Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts knew he was entering a difficult situation when taking over for Don Mattingly in terms of perception about his role in decision-making.
Dave Roberts revealed this week that he knew whoever replaced Don Mattingly as Los Angeles Dodgers manager in 2016 would be called a “puppet” for working under an analytically-minded front office. Hired with no managerial experience, many expected Roberts would fill a new trend among big league managers of being an executor of lineup and strategic decisions made above his head.
"“It was from the very beginning when I took this job and they parted ways with Don Mattingly and Andrew [Friedman] and Farhan [Zaidi] were running the baseball operations. From day one, whoever the manager was, was going to be deemed as a puppet,” Roberts said on the Bleav in Dodgers podcast with Brett Tomko and Josh Luke. “No matter who he was. So now it’s just something that I’ve just got to deal with. I know what’s real, what’s not real. But there’s a narrative that was built from the very beginning.”"
Roberts talked about how every decision he makes is now framed in terms of analytics, so he has come to peace with that. He is always looking for information to inform his decisions, but that doesn’t mean he ignores what his gut is telling him, too.
After Mattingly became the first manager to lead the Dodgers to three consecutive playoff appearances, he was let go following a disappointing 2015 NLDS loss to the New York Mets. While the divorce was cited as “mutual” at the time, people reading between the lines could guess the front office, led by Farhan Zaidi, wanted more control over everyday decisions, a style that didn’t gel with old-school manager, Mattingly, who was subsequently hired by the Miami Marlins.
The Dodgers bend toward analytics was augmented with the hiring of Andrew Friedman from the Tampa Bay Rays. Besides working in Tampa, Friedman had a background in finance, taking an unconventional path to his front office position that traditionally required scouting experience.
Roberts has a 393-256 as manager in Los Angeles, winning the division in each of his four seasons in command. For not the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, he could have been responsible for bringing the franchise their first championship since 1988.
After several questionable decisions in the Dodgers NLDS loss to the Washington Nationals last season, many believed Roberts job could be in jeopardy, but he was ultimately brought back for the 2020 season.
This isn’t the first time–nor will it be the last time–Roberts has answered questions about the role of the front office in his decision-making process. He recently acknowledged on the Off Air podcast with Orel Hershiser and Joe Davis that he considers all of the information brought to him, but at the end of the day, he makes the final decision on lineups.