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Dave Roberts Forgets He Manages the Dodgers, Overthinks His Way to Game 2 Loss

It isn’t hard to figure out what Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was thinking Wednesday night when he single-handedly blew Game 2 of the World Series. What’s hard to understand is WHY he was thinking at all.

Sports can be pretty simple really. And they keep getting simpler. If you have your foot on your opponent’s throat, you do one thing: step. Also, if you bring the biggest gun, don’t get into a knife fight.

Roberts out-thought himself, and the Dodgers lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 to even the series at one-game apiece. The Dodgers are a much better team than the Rays, and they aren’t going to lose this World Series unless Roberts keeps his thinking cap on.

Roberts had his best pitcher, Walker Buehler, rested and ready to go. But instead, he did what the small-market, little-engine-that-could Rays do out of necessity at times because they don’t have the money to fill a roster with stars. He used a combo of pitchers a few batters at a time to try to get through an entire game. He did that presumably to get Buehler extra rest. Maybe he thought he could sneak out a 2-0 series lead and be in position to all-but put the Series away in Game 3.

Bad move. Just play one game at a time, Dave. The Dodgers do have the money, do have the stars. The Rays can’t hit. The Dodgers have Buehler. And a 2-0 lead would’ve been commanding.

This is not that hard.

But really, the bigger issue is why he made any decision at all. Baseball, much like basketball, has become incredibly dumbed-down. The game is boring. It’s not just baseball either. Excessive analytics are either ruining sports or, more likely, exposing them. 

“Our competition committee is studying, giving a lot of consideration. . . ‘’ MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told FOX in a pre-game interview. We “need more action in the game.’’

No kidding. 

In the NBA, the whole game is now down to running to the corners, standing behind the three-point line and waiting for someone to throw you the ball. Analytics apparently say that’s the only shot worth taking.

In baseball, the number geeks have reduced things to waiting for home runs. That’s it. No strategy necessary. It’s all or nothing.

This is a big part of why the World Series got record-low TV ratings in Game 1, with fewer than 10 million people watching. Most sports ratings are suffering now for all sorts of reasons, during a pandemic on a screwed up schedule with players spending too much time pushing social justice messages. The NBA couldn’t even draw an audience despite having LeBron James, who apparently isn’t the golden ticket afterall.

But a dumbed-down, boring style of play is a big issue. I wrote about it for OutKick recently, with former NBA coach Doug Collins saying that “most every team plays the same way now.’’ He also said the NBA is like a video game. “When you watch the game it’s a 3, a layup or a free throw.

“If you watch a baseball game today, you see how many times a ball isn’t put into play. You walk, strike out or hit a home run now and that’s it.’’

Coming into Game 2, the Rays had scored 72 percent of their postseason runs on home runs. In baseball, they don’t take chances anymore with stolen bases, sacrifice bunts, stuff like that. 

Baseball is so short on action that social media was buzzing after Game 1 because Dodgers’ Mookie Betts actually stole two bases in the same inning.

On Tuesday, Tampa’s Brandon Lowe hit two homers, the second of which gave Tampa a 5-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Roberts took starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin out of the game after just four outs. He then used four pitchers in the first five innings.

Too much thinking. If the Dodgers want to take advantage of their dominant roster and win their first World Series since 1988 — a different era, when manager Tommy LaSorda was going on hunches — their fans can hope Roberts is thinking up a new strategy now.

Or better yet, that he’s not.

Written by Greg Couch

Greg earned the 2007 Peter Lisagor Award as the best sports columnist in the Chicagoland area for his work with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a college football writer in 1997 before becoming a general columnist in 2003. He also won a Lisagor in 2016 for his commentary in RollingStone.com and The Guardian.

Couch penned articles and columns for CNN.com/Bleacher Report, AOL Fanhouse, and The Sporting News and contributed as a writer and on-air analyst for FoxSports.com and Fox Sports 1 TV. In his journalistic roles, Couch has covered the grandest stages of tennis from Wimbledon to the Olympics, among numerous national and international sporting spectacles. He also won first place awards from the U.S. Tennis Writers Association for his event coverage and column writing on the sport in 2010.

5 Comments

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  1. I have no idea why he held back Buehler. If Walker is on normal rest he needs to be on the mound! Pitchers are creatures of habit and routine. Between each start they have a routine for rest, throwing pens, running, long toss, etc. If you start jacking around with a hot pitcher’s routine right now you’re going to screw him up. It’s absurd to manage so pitchers get extra rest after a 60 game regular season. They don’t need extra rest, because they haven’t thrown many innings this year! Everyone is rested.

    You’re seeing precisely why LA has come up short repeatedly. Roberts is apparently no great baseball mind or strategist, but has enough talent for 3 teams. He is getting in the way of his own team.

    • It also ignores the possibility of the Rays WINNING a game, as they did last night. As of now, the series is going to a Game 5 at a minimum, and given how the Dodgers played against the Braves (another team they were far superior to on paper ), the safe bet is this series is going to a minimum of 6 games.

      If Buehler pitched last night, he could be used again as early as Game 6 on full rest. Now, Buehler could pitch Game 6 on 3 days rest, but that’s doubtful. Especially as Roberts loves analytics. So the Dodgers have taken their ace out of play unless this series goes to 7 games. Who knows, maybe that’s what Roberts is planning on based on the Atlanta series

  2. Two well-worn bromides apply to Mgr. Roberts:
    ** This isn’t his first rodeo.
    ** You can’t fix stupid.

    He’s been known to let his brain get over-heated in the past in these kinds of situations that you describe, Greg. Maybe he’s got the Matt Nagy managerial virus.

  3. Honestly, this world series will be a joke. Mostly empty stadiums, fake noise to make it sound like a real stadium because of covid panic. And these players wear so much protective gear! These guys are dressed like they’re on a Navy Seal team in Afghanistan. Robert’s is a horrible manager and he’s a worse social justice warrior. With his terrible pitching changes that he’s done for years and his stupid infield shifts. The only systemic thing i see is systemically bad coaching by DR.

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