted team leaders Adrian Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Turner, sung Roberts’ praises throughout the season. What Roberts lacked in experience he more than made up for by relating to the clubhouse and remaining true to himself.
“I think players know my story. I had a lot of different roles — spent a lot of time in the Minor Leagues, being a starter, a role player, and I think the players can relate to that,” Roberts said.
“And I can relate to all the players, except being an All-Star. The Minor Leagues for me was a big journey in my trek. I think the players saw the authenticity from me from Day 1 of Spring Training to when we were eliminated. I try to pride myself on being the same guy every day.”
With a starting rotation that was ravaged by injuries, Roberts was forced to lean on his bullpen. That resulted in the rookie skipper pacing the Majors in pitching changes. It wasn’t so much an approach but more so out of necessity.
Two of his hooks faced increased scrutiny — removing Ross Stripling after 7.1 no-hit innings into his MLB debut in April, and lifting Rich Hill after six perfect innings in September. The two instances came to mind when Roberts was asked what may have been most surprising in 2016.
“Taking Stripling out of the no-hitter and the Rich perfect game, what surprised me was the next day. After dealing with some scrutiny or second-guessing, if you will, I told myself I would do the same thing again,” Roberts explained.
“For me to be able to say I would do the same thing over again, really surprised me in a good way.”