Dodgers: Doc Roberts, Back To Back NL Manager Of The Year

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LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29: Cody Bellinger
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29: Cody Bellinger /
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts won the 2016 NL Manager of the Year award and has a great chance to make it two in a row.

How many MLB managers have won the Manager of the Year award in consecutive years since its inception in 1983? One. Legendary Hall of Fame Atlanta Braves skipper Bobby Cox from 2004-05.

One is quick to think that Cox earned that prestige because he had three Hall of Famers in his pitching rotation for years in the form of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. Wrong.

Glavine had signed with the New York Mets as a free agent in 2002 and Maddux left the Braves as a free agent for the Chicago Cubs in 2004. Smoltz was on the back nine of his career and was dominating as a closer already before going back on the bump as a starter in 2005.

Managers win the award because they do more with less in that season. Their teams outperform projections and somehow get into the playoffs when they weren’t supposed to.

Last season, Dave Roberts brought home the award for NL Manager of the Year, the first time a Dodgers Manager had won it since 1988 when Tommy Lasorda led the team to its last World Series victory.

I attribute it to how Roberts successfully played chess with his pitching staff all season. Kind of unconventional, yet pragmatic. Losing ace Clayton Kershaw to a back injury for many weeks in the middle of a season would be devastating to any team, yet Roberts continued to find solutions, playing the matchups and utilizing all the talent at his fingertips.

The front office got him a trade deadline score in Rich Hill from the Oakland Athletics. Rookie phenom call-up Julio Urias helped headline the rotation in the playoffs that came within two wins of a World Series berth.

Dodger skipper Dave Roberts is playing a different type of chess this season, but still against the same foes. Many might say that a manager who came into the season with most of the pieces necessary to contend for a title isn’t deserving of an achievement award because they had the resources, to begin with.

Yet, sports happens. It is not hard to mess up a good thing. Cue, Doc. Coming into the season, after Kershaw, the rotation was filled with question marks. Health, consistency, maturity, were all issues fully in play.

Prized pitching prospect Urias went down early with a season ending injury. Hill and blister were once again synonymous. But, out of nowhere, 2015 trade deadline throw-in Alex Wood consistently commanded his pitches to become an unlikely anchor on the staff. Injecting confidence into a repertoire of electric stuff that has always been there, this season Wood was chosen to be an All-Star and is sporting a dominant 14-1 record to date.

No Kershaw, no problem. The staff has continued to roll not missing a beat since he went down with another back issue a few weeks ago. Last second 2017 trade deadline acquisition Yu Darvish has been solid in his four starts for his new team so far, recording 29 strikeouts in 23 innings, yielding an excellent 3.13 ERA.

What about the kid? In the preseason, beloved Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hurt his forearm. I immediately thought, oh here is a chance for hot rookie Cody Bellinger to break camp with the big club.

Being into fantasy sports big time, I had read and seen videos of Bellinger during the winter, eagerly anticipating his arrival. A highly rated prospect who had a hole in his long swing according to many scouts that was prone to strikeouts.

Damn, could he rake though.

The videos of his mammoth shots displayed legit power and that sweet swing reminded me of a childhood favorite, Ken Griffey Jr. A natural uppercut with a violent torque to it. Gonzalez sucked it up, and Bellinger was sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City when the regular season started. Three weeks later, A-Gon was still hurting, the Dodgers were in an early season funk, faring only 9-11, and needing a spark.

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Bellinger to the rescue. Since the call for Bellinger and his astounding club-leading 34 home runs thus far, the Dodgers have gone 82-27 and haven’t looked back. He earned an All-Star roster spot, is a virtual lock for Rookie of the Year and is a realistic contender for Most Valuable Player (MVP).

Doc has played Bellinger at his natural spot most of the year, first base, yet he was initially brought up to cover left field when Andrew Toles tore his knee selling out on a defensive play.

The front office has done an excellent job of giving Doc many tools to succeed. A deep roster with Swiss-army knives like Chris Taylor, Logan Forsythe, Kike Hernandez and Austin Barnes has afforded Doc tons of flexibility.

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There is something to be said about how in sync Doc is with the main front office guys, President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi. Being on the same page with them has helped maximize the production of the squad to these historic levels.

It is like Doc is playing chess when most of the opponents only have pieces to play checkers in their tool chest because he can. Roberts tinkers with lineups a lot, which old schoolers don’t necessarily like. Set it and forget it starting lineups aren’t in Doc’s playbook. He loves exploiting advantageous matchups, and this gives most of the guys a chance to see playing time on at least a semi-regular basis.

It helps foster a competitive, yet fun, and more importantly, winning environment. Having suffered injury casualties all year, being shocked by sudden playing time doesn’t exist with the next man up.

On any given night, any guy can steal the show with a walk-off hit or clutch defensive play. These guys play like a family because Doc allows them to have fun like the big group of bros that they are. How many managers would have the stones to leave a rookie call-up batting in the clean-up spot since May?

Doc is a good mix of old school vs. new school. Equal shots of hard-working grit and Hollywood excitement. He has had lots to juggle, from having the best pitcher in our generation toe the rubber every fifth game for him, to embracing the buzz of arguably the biggest splash a Dodger rookie has made since Fernando Valenzuela.

Following him around everywhere is a charisma that smoothly handles the hype of his team’s historic run. Despite the obvious pressure to bring home the elusive since ’88 World Series title, Doc wears that big infectious smile just like his players because, well, they are all having fun playing a kid’s game. Having not lost a series since early June, it shows Doc, and his guys are literally taking it one game and one series at a time. Seems like an easy concept to exercise, one that is preached all over sports.

Next: Why Chris Taylor Will Be Traded

But Doc is doing it, having commanded many sweeping battles in preparation for the ultimate battle of them all, the 2017 playoffs. So, the writers who vote for the Manager of the Year award have a tough task this year, why not Doc?

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