Dodgers start anew with one significant addition -- Dave Roberts
What’s new? How is the world treating you?
You haven’t changed a bit.
Lovely as ever, I must admit.
And here they come, your 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers. Winners of three consecutive National League West division titles. There has been a touch of makeup here and there – they are getting older – but are pretty much the club you remember from a year ago.
They figure to start the same basic lineup they did in the postseason. The biggest name change isn’t in who was added but subtracted – the Dodgers getting outbid for Zack Greinke by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Get ready for a lot of talk this spring about how much depth and overall talent they have. But in terms of position players, it’s the same group they finished with last season, rookie Corey Seager now officially the starting shortstop and their lone influx of youth. The rotation has added Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda, but otherwise it’s not like you’ll need a scorecard to figure out all the new faces.
There has been one other very significant change; however, it figures to be the most interesting. This will be the debut camp of Dave Roberts, manager.
The shoulders of left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu and catcher Yasmani Grandal will be watched closely. There will be keen interest in how Justin Turner’s knee handles third base. Observation will be thick in viewing how Seager – still only 21 -- handles his first spring as a starter.
But most of the attention and excitement will be aimed at the enthusiastic Roberts as he tries to mold a sometimes fragmented club into a cohesive team, to push them beyond simply qualifying for the playoffs and into a team that advances to the World Series.
If you’re concerned the rah-rah approach will wear thin with a veteran club, rest assured Roberts is completely genuine. He will earn the respect and admiration of those on the team unfamiliar with his work. And although he has a completely different kind of upbeat style, Tommy Lasorda managed to keep his players’ attention for 22 years.
Roberts represents the biggest change to the 2016 Dodgers. Proving themselves better or worse than a year ago will largely center on how he succeeds as a first-year manager and in his relationships with players. He is almost solely responsible for any fresh buzz as pitchers and catchers report to camp Friday.
He’s never had to handle a pitching staff before, never had to decide how much to rely on matchups. Never had to bench a veteran, send down a youngster, scold a player for his approach. Never had to be the final voice in the clubhouse.
He’ll have his growing pains, as all new managers do, but no one who knows Roberts expects it to prove overwhelming. He’s upbeat, optimistic and figures to be the most excited man in spring training.
And for the Dodgers, their most significant change.
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