In Dave Roberts’ first four years as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he led the squad to win its division each year, and to the World Series twice. Yet, for a franchise that hadn’t won a World Series since 1988, his performance was often viewed as not good enough.
In his fifth year at the helm, Roberts led the Dodgers back to the World Series in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and they secured the championship Tuesday night, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in six games. Now, he can rightly be considered among the best managers in the game.
His .614 regular-season winning percentage (436-274) ranks third all time behind Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy and current Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who are tied for first at .615. His 436 wins rank seventh in franchise history, but with a full season next year, Roberts would likely move into fifth. Since the start of the 2016 season, when he took over the Dodgers, no other manager has collected more regular-season victories
With the World Series win, Roberts becomes the first manager of Asian heritage to win the World Series (his mother is Japanese American; he was born in Naha, Japan). And he’s the third non-white skipper in a row to win the World Series, after Alex Cora and Davey Martinez. Roberts, whose father is African American, is the Dodgers’ first Black manager.
Despite the craziness of 2020, Roberts said in his postgame press conference Tuesday that he knew this was the year the Dodgers would end the drought.
“I just had a crazy feeling that came to fruition,” he said. “It’s just a special group of players, organization, all that we’ve overcome, I just knew that we weren’t going to be denied this year.”
As happy as Roberts was for his players, they were just as happy for him. They’d seen and heard the criticism their manager had received for not winning a championship, and often times tried to take the blame instead. They stood behind him and bought into the culture he brought to the clubhouse when he was hired.
And the players have been impacted by his faith, because Roberts says he lives boldly for Christ. Prior to the 2019 season, he discussed his faith with the “Think Biblically” podcast hosted by Scott Rae, a professor with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, near Los Angeles.
“My faith has impacted the clubhouse because I live my life a certain way,” Roberts said. “There’s no question that I’m a believer. I can quite honestly say I live that the way I should, and I’m bold about that. But I am respectful of the profession and the job that guys have to do. So there’s a couple layers: number one, people knowing who I am inside and out, and I am consistent with that, and being open to listening and leading and trying to do things the right way. I think that people see Christ through me, and that’s sort of what we want to create in the clubhouse.”
During the interview, Roberts was asked how his faith has made a difference in his role as a manger.
“Well, as a baseball fan, which I am, as a former player, as a coach where every game means something and it impacts people, my faith plays into this because I work as hard as I can work,” he said. “I prepare as well as I can prepare. But, at the end of the day, I feel that if I live my life and prepare the way and compete the way that Christ wants me to compete, I’ll live with any result.
“I don’t take it lightly in the sense that I don’t care as much as the next person, because I do. But I do feel that I’m here for a greater purpose, and I do have a platform to share my faith and to make the men around me better people and see Christ in me. If their time comes that they get to know the Lord, great. I do have a job to do, and that’s that I work for the Dodgers. But I think that it gives me a really good peace where I have anxiety or stress, frustration, and I put it on God. I really do.”
Roberts said he gave his life to Christ in 1996. Up until that point, baseball was his god and he thought just being a good person was sufficient. But he noticed something different about certain people around him, and came to realize they were all believers.
“Ultimately, I gave my heart and soul to Christ,” he said. “Then I went through the period of, ‘Man, I’m on fire and everything’s going to be perfect. All those demons that I had and trials were going to be gone.’ And I quickly learned that wasn’t the case … It’s been rocky. It hasn’t been perfect, the way I’ve lived as far as temptations, priorities get away, and I don’t keep God at my center. I didn’t keep God at my center. It’s a growth period.
“I will say that it’s taken me a long time to really accept the fact that there’s no perfect Christians and everyone has their own individual walk. As long as we’re getting closer to God every single day, that’s what we strive for.”