Dodgers’ Dave Roberts is still basking in the team’s World Series title
The view from the summit is so majestic that Dave Roberts is in no hurry to start his descent down the mountain.
While most of baseball — including his own front office — is gearing up for the 2021 season, the Dodgers manager is taking some extra time to bask in the afterglow of a World Series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays that ended the organization’s 31-season championship drought.
“I think my progression was joy and elation right after the last out was recorded, and then it went to relief,” Roberts said on a video call Thursday. “That lasted for a good week, and then I think the joy started to filter in, so I’m still on a high, in a joyful state.
“The thoughts of 2021 and how we’re going to put the roster together and reconnect with players, that’s kind of happening right now. But for me personally, I think it will ramp up more after the holidays.”
Kenley Jansen is no longer an elite closer. The Dodgers have to find a solution and have the remainder of the winter to figure out how.
The ascent was long and arduous for Roberts and the Dodgers, who won seven straight National League West titles from 2013 to 2019, reached the World Series twice—losing to the sign-stealing Houston Astros in seven games in 2017 and the Boston Red Sox in five games in 2018 — and were bounced by the Washington Nationals in the first round after winning a franchise-record 106 games in 2019.
The pandemic-shortened 60-game season was more sprint than marathon but was every bit as grueling, with teams navigating a maze of daily safety protocols and COVID-19 testing and the heavily favored Dodgers spending most of October in Arlington, Texas, where they played the final three rounds of the playoffs.
When the Dodgers finally hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy, it was as if an anvil had been removed from their backs.
“It’s something I spent a lot of time thinking about and I was really curious what that breakdown would be between joy and relief,” Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, told SportsNet LA in November. “I spent many hours, months and years thinking about it and chasing it.
“I can now answer the question; it was 99% relief, 1% joy. Which, then, I think is motivating me to do it again, because I’m hoping the second time will be the inverse of that and 99% joy.”
Roberts was heavily criticized for pitching decisions in previous Octobers, for using ace Clayton Kershaw in relief — a move that backfired spectacularly in Game 5 of the 2019 NL division series — pulling starter Rich Hill from a World Series game too soon and leaning too heavily on Kenley Jansen when the closer was clearly struggling.
After sticking with Julio Urías long enough for the left-hander to record the final nine outs of the NL Championship Series clincher over the Atlanta Braves and the final seven outs of the World Series clincher over the Rays, it has been gratifying for Roberts to not have every pitching decision dissected and debated all winter.
“It’s a nice change,” Roberts said. “I agree with Andrew in that it was more relief than elation. Over the past five years, you’re so focused on the process and how we go about it. The ultimate goal is to win a championship, and when you finally get to that point, you’re like, ‘Man, we did it!’ And you have so much relief for many different reasons.
“Now, the balance, the inner-struggle, is how much can you just enjoy it and get past that relief to then focus on 2021? I’m still in the middle. Once we get past holidays, I’ll bear down on 2021.”
The Dodgers don’t need to acquire a frontline starting pitcher this offseason. But they might pursue 2020 NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer anyway.
Roberts won a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox in 2004, when the speedy outfielder’s stolen base in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series sparked a ninth-inning comeback that led to the Red Sox erasing a three-games-to-none deficit to the New York Yankees.
Winning another World Series ring in his fifth season at the helm of the Dodgers validated Roberts as a major league manager.
“I’m the first to say that you can’t live your life and coach solely for results, because I believe the body of work we’ve done as an organization is pretty special,” Roberts said. “But you are in this to win championships, and having done that for the city, for the organization, it is a lot of validation.”
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