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Dave Roberts lives and breathes baseball every single day and he is one of the stories that makes the 2018 MLB season so worthwhile. It is perhaps a testament to his determined nature that when he was named the interim manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he did not panic, made minor tactical adjustments and became the first manager in the history of the franchise to win the World Series.
So with Roberts’ hire, here is a player whose own life story was shaped by a whole lot of getting stuck behind a bat. In October 2015, Roberts’ career came crashing down. The slugging infielder, who had spent parts of 11 seasons in the majors, was demoted from Triple-A Albuquerque to Double-A Chattanooga after producing the worst offensive season of his career.
While Roberts’ struggles on the field, exacerbated by a broken rib, were playing out in front of home plate, the emergence of 20-year-old infielder Jose Peraza’s prowess helped Roberts seize what might be his final opportunity to stay in the game. Both Roberts and Peraza earned promotions the following season and the lefty-hitting Peraza emerged as a potent hitter with power.
Most conventional thinking said Roberts was done as a player, and while he wasn’t a shoo-in for the team’s opening day coaching job this season, Roberts didn’t think it was far-fetched to think he might once again be in the National League Championship Series. So he kept his head down, studied opposing hitters and refined his entire approach.
Roberts admits it was tough to watch Peraza rack up plate appearances with some teammates seemingly content to hurl themselves at pitchers who have a tendency to swing and miss. It was hard not to think that, if Roberts were put in a similar situation, he would have struggled as well.
As fate would have it, Roberts faced the Dodgers’ potential playoff foe three times in the Fall Classic, but only once went deep and he nearly hit a home run off Madison Bumgarner. On the other hand, Roberts and the Dodgers defense nearly turned an inning-ending double play into a three-run bomb.
By the time Los Angeles took the field for game four on Monday, Roberts’ remarkable turnaround had become an emotional narrative that even the Dodgers’ front office had trouble not acknowledging.
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