Dodgers Go With Inexperience at the Helm. Again.
November 23, 2015

Five years ago when it was mutually decided that Joe Torre didn't want to manage anymore, the Los Angeles Dodgers named bench coach Don Mattingly to run the club. Mattingly, known as “Donnie Baseball” during his playing days with the Yankees, had never managed before. Anywhere. Now, after it was mutually decided last month that Mattingly wasn't going to manage the Dodgers anymore, the Dodgers have hired Dave Roberts as their new skipper. At least Roberts played for the Dodgers, but he has never managed before. Anywhere.

Roberts (who is eight years younger than I am, but has managed as many games as I have) got the job over team executive Gabe Kapler, who never played for the Dodgers, and was a player-manager in Single-A for one season. Roberts interviewed well, and good for him, but although he deserved the job over Kapler, he was a strange choice. How about either someone who has managed before, or once played for the Dodgers, or maybe even both?

Like Mattingly, but for different reasons, Roberts was fun to watch as a player. Mattingly could hit, but Roberts could run. Baseball, and more specifically, Red Sox fans will remember the stolen base that resulted in the winning run against the Yankees, that ultimately propelled the Sox into the World Series, and Boston's first championship since 1918. That was 2004, and Roberts spent most of that season as a Dodger. He seems likable, and Dodger fans still liked to watch the guy play as a San Diego Padre.

We'll get to see if Roberts can manage, but that's not the point. The reason the Dodgers soured on Mattingly was even though he had a high payroll to work with and three straight division championships, there was no World Series to show for it. If you are a multi-billion dollar franchise dead set on winning, why would you start on the ground floor with a new guy with no experience?

Outside the organization, you had Ron Gardenhire, Bud Black, and until recently Dusty Baker available, and all successful big league managers. Inside, there was Ron Roenicke. Bench Coach Tim Wallach played for the Dodgers and managed in the minors. Even Davey Lopes is a former major league skipper, although his name was never mentioned as a candidate. Baker is now the manager of the Washington Nationals. Wallach, will likely join Mattingly in Miami as a bench coach, and Roenicke has been reunited with Mike Scioscia and the Angels.

The networks are making a big deal that Roberts is the Dodgers first minority manager. It's awesome that the team that first broke the color barrier for players in 1947 would hire someone who's half black and half Japanese, but that's not the reason, although, let's face it, we don't really know what the reason is. If the Dodgers are hell bent on winning, they can't be going with Roberts because he's cheap. Management does seem to like some of the modern day analytic stuff, and I've read that Roberts is good at that.

Dodger fans did get a guy they can root for, and at least that's something, but the sound of a World Series title in 2016 isn't exactly filling the air.

Roberts Post Script: After the Dodgers went 43 years with only two managers, Roberts becomes the eighth LA skipper since Tommy Lasorda retired in 1996. Bill Russell, Glenn Hoffman, Davey Johnson, Jim Tracy, Grady Little, Joe Torre, and Don Mattingly all had winning records in the regular season, and none had a winning record in the playoffs (Torre was 8-8). Mattingly and Tracy lasted the longest (each five seasons), and Mattingly won the most games (446 to Tracy's 427). Hoffman, who was interim manager in 1998 after the firing of Bill Russell, had the shortest tenure, but still had a record of 47-41.

Double Ut: Does anybody at the MLB Network watch the MLB Network? For several weeks now, from the end of the World Series until right now, the network will scroll baseball news at the bottom of the screen, which frequently includes every team's free agents. When they list the Dodgers, they list Chase Utley twice. The Dodgers have a lot of free agents, and Utley appears in the middle of the list as a second baseman, and at the end of the list as an infielder. You would think someone would have noticed by now.

McGone: All of Don Mattingly's coaches from last season with the exception of pitching coach Rick Honeycutt are expected to be employed elsewhere next year. The bad news is that means Davey Lopes, who was a couple of generations ahead of Roberts when it comes to speed. The good news is that also means Sterioid Boy extraordinaire Mark McGwire. He's rumored to be the next bench coach in San Diego, but deserves less, as do all of those guys.

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