Monday, November 23, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Dodgers to Name Dave Roberts Manager

When Don Mattingly and the Dodgers parted ways after yet another early Dodgers exit from the postseason, it seemed to be a slam dunk the job would go to Gabe Kapler.  Kapler had ties to Andrew Friedman going back to the Tampa Bay Rays.  Kapler spent most of his career playing for SABR-conscious organizations and is an unabashed apologist for SABR-driven decisionmaking.  Friedman hired him away from a TV commentary job to run the Dodgers player development program.  Early reports had Kapler as the runaway favorite to inherit the Manager's Office in Dodger Stadium with any interview process being a mere formality.

Reports I've read have the Dodger's ownership group insisting that the interview process be real and that a genuine search for the best man for the job take place.  They did, in fact, interview a wide range of candidates from Kapler to Bud Black to Darren Erstad, the former Angel who is now the head coach at Nebraska.  As the process narrowed the field, Kapler remained the apparent frontrunner, but another name kept progressing along with him.  Dave Roberts is well known to NL West fans for his playing stints with the Dodgers, Giants and Padres.  The most famous moment of his playing career was during a partial season with the Red Sox in 2004 when his SB helped the BoSox come from behind to beat the Yankees in the NLCS.  In his post-playing career, he has mostly coached for the Padres as a 1B and Bench coach. He was successfully treated for Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2010.  

Yesterday, after the Dodgers Manager search process narrowed down to Kapler and Roberts, it was announced that Roberts won the job and would be introduced at a formal news conference after Thanksgiving.  As a Giants fan, I hate to say I think the Dodgers made the right choice here.  I don't know too much about Dave Roberts, but he's always been seen as a team leader and a smart baseball player.  His on-field demeanor both as a player and coach suggests to me that he is simultaneously intense while being soft spoken and patient.  It may be significant that he played under Bruce Bochy in San Diego and followed Boch to San Francisco at the end of his playing career.

While Kapler is obviously knowledgeable about the game, I found his style on TV broadcasts to suggest that he may be a better talker than listener.  His intense promotion and defense of SABR principles may play well in the short term, but could wear very thin in a clubhouse over time.  Dave Roberts is the best man for the Dodgers Manager job.


  1. While I agree Dave Roberts is a good hire I also believe there was not much competition. Personally, I liked Bud Black, and I think it was a huge mistake to pass on him. Black is now with the Angel's FO. Just when Black had something going in San Diego in 2010 they started blowing up his team by shipping Adrian Gonzalez and others off that off-season. Roberts is well known as an all around nice guy. But, I don't know if that is necessarily a quality that plays well as a coach.I can see a guy like Puig taking advantage of that quality. Also, I do not see Zack Greinke being blown away by this hiring. Working with Bochy, Righetti, Bumgarner and Posey sounds much better than working with Roberts, Grandal, Kershaw and whoever their pitching coach is. It remains to be scene whether Roberts will be able to handle the LA media and a $200-300MM payroll with a bunch of different egos and personalities. I am sure Greinke was waiting to see who the coach was before he signed anywhere so maybe he signs in the next few weeks.

  2. MLB Daily Dish is reporting that the Giants have talked to the Braves about Shelby Miller and they want either Panik or Duffy in return. In a word, NO. Miller is only under club control through 2019. Duffy and Panik are under club control through 2021 and both had higher WAR than Miller last year. I know you have to give something to get something, but let's hope that Evans isn't seriously considering this one.

    1. That's what I hate about rumors: it just encourages fans to think the worse of their front office, even if they weren't even thinking of such a trade. Like when the Blue Jays leaked their offer of Rios for Lincecum or Cain. Obviously, since the Giants didn't take the trade, they didn't think much of it, but there were those who were upset it was even brought up (thinking Sabean stupid) and those who were upset it wasn't done (thinking Sabean stupid)

      Evans did say in the Crawford signing press conference that teams were asking for Panik and Duffy and that the Giants are not looking to trade them, suggesting that they are looking for other types of deals. Seems like they want to trade away guys who are not starters, particularly those still in the minors, but we have no idea who is on their "Do Not Trade" list.

      If it helps you worry less, when is the last time they traded away a starting position player who contributed a lot? And how often have they done that? The vast majority of trades in the Sabean era have involved trading non-proven players and the vast majority of them have not ended up hurting the team much.

  3. I've been searching for what I feel about this move too. Thanks for writing about it and discussing it, I think that helped me crystallize some of my thinking.

    Part of me wonders if this was more of a publicity move, as doing this makes Roberts the first non-white manager of the Dodger's franchise. Which, given Jackie Robinson, is a crying shame and black mark on them, as the Giants had their first with Dusty (ironically former Dodger) in 1993, 23 seasons ago, then also had Felipe right afterward. 57 years after Jackie is just too long to wait, especially since Davey Lopes probably was a good candidate for a long time and never got the call (Dusty and them had a falling out, so no way it could have been him).

