You wonder sometimes what Major League ownership and front offices are thinking when it comes to rewarding managers and coaches for a job well done.
Just last summer, the NHL’s Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup in their 43rd year of operation. Then ownership decided it didn’t want to pay coach Barry Trotz what he wanted and sent him adrift, only to be rescued by the New York Islanders.
We’ve been thinking about this the last few days while waiting for the Los Angeles Dodgers to decide what they want to do with manager Dave Roberts.
That’s Dave Roberts, who has led the team to two consecutive NL championships. The Dodgers, who haven’t won the World Series since 1988, hadn’t won back-to-back NL titles since 1977-78.
The Dodgers hold the option for 2019 with Roberts and could decide not to pick it up for any number of reasons. On Thursday in LA, the team’s front-office executives, Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, strongly suggested Roberts and his coaching staff would be invited back.
How nice of them.
Since the Boston Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the World Series, one year after the Houston Astros beat the Dodgers in the World Series, there has been idle chatter that Roberts would be held responsible.
This kind of gossip always results when contract negotiations between club and manager stall. Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations, said he’s made progress on a new deal for Roberts after the process was put on hold during the season. Friedman said he couldn’t foresee anything getting in the way of it.
“We’ve talked throughout the year about how optimistic we are about how we’re going to work together for a long time, and we remain that way,” Friedman said.
In these days of analytics, its sometimes difficult to discern which department is in charge of deciding who plays and when and what decisions are made and when.
The Dodgers are just as enamored with analytics as everyone else appears to be. And after seeing some of the decisions Roberts made in the last two Series, you have to wonder how much flexibility, if any, he has been given to operate on his instincts.
“We believe and we continue to have full confidence in this process,” said Farhan Zaidi, the Dodgers general manager. “Sometimes things turn out your way, sometimes they don’t. That’s baseball. That’s the beauty of this game. Sometimes, it’s less than beautiful for you.”
Try to find the beauty in this: Dodger bats totally abandoned them against the Red Sox. They hit .180 with only six home runs in the five games.
Then again, whose decision was it to bench their four top home run hitters – Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Yasmani Grandal – in Games 1 and 2 simply to satisfy the spreadsheet against lefthander Sox starters Chris Sale and David Price?
Never in the history of the World Series had that ever happened. And the Dodgers did it two straight nights.
And then there is the matter of how the Dodgers used their starters and bullpen against the Red Sox.
After his bullpen had thrown 11 of Game 3’s 18 innings, Roberts pulled Rich Hill with the Dodgers winning 4-0. The Dodgers lost 9-6.
Analytics or idiots? Mathematics or instinct? Roberts really never said. But should he be blamed if he was only carrying out company policy?
Tiebreaker.com wants to make something clear: We are not arguing against the concept of platooning. They’ve been doing it in baseball since George Stallings tried it with his 1914 Boston Braves. Look them up. It worked really, really well.
We all know who the MVP of the World Series was – Steve Pearce, career platoon player. And while he was hoisting the World Series trophy, Sox manager Alex Cora offered a wink and nod to his analytics department.
“We had our moments. They had more, and they won the series,” said Zaidi. “As we look at what happened in the World Series, we’re going to look at the roster, how we can get better. As far as responsibility, we’re all responsible. The front office, the players, the coaches, manager, for not getting to our ultimate goal.
“But as Dave said after Game 5, we have a lot to be proud of, getting back to the World Series and losing to a very worthy opponent. There’s a difference in not being satisfied, in not getting to your ultimate goal, and feeling like you have to dole out blame.”
After it was all over, Zaidi and Friedman said they supported every decision Roberts had made, without saying if their manager had followed or broken from a script.
“Dave’s process is having conversations with us, having conversations with coaches, trusting his own gut, trusting what he sees as these games unfold,” said Zaidi.
So there seems little more to discuss. Give Roberts what he wants. Only next time, give the homerun hitters a chance to do their job.