Dave Roberts was a speedy outfielder who could jumpstart an offense with a bloop single or a stolen base, which is why the former leadoff man quickly became a favorite among Los Angeles Dodgers fans in 2002.
Roberts, who recently purchased a home in La Cañada Flintridge, continues to be a sparkplug for the franchise 15 years later as a manager, recently guiding L.A. to a historic run of winning 43 of 50 games. Their victory over the New York Mets last Sunday equaled the best 50-game streak in Major League Baseball history, established in 1912 by the New York Giants.
“It’s a good feeling to show up, obviously,” Roberts told reporters after Sunday’s win. “Every single day when we show up, regardless of the circumstance, the opponent [or] the location, we expect to win, and we’re doing that.”
As of Tuesday, the Dodgers own the best record in all of MLB at 79-33, eight games ahead of the Houston Astros, the top team in the American League.
Los Angeles is well on its way toward breaking the franchise record of 105 wins, set by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953, and challenging the all-time modern era record (116-46) set by the 2001 Seattle Mariners.
“It is history in the making,” Roberts told reporters after the Dodgers slugged five home runs to defeat the Mets, 7-4, last Saturday. “But when you get back to the day-to-day, how we go about things, I don’t think anyone is really aware of that. It’s what we talked about a few weeks ago. This is who we are. This is a team that’s going out there and expecting to win, plays the right way, and we are finding ways to win games. [We] win in different ways.”
The Dodgers have won just about every way possible, whether it is behind stellar starting pitching, relievers or their bats.
“I think it has to do with the number of different guys who have had their fingerprints on the success of the team to date,” Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman told the Outlook. “We’ve had a few guys who have been consistently way above average, and a number of other guys who have chipped in to give us length in the lineup and rotation.”
Friedman, who is widely considered to have one of the brightest minds in baseball, also credits Roberts for changing the culture in Los Angeles. The young executive and the rest of the front office took a chance in hiring an inexperienced manager prior to the 2016 season, a decision that ultimately paid off.
“I think Dave’s relentless optimism and communication skills and the way he thinks of the games really rubbed off on the players,” Friedman said. “The coaching staff did a tremendous job with a good group of veteran players. All those things help expedite the process.
“In his first interview, he blew us away. It was almost as if he had our answer sheet. Philosophically, he aligned with where we are, which is really important. Dave and the coaching staff are tremendous. I think they only help us in our pursuit of bringing a championship.”
Roberts went on to impress the entire league after guiding the Dodgers to the National League Championship Series despite having a major-league-record 28 players on the disabled list throughout the season. He was named National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers of America and Sporting News in his first season and is well on his way toward winning the award again this year.
The Dodgers lost only for the second time in the last 16 games at Arizona on Tuesday, and an optimistic Roberts spoke highly of his pitcher’s effort and looks forward to the next game against the Diamondbacks.
“It’s baseball,” he said after the game on Tuesday. “It happens, but we’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
The Dodgers will take on the Diamondbacks today and return home this Friday for a three-game series against the San Diego Padres at Chavez Ravine.