    I think you hit on one of the keys to this appointment, which is that he played under and presumably learned from Bochy what an ideal manager should be doing. I think that they also like that he was part of the winning Red Sox team, and presumable learned from that experience as well. A leader often refers back to prior experiences and that is a good experience to share, how a team is down by so much and yet comes back to make history. The only better way of doing this would have been hiring Flannery, but there's no way he would have took the job. And as I noted above, perhaps this hiring has multiple purposes.

    I think that it helps that Roberts was also a former Dodger farm hand and can refer back to their history. He probably has a lot of stories, I recall interviews where he talked extensively about what Maury Wills taught him about base stealing and I would think shared stories about the great 60's Dodgers teams. That has to be a plus too. That was a huge reason I was hoping that Roberts would join the Giants organization after he retired and teach his base-stealing methods to our system. Hopefully whatever lessons Winn learned (not sure if Roberts or other, just generally) while with the Giants to boost his success rate incredibly can be passed on while Winn coaches in spring training for us.

    I think that this is also the right way to integrate sabermetrics into a baseball operations. As much advances there has been with analysis and data collection, I think most players today are still leery of the black box aspect of all that. I see that in my work all the time. But with Kapler in charge of player development, he can institute and enforce a lot of sabermetric findings into the development processes, having experienced baseball lifers translate the analytics mumbo-jumbo into baseball language that the baseball players would understand. I think one needs to remember that these players are often high school level education (at best, because some schools shamefully allow players to advance without educating them properly), and even the college players are not going to be that aware of high math and analytics, only the ones who were top students, like Buster Posey, have the best chances of understanding and accepting advanced concepts like sabermetrics.

    Plus, we don't know how much of this is real or theatrics. Kapler was the obvious hire, but we don't even know if he wanted the managerial job. If he did, why is he in player development and not managing one of the minor league teams? And according to this profile I found, he did manage for one year, then left coaching:

    That's a profile of someone with greater ambitions than managing, he looks more like a front office guy, and I have to wonder if he's on the Sabean track (he was head of our player development, as well as Yankees) and is being groomed as the eventual Dodger GM once the current one decides he wants to take the training wheels off and get his own franchise to run on his own.

    1. The Giants had the first black manager in the NL, Frank Robinson, 1981-84, well before Dusty Baker. It is surprising, yes, that the Dodderers are only now getting around to what we did 35 years ago.

      And about sabermetrics, why do players have to understand them? The manager can act in accord with them, even rigidly and pedantically, if so inclined; the players pretty much do as they're told, strategically, and as they're coached to do, in terms of more general execution.

    2. Thanks for bringing up Frank Robinson, shame on me for forgetting about him! And I liked him as manager and was sad when he was fired. He brought a lot of attitude to his job and the Giants needed that back then, they were in the middle of their, what I call malaise period, not bad, not good, just mediocre for the most part, with brief moments of sunlight.

      They have to understand sabermetrics if they are going to accept them, particularly if the findings go against the historic orthodox, like bunting is not the right thing to do in most cases and stolen bases aren't really that valuable unless you are among the best in success, or even batting the pitcher 8th, plus pitching your best relief pitcher, and not have rigid closer usage. I think that is human nature.

      If you have a manager known to do "weird" analytics stuff, MLB players will be naturally leery of any odd instructions given to them, especially if it goes against what their success "tells" them is the best thing to do, whereas minor leaguers will do whatever you ask in order to please management in order to make the majors. But if Roberts gains their confidence with his baseball knowledge (and success), he can ask them to do baseball things without the players necessarily thinking that it came from analytics, whereas Kaplan has no such history, anything he recommends will be considered saber-oriented by most players.

      If it was as easy as telling players to do something and them following, we would never have any of the instances where we hear about the managers losing his players and thus he gets fired, even if he's a good manager. Or any discussions about chemistry and good vs. bad clubhouses. Sure, the lesser players probably do much as they're told, but you need to sell the star players, the leaders on the field, and herding them together is like herding cats, generally, in any sport, because there generally is a prima donna or two, and a naysayer contrarian as well in any group.

      Particularly if the new manager don't have any good history behind them. I think it hurt Matt Williams to not have managerial experience, but players did listen because he won a ring and he did a lot of good things, but he lost them with his poor decisions. That's an uphill climb as well for Roberts, but at least he'll have a similar honeymoon period because he has that relatively successful MLB background (as well as connection with Dodgers past), whereas Kapler doesn't have much other than his saber background.

      Also, I was cut off by size previously: So, for me, there is the faint smell of an orchestrated hiring. Which normally I'm against, but if Roberts was the target, I'm for anything related to minority hiring in the MLB's upper echelons. As some recent articles have noted, the number of minority managers and front office personnel have been dropping, not rising (in spite of all the Latin Americans in baseball), and that seems to coincide with the shift towards sabermetrics, which appears to be tied to Ivy League hiring across the majors. With Dusty and Roberts now hired, that's helping to tilt things back the other way.

    3. Need to correct some wrong information on my part. I thought that he came up in the Dodger's org, but he was acquired by the Dodgers and worked his way into the roster. However, I do know that Maury Wills took him aside and mentored him on stealing bases, I read about that when the Giants signed him.