He struck out three times to cap his storied career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second inning of Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, but 56-year-old Dave Roberts was a happy man after the game. In his third stint as the Dodgers’ manager, he had managed to eliminate his major-league team in front of the people who made the team such a cherished franchise. That pride is all the more remarkable when you consider that Roberts is dealing with a medical issue that is almost never found among baseball lifers: diabetes.
Despite his chronic problems, which have kept him in and out of the hospital this year alone, Roberts was confident heading into Tuesday’s game. He was also buoyed by his health, which kept him from heading to Japan two years ago when the Dodgers opened the season there. When I spoke to him after Game 1, he told me he was so eager to lead the Dodgers again that he went out looking for them a week before the season opener.
All of that coming together seemed to pay off. He was all smiles, even smiling. The problem-dog manager had been cured of diabetes, at least for now. His sightless leg also was improved, and, as the Dodgers’ TV stations (which went dark in August because of retransmission issues) pointed out, his Dodgers jersey has more ink than it did a year ago. “Can you believe that the Dodgers are back in the postseason?” Roberts said with a big grin.
Really, the fans could see Roberts’s lowered expectations as anything but a sign of despair. After all, his players were as good as he had predicted; Clayton Kershaw looked as dominant as ever, and Cody Bellinger was on the verge of fulfilling his star billing. Roberts certainly knew which one to pick before the game. He chose to start Kershaw, the reigning Cy Young Award winner. The rest of the lineup followed his lead.