LOS ANGELES — Dave Roberts stayed true to himself throughout his first year as Dodgers manager, and that conviction and the ability to relate to his players went a long way in him winning the 2016 National League Manager of the Year Award on Tuesday, as voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Roberts as a player didn’t make his major league debut until he was 27, after nearly six years in the minors and 2,721 plate appearances on the farm in the Tigers and Indians systems. From that he carved out a 10-year major league career, including parts of three seasons with the Dodgers (2002-04).
Though he only qualified for the batting title once, with 567 plate appearances in San Diego in 2006, Roberts had a solid six-year run of pseudo-regular stats, averaging 463 plate appearances from 2002-2007.
“I had a lot of different roles — spending a lot of time in the minors leagues, being a starter, being a reserve guy, being a role player,” Roberts said in a conference call on Tuesday. “I think that the players can relate to that. I can relate to all the players, I think, except for being an All-Star.
"The minor leagues for me was a big part of my journey and my trek to get to the big leagues. I was the same guy throughout the minor leagues to playing for the Red Sox in 2004, winning a championship. I think the players really saw the authenticity in me from Day 1 of spring training through when we were eliminated. I try to pride myself on being the same guy every day.”
Roberts was the leader the Dodgers needed
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had an exceptional first year at the helm in Los Angeles.
There were bumps along the way in his first year as Dodgers manager, with 28 different players hitting the disabled list, including missing Clayton Kershaw for over 10 weeks.
"There were challenges,” Roberts said. “The support that I had completely exceeded what my anticipation was, from the relationship I had with the front office, the coaches, the way the players bought into us. It made this whole season considerably easier than I anticipated.”
Getting the players to buy in is really the key to making everything work, even if at times there were tough decisions along the way. Roberts pulled rookie Ross Stripling from a no-hitter in his major league debut with one out in the eighth inning, and in September pulled veteran Rich Hill — battling blister problems for the better part of the previous two months — from a perfect game after seven innings.
Though both decisions were agonizing, Roberts was clear in his intentions with each move, in each case explicitly citing broader team goals. Roberts earned respect if not for the decision, then for sticking to his convictions in each call.
“The thing that surprised me was the next day, after dealing with some scrutiny or second guessing, how I told myself I would do the same thing again,” Roberts explained “That surprised me in a good way.”
It is probably a cliche to talk about managing one day at a time, but Roberts stayed true to that mantra, and said it helped him navigate through the season.
"The focus on the day-to-day, and not getting even ahead to tomorrow or the next day, made it a lot easier,” Roberts said. “If at any point during the season had I stepped back and looked at the injuries or expectations, it would have felt daunting, but it really never felt that way, even in late June when we were eight games back.”
Several players responded to Roberts’ Manager of the Year win on Twitter, and the Dodgers also tweeted out a wonderful picture of Roberts celebrating with his wife Tricia.
Congrats Doc on manager of the year! Love playing for you! #letttsssgoooo— Joc Pederson (@yungjoc650) November 16, 2016
Well deserving Manager of the Year, Dave Roberts. Personally, always had the perfect words of encouragement when I least expected it.— Micah Johnson (@Micah_Johnson3) November 16, 2016