SPORTS DIGEST: All Dave Roberts does for Dodgers is win ball games

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By Don Wanlass

Contributing Writer

As manager of the Dodgers, Dave Roberts gets more than his share of criticism. It comes with the territory.

He doesn’t let his starting pitchers pitch deep into games, he uses the bullpen ineffectively, he platoons too much, he plays Austin Barnes too much. The list could go on and on.

Dodgers fans don’t know how well they have it. 

Roberts is now in his eighth year managing the Dodgers. The Dodgers won six National League West titles in his first seven years. The year they didn’t win the title — 2021 — the Dodgers won 106 games and finished a game behind the Giants.

They have played in the World Series three times since Roberts became manager after not making the series for 29 years. But their one World Series title in 2020 is sneered at by many because it came during the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

In his seven-plus season, Roberts has won 707 games and posted a .627 winning percentage — the best in Major League history. Joe McCarthy, who managed the Yankees to seven World Series titles in the 1930s and 40s, is the only manager close to Roberts with a .615 winning percentage.

You think Tommy Lasorda was better? He won only 52.6% of his games. Walt Alston, who preceded Lasorda, won 55.8% of his games. 

Joe Torre, who managed the Dodgers from 2008-10 and guided the Yankees to four World Series wins in 12 seasons, has a .538 winning percentage.

So give Roberts some credit. Sure, he has been lucky enough to have good players to manage. The Dodgers always have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, they have a solid organization that drafts well, develops young players well and is always ready, willing and able to make deals to acquire players to fill holes when necessary.

Not every team can say that. Ask Angels fans.

After a lackluster start the first two and a half months of this season, the Dodgers have won 16 of their last 22 games and are two games ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

They’ve done this despite having all five members of their starting rotation at the start of the season appearing on the injured list at least once this season. They lost their starting shortstop, Gavin Lux, to a knee injury in spring training. And they had to replace three other key members of last year’s lineup — Justin Turner, Trea Turner and Cody Bellinger — who they lost to free agency.

Yet, Roberts keeps winning. He’s winning now with three rookies — Bobby Miller, Emmet Sheehan and Michael Grove — in the starting rotation.

Yes, the Dodgers are built to win. They have two of the best players in the game in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. Catcher Will Smith and designated hitter J.D. Martinez joined them on the all-star team.

But other teams have multiple superstars that aren’t performing as well as the Dodgers.

The San Diego Padres have loaded up on stars like Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto and Xander Bogaerts. But they trail the Dodgers by 10 ½ games in the standings and are 7 ½ games back in the wild card race.

The New York Mets handed $40 million a year contracts to aging pitchers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in the off-season. They are 17 ½ games behind Atlanta in the National League East and 8 games out of the wild card race.

Down the freeway, the Angels have two of the best players in the game in Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2014.

Roberts drives me nuts at times. On July 16, a 2-1 loss against the Mets, he brought in Brusdar Graterol with two outs in the fifth inning. Graterol made one pitch to get out of the inning.

When the sixth inning started, Ryan Brasier was on the mound instead of Graterol. 

In the eighth inning, Alex Vesia required only four pitches to get three outs. In a game that was headed for extra innings, Vesia should have been brought out to start the ninth inning.

Instead, Roberts brought in his best relief pitcher, Evan Phillips. In the 10th, Roberts was stuck with rookie reliever Nick Robertson, who gave up the winning run. He could have juggled his bullpen better, but didn’t. 

Of course, if the Dodgers hitters had done better than go 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position the bullpen would have been a moot point.

The Aug. 1 trade deadline is looming and the Dodgers need to make a few moves to solidify the roster for the playoff push. They need at least one more starting pitcher, another solid, experienced arm in the bullpen and a right-handed hitting outfielder.

Andrew Friedman and the rest of the front office have proven adept at making the necessary moves to strengthen the roster each year. And Roberts will then guide those players to another postseason, just like he does every year.

TRAINING CAMP: For all you professional football junkies, those three words you long to hear — “training camp opens” — is almost here.

The Chargers open their camp July 26 at the Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa. Their first preseason game is Aug. 12 at SoFi Stadium against the Rams.

The Rams open camp July 29 in Irvine, hoping to bounce back from last year’s dreadful 5-12 season.

The Rams were plagued by injuries last year to their three best players: defensive tackle Aaron Donald, quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

They have lost their best defensive back, Jalen Ramsey, and best linebacker, Bobby Wagner, due to salary cap constraints.

Yet, head coach Sean McVay is optimistic that things can turn around this year. Of course, every NFL team is optimistic in July.

If Stafford is healthy, the Rams will have an edge on every team in the NFC Western Division — the best quarterback. 

Arizona may be tanking in hopes of winning the Caleb Williams sweepstakes in next April’s draft.

The Seattle Seahawks had a surprisingly good season last year, but Geno Smith will wake up this September and remember he is Geno Smith and won’t have the success he had last year.

That leaves the San Francisco 49ers as the Rams key obstacle in the division. Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers head coach, seems to know what it takes to beat McVay, but he may have an unsettled quarterback situation, too.

Brock Purdy, the sixth-round draft pick who went 7-0 after Jimmy Garappolo got hurt, is still recovering from offseason elbow surgery and might miss the start of the season. That could give former USC quarterback Sam Darnold another shot to establish himself as an NFL quarterback.

If that happens, the Rams might have a chance to sneak off with the division, but a lot can happen between now and Sept. 10, when the season begins with the Rams facing Seattle on the road.

The Chargers have a tougher obstacle ahead of them than the Rams do. They play in the same division with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Still, the Chargers figure to be better than last year’s team. The Chargers were 10-7 last season, which qualified them for a wild card game. 

They jumped out to a 27-0 second quarter lead against Jacksonville on wild card weekend, only to give the game away in the second half.

A 31-30 loss was not the way head coach Brandon Staley wanted that season to end and the third-year coach might find himself on the hot seat if the Chargers don’t make it farther this season.

The AFC Western Division welcomes new head coach Sean Payton to the Denver Broncos to team with quarterback Russell Wilson to give Staley one more thing to worry about, but the Chargers have some solid players, if they can keep them healthy.

End Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James anchor the defense. Offensively, Justin Herbert is one of the fine young quarterbacks in the league. He is surrounded by talented playmakers like running back Austin Ekeler and receiver Keenan Allen.

The Chargers open the season at home against the Miami Dolphins Sept. 10. 

WEEKEND HIGHLIGHTS: There will be some good sports to watch this weekend from opposite ends of the world.

The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team opens World Cup play July 21 from Auckland, New Zealand. The U.S. faces Vietnam in Group E action at 6 p.m. local time. The second game is against Netherlands July 26 with group play wrapping up against Portugal Aug. 1.

The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout round, which starts Aug. 4.

The U.S. is one of the favorites in the tournament, with a blend of veterans and young talents. Forwards Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are among the veteran leaders of the U.S. team while 18-year-old Southern California native Alyssa Thompson and Trinity Rodman, daughter of former NBA player Dennis Rodman, are part of the young talent the U.S. team is introducing to the world this year.

Thousands of miles away, in Liverpool, England, the British Open gets underway July 20 at the Royal Liverpool Golf Course. The British Open — or simply The Open as the Brits call it — is always an interesting tournament because of the weather and the old-fashioned golf courses. 

You have to wake up early to watch. Coverage begins at 4 a.m. on the USA Network July 20 and 21. Coverage switches to NBC July 22 and 23 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Rory McIlroy, who birdied the last two holes July 16 to win the Scottish Open, is among the favorites to win the tournament.


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