After losing to the Nationals in Game Five of the NLDS last night, the Dodgers will be missing the World Series for the first time since 2016. The heartbreaking nature of Wednesday’s defeat has already led to some speculation among fans and pundits that a change could (or should) be coming to the Dodgers’ dugout, though none seems to be on the way. Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reports that Dave Roberts will indeed return as the team’s manager in 2020, “according to two people with knowledge of the situation.”
Roberts has an outstanding 393-256 record over four seasons as the Dodgers’ skipper, a resume that includes two National League pennants, four consecutive NL West titles, and a 106-56 regular season mark in 2019 that ranks as the winningest season in the Dodgers’ 136-year history. Despite all of this success, however, a World Series championship has remained elusive. L.A. dropped the 2017 Series to the Astros in seven games and then absorbed a five-game loss to the Red Sox in 2018, before making an unexpectedly early exit in this year’s postseason.
There were also whispers about Roberts’ future employment after last year’s Series loss, though the Dodgers exercised their option on his services for 2019 and ultimately signed him to a three-year extension that runs through the 2022 season. While Dodgers ownership certainly has the resources to eat the money owed on three years of a manager’s contract if a change was deemed necessary, that recent long-term commitment made it seem pretty unlikely that Roberts would be fired, despite the controversy over the last 24 hours.
Of course, nothing short of a World Series will ultimately satisfy Los Angeles fans, especially since the most common complaint directed at Roberts (his late-game bullpen management) perhaps reached its apex in Game Five against Washington. Dodgers supporters will forever bemoan the decisions to bring Clayton Kershaw out of the bullpen, and then to leave Joe Kelly on the mound for a second inning of work — just as they’ll always wonder why Roberts removed a dominant Rich Hill after 6 1/3 frames during Game Four of the 2018 Series. Roberts’ heavy focus on platoon switches and lefty-righty matchups have also received criticism, though this would seem like a more specific organizational focus rather than something Roberts is personally responsible for (and, this same flexible roster depth is a major reason the Dodgers have won so many games in the first place).
There are already eight teams looking to hire new managers this offseason, and while there is some debate over which of those jobs is the most attractive, one would imagine the Dodgers’ opening would have immediately zoomed to the top of the list if Roberts had indeed been replaced. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, as part of a subscription-only piece wondering about Roberts’ future with the Dodgers, also made the point that Roberts would surely be a sought-after candidate for one of those eight other open jobs, given his track record and ties to other executives on those manager-needy franchises.