It's a storyline that we've heard time and time again; the Los Angeles Dodgers are the best team in the regular season, they are the odds on favourite to at the very least be the NL representative in the World Series, and then they bow out tragically before reaching their expectations.
Don't get me wrong, I hate the Dodgers and I love it every single year. But if you're a Dodgers fan, you have to be sick of being let down year after year after year by something even more heartbreaking than the previous let down. This trend is going to continue until management can finally pinpoint the true issue with this team... their manager.
Dave Roberts just finished his fourth season as the Dodgers manager, and looking strictly at his regular season numbers, you would think that he's done a great job. The team is 393-256 during his tenure there, good for a .606 win percentage and four straight division titles. Realistically though, you could let that team manage itself and it would probably still end up winning the division every year.
Where managers really show their worth is when it comes down to crunch time in the Postseason. In those moments, Dave Roberts has been an absolute trainwreck. For having a roster like he does, that's saying a lot. This year alone he could basically throw anyone in any position and save for two or three players, they looked like naturals in their position. It should've been easy to succeed... just play your hot hands and let the runs pile up.
The one element that Roberts has shown he can not figure out time and time again, is how to manage a pitching staff in the postseason. This latest loss is easy to pull from as it's still fresh in the minds of all baseball fans so I'll start there.
Yes, hindsight is always 20/20 so it's easy to look back and say Roberts made a mistake using Clayton Kershaw the way he did, but recent history should've shown exactly why it was a bad plan.
I am strongly against using starters out of the bullpen in any game before you reach the finals given the fact that a, these guys are uncomfortable with the situation they are in, and b, it ruins your rotation going forward if you do end up winning the game. To make matters worse for Roberts and the Dodgers, the starter they decided to go with was Kershaw.
While Kershaw is easily a top three pitcher of this generation and probably a first ballot hall of famer, it is no mystery that his postseason performances have been a dumpster fire to say the least. He is a career 9-11 pitcher in the postseason with an elevated 4.43 ERA in 158.1 innings. His strikeout numbers are there, with his K/9 sitting at 9.7 (identical to his career regular season number) so he has been able to baffle hitters. The problem with Kershaw lies with his inability to get the big outs in the postseason.
Countless times the ball gets handed to Kersh with the game on the line just to see him give up a huge back-breaking hit to sink the Dodgers season. Whether it was the back to back homers against the Nationals this season to blow the 3-1 lead, or giving up three home runs in a do or die game against the Red Sox last year, or countless other gut-wrenching moments, Clayton Kershaw hasn't been able to get it done.
Yet, here we are. Another opportunity to win a game and Dave Roberts is gambling with using a starter once again. Meanwhile, you have Joe Kelly and Kenley Jansen sitting down there in your bullpen waiting for this exact moment. I understand that hindsight is always 20/20, but common sense would've told you before he made the decision that you're better off choosing one of the better relievers in the game as opposed to a starter that has consistently struggled to get it done.
The frightening thing for me, and what should be for all Dodgers fans, is that management seemingly fails to notice it. I don't know if they are blinded by regular season success, or they just think their little bit of success in the postseason proves that they can do it, but this team has full confidence in Dave Roberts managing this team. You would think after blowing it in numerous postseasons in which they were the favourite, you would at least consider making some sort of change on the bench.
Is that what the Dodgers are even considering? Of course not. It took what felt like 30 seconds for them to publicly endorse Roberts and confirm that they will have him back next year. I'm not saying ax him this second, but maybe take some time to find the root of the problem before you make any sort of decisions.
But hey, as I've previously mentioned, I really don't like this team, so seeing them continuously fail the exact same way kinda gives me life. If you're a Dodgers fan, I'm sorry that you have to deal with this, but for the rest of us, at least you'll always know where not to put your money.