Dave Roberts rediscovers his love for managing Dodgers

Something is different with Dave Roberts this spring.

His smile is brighter.

His laugh is more soulful.

“Good to see you!” he yelled at me the other day, the sarcastic greeting he’d repeated over and over again over the years, with so much exuberance that I wondered if he really meant what he said this time.

Four months from a deflationary elimination in the Divisional round of the playoffs, Roberts looks and sounds happier than he has ever been in his more than seven years managing the Dodgers.

In the desperation that followed his team’s most recent setback in October, Roberts said he’s rediscovered what drove him.

“I just came to the realization that I just love my job and I love the grind,” he said. “I don’t know if it was an epiphany because I’ve always loved my job and I’ve always said how much I love being the manager of the Dodgers, but that feeling kind of makes sense to me now.”

Positivity has always been one of Roberts’ trademarks, but the more he accomplished, the more he seemed weighed down by expectations and the more he seemed stung by criticism.

In the last few months he has been breaking free from negativity.

He has learned to accept what he has understood conceptually for some time, that not everything is under his control.

He has found renewed excitement at the prospect of leading what he believes to be an essentially new team after several cornerstones of the clubhouse have gone.

“You’re going to like this team,” he said.

The Dodgers don’t have as much proven depth as they have in the past, and the inexperienced pairing of Gavin Lux at shortstop and Miguel Vargas at second base could spell disaster, but Roberts prefers to see the changes as opportunities.

“I’ll always love the players that have been here and moved on,” Roberts said of a group that added Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner and Tyler Anderson over the winter.

Dodgers outfielder Bradley Zimmer, right, speaks with manager Dave Roberts at Camelback Ranch.

Dodgers outfielder Bradley Zimmer (right) speaks with manager Dave Roberts Thursday at Camelback Ranch.

(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

However, Roberts also said, “I hate the word ‘change’, the phrase ‘changing the guard’, but I think mixing things up creates opportunities for guys and roles to change and evolve. If you don’t have a changing of the guard and then fuse new talent, there’s some stuff that gets a little stale. Change is not always a bad thing.”

That’s the hallmark of Roberts, who embraces obstacles with an abundance of positivity.

He endured that way in the minors for eight years before becoming a full-time major league player in his 30s. In doing so, he stole a base for the Boston Red Sox, who staged the greatest comeback in baseball history. That’s how he defeated cancer. And so he will lead a team that has the potential to both win 90+ games and miss the playoffs entirely if either Mookie Betts or Freddie Freeman are sidelined for an extended period.

Roberts mentioned that he was at Kobe Bryant’s last game. He didn’t do this to indicate Bryant scored 60 points in the game, but to paraphrase what the Lakers guard said to the crowd afterwards.

“There will be tough days and good days, bad days, but we can all love the process, love the journey, come out of each day with a positive attitude,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers are by no means underdogs, but they’re not the overwhelming favorites they’ve entered pretty much every season for the past decade.

“I absolutely love that,” he said. “Our boys, even early – I mean, it’s been less than a week – but there’s another benefit. This group has an advantage.”

Roberts said he’s encouraged by how many of his players are volunteering with the Dodgers. JD Martinez and Noah Syndergaard chose to sign with them, Roberts said. Clayton Kershaw chose to return. Austin Barnes opted for a contract extension.

Personally, I’d prefer a can-do attitude to Aaron Judge, but hey, the Dodgers have to make do with what they’ve got.

What they have is a version of Roberts finally comfortable enough in his role to be himself — not just sometimes, but all of the time.

Whether giving advice to a pitcher at a bullpen session or echoing his voice through the administration building at the Dodgers’ spring training complex, Roberts has become a constant source of liveliness. None of the behavior seems artificial. His smile is not forced. He doesn’t choose his words as carefully as he used to when he was concerned about how they might go down in the dressing room. He doesn’t seem weighed down by expectations that the Dodgers will remain World Series or bust.

“It’s a fresh start,” Roberts said.

And it could be the start of a new phase in Roberts’ career that could come at the right time for these particular Dodgers.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2023-02-18/dave-roberts-positive-minded-outlook-season Dave Roberts rediscovers his love for managing Dodgers

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing emma@ustimespost.com.

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