Dave Roberts announced as new Dodgers manager

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The second really big move of the MLB off-season was just officially announced. USA Today reported the Los Angeles Dodgers have hired a new manager to replace Don Mattingly.

No, it isn’t Gabe Kapler, the Director of Player Development for the Dodgers, the guy everyone expected would get the job, considering his long ties to general manager Andrew Friedman, President of Baseball Operations.

The new hire is Dave Roberts, the former bench coach of the San Diego Padres. Roberts is a former Dodger, playing for the team from 2002-04. The Dodgers traded him to the Boston Red Sox who, in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS, found themselves on the verge of being eliminated by their long time rivals, the New York Yankees.

In the bottom of the ninth, with the Yankees leading the game 1-0 and just three outs from sweeping the Sox, Kevin Millar stepped up to the plate to face the greatest closer in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera. He should have struck out the first baseman, but he didn’t. Rivera walked Millar, who was then promptly replaced by pinch runner Dave Roberts.

After a few throws to first to let Roberts know he understood why Roberts was pinch-running, Rivera sent a perfect pitch to home plate, up and away, perfect for Yankees catcher Jorge Posada to catch and then throw Roberts out at second as he attempted to steal the base.

Dave Roberts stealing second in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS; the New York Yankees vs. the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park, Boston MA (YouTube screenshot)
Dave Roberts stealing second in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS; the New York Yankees vs. the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park, Boston MA (YouTube screenshot)

Shortstop Derek Jeter, one of the greatest at that position, was at second to take Posada’s perfect throw — that turned out to be a fraction of a second too late. Dave Roberts was safe at second. Bill Mueller came up and hit a rocket up the middle, scoring Roberts, tying the game and then in the bottom of the 12th Big Papi, David Ortiz, stepped up to the plate and put Paul Quantrill’s pitch into the visitor’s bullpen to win the game, giving the Boston Red Sox another day on the field, which they didn’t waste.

The Sox went on to win the next three games and head to the World Series, which they won.

All because Dave Roberts wasn’t afraid to try and steal second base with Mariano Rivera on the mound and Derek Jeter covering second.

That is who Dave Roberts is, that is who the owners of the Dodgers just hired as their manager. No one knows if he’ll be a good manager or not, the Padres passed on him when he was sitting on their bench the day they fired Bud Black. Many are calling this Roberts’ second biggest steal of his baseball career.

The rumor is, according to ESPN and others, sources close to Dodgers management said the owners stepped in before Andrew Friedman made the call for Kapler, so they could look for other prospective managers. Roberts was so impressive everyone (and we have to assume that includes Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi) decided Roberts was going to be their guy.

Dave Roberts will be the first Dodgers manager of minority descent, his father being African-American and his mother Japanese. That really shouldn’t be big news in 2015. There are many managers and head coaches throughout professional sports who are non-white. But it’s a first for the Dodgers.

Now the questions swirl about how he will exist with analytics guys like Zaidi and Friedman, how he will deal with Yasiel Puig, if the outfielder doesn’t get traded this winter.

The Dodgers have a manager, a guy who was never a big star — except for that one night in October 2004 — a guy managers could count on to come into a game and be a solid player whenever he did; Roberts is the guy like most other major league baseball players. That’s what management is counting on when Dave Roberts takes the reins at Camelback Ranch in Arizona once Spring Training begins — a manager who can relate to all the players.

Don Mattingly is now with the Miami Marlins, who are in the National League East Division so in April we will see that match up in a four-game series at Dodger Stadium.

There will be an official press conference at Dodger Stadium, Tuesday December 1.

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UPDATE: in a related story, it’s just been reported by Fox Sports Mark McGwire will be heading to the San Diego Padres to be their new bench coach. McGwire spent the last three seasons as the Dodgers hitting coach.

Claudia Gestro contributed to this article; top photo of Dave Roberts via Wikipedia.