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Column: What are the Dodgers waiting for? Dave Roberts shouldn’t be a lame-duck manager

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts walks off the mound after a pitching change against the Atlanta Braves.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts walks off the mound after a pitching change against the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NLCS. Why haven’t the Dodgers signed Roberts to a contract extension yet?
(Jae Hong / Associated Press)
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Just extend his contract already.

There’s no excuse for Dave Roberts to be a lame-duck manager at this point.

The lockout is over. The terms of baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement are in place. The free-agent market is about to reopen.

The Dodgers are negotiating an extension with Roberts and people familiar with the situation are hopeful an agreement can be reached soon.

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Good.

Players will be reporting to the Dodgers’ spring-training facility in Arizona in the coming days and Roberts shouldn’t have to spend any portion of camp without a new deal. His contract expires after the upcoming season.

In a typical year, finalizing an extension for a successful manager would be as a smart public-relations move.

Here are the biggest issues the Dodgers and Angels need to address as they get ready for the 2022 season now that the MLB lockout is over.

March 10, 2022

In a year like this one, it also offers practical benefits.

With their offseason interrupted by the lockout, the Dodgers have plenty of items remaining on their to-do list. Taking care of the simplest of their decisions would free them to work on more difficult tasks.

Andrew Friedman has said he envisions Roberts as part of the team’s future. Roberts has said he trusts the team’s owners and executives to extend their arrangement. So what’s the wait?

Once they reward their World Series-winning manager with the contract he has earned, they could turn their attention to re-signing Clayton Kershaw.

Once they renew their commitment to a culture developed under Roberts’ watch, they could pursue former National League MVP Freddie Freeman.

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Once they rearm their leader with the credibility required to lead a star-studded roster, they could rebuild a bullpen that could lose closer Kenley Jansen.

As susceptible as the Dodgers are to overthinking, they should understand that sometimes the best choices are the most obvious ones.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts stands in the dugout
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts stands in the dugout before Game 5 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants.
(John Hefti / Associated Press)

They made the obvious choice when they traded for Mookie Betts and the All-Star outfielder promptly delivered them a World Series. They would be making another obvious choice here, and Roberts would position them to win more championships.

Roberts has a 542-330 record over seven seasons and his career winning percentage of .622 ranks fifth all-time, ahead of the likes of Joe McCarthy and Earl Weaver.

His 44 postseason victories are tied for the fourth-most in history, behind only Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox.

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Roberts is one of three managers to lead the Dodgers to a World Series championship. The others were Walter Alston and Tom Lasorda.

The talent and depth of the rosters Roberts has managed shouldn’t diminish his accomplishments.

He has maintained a warm disposition over the years, even when he was blamed for ideas that originated in the team’s data-driven front office. He has gracefully dealt with the pressures of leading what is arguably the most popular professional sports franchise in the country’s second-largest media market.

Major League Baseball has a new collective bargaining agreement and about 250 free agents are now ready to find new teams.

March 10, 2022

If the championship the Dodgers won in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season was the team’s crowning achievement under the ownership of Guggenheim Baseball Management, their trademark is their clubhouse environment.

The culture reflects the leadership of players such as Kershaw and Betts, as well as the transparency of Friedman.

Roberts has played a major role in this too.

He has helped integrate high-ceiling prospects such as Cody Bellinger and the since-departed Corey Seager. He has given confidence to the late bloomers such as Max Muncy and Chris Taylor.

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He has maintained harmony on teams that have taken in the superstars in their primes such as Manny Machado and declining but proud veterans such as Albert Pujols.

When the team wins, he is quick to redirect attention from himself to his players.

Now that the lockout is over, the Dodgers have to improve their roster to get back to the World Series. Getting Freddie Freeman from the Braves is a start.

March 10, 2022

“I think the bottom line is that we have really good players,” he said during the Dodgers’ championship run in 2020. “I trust them and they’re executing, they’re competing, they’re playing every single pitch from the defensive side to the offensive side to on the bases. I talk a lot about not only having the best players, but the smartest players.”

And the Dodgers have the right manager. Now, they have to do right by him. They have no reason to not.

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