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MLB Playoffs 2019: Third Time Has To Be A Charm For Dave Roberts 

Can the LA Dodgers' perennial World Series skipper really be on the hot seat? 

The past two seasons  Dave Roberts has just missed becoming the second Black manager to win a World Series and the first since Cito Gaston won back to back titles with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992-93. 

In 2017, the Dodgers won 104 games but lost the World Series in seven games to the Houston Astros and MVP George Springer, who killed them at the plate and with some lethal leather.   

In 2018, Roberts won 92 games and led LA back to the World Series against Alex Cora and a buzzsaw known as the Boston Red Sox. It was the first WS matchup between minority managers in MLB history.  

More history was made by a manager of color in that series, but it wasn’t Roberts who would get the credit. Cora stole the show by becoming the first Hispanic manager in history to win the World Series. 

Pioneering History

With a franchise-record 106 wins this season, Roberts has averaged 98 wins a season, since taking over for Don Mattingly in 2016 and when the Dodgers meet the Washington Nationals on Thursday night in Game 1 of the NLDS, it will be the first step towards another crack at an elusive World Series. 

It’s a journey that started when Magic and Co. hired Roberts to lead the Dodgers over a WS hump that the illustrious franchise has failed to clear since 1988. 

 

In 2017, Roberts became the fourth African-American manager to lead a team to the World Series, joining Gaston, Dusty Baker (2002 San Francisco Giants) and Ron Washington (2010 and 2011 Texas Rangers).

He’s also the first World Series manager of Asian descent and the second one to manage in the big leagues, as his mother is Japanese-American. Don Wakamatsu was the first when he became the Seattle Mariners skipper (2009-2010).

In 2016, Roberts and Dusty Baker engaged in the first Black Knight face off in the MLB postseason. Roberts would defeat Baker in the NLDS and then fall to the eventual World Series champ Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. 

“It was special, Roberts said, “I tried not to get out of that isolated moment of the series or the individual game, but the moments that I did take, you would look across the field and see Dusty Baker and a person that I’ve admired since I was a kid. To see what he’s done, and how he’s impacted not only my career but baseball, I really took moments to appreciate that and never take that for granted.”

Wrong Side Of History

With another 100-win season under his belt, Roberts embarks on his third shot at baseball supremacy as a manager. Nothing’s ever easy — especially for the African-American manager —  so after battling for 162 games, Roberts still faces an offseason of uncertainty if he doesn’t close the deal.

No manger competing in these 2019 MLB playoffs has as much pressure on him to win as Roberts, who risks becoming the Marv Levy of MLB. 

Levy lost four Super Bowls in a row with the Bills in the 90s, so Roberts has a way to go to endure such pain, but he is flirting with baseball’s record for all-time World Series ineptitude. On the flip side, he could finally get over the hump and become immortalized in the annals of MLB history. 

There Roberts goes again, sniffing around for some history to immerse himself in. Roberts will have to be at his absolute best because the unfortunate reality is that managers get judged on how many championships they win, not how often they get to the big game. 

Last season, his Dodgers became the first team since the Texas Rangers of 2010 and 2011 to lose back-to-back World Series. Three teams have returned to the World Series a third straight time after losing two in a row, a list that includes the 1909 Detroit Tigers, the 1913 New York Giants and the 1923 New York Yankees. Only the Yankees won it the third time.

Dire State Of Black MLB Managers

Roberts is the lone African-American manager in the sport, which suggests that despite diversity efforts on the player level and league offices, MLB owners still have problems with hiring managers of color and entrusting them with leadership positions.

It’s hard to believe that the problem still exists  — 71 years after Jackie Robinson broke the player color barrier and 43 years after Frank Robinson broke the color barrier for black managers when the Cleveland Indians named him skipper in 1975. 

Robinson was the first full-time manager, but not the first brother to manage a game on an interim basis. 

In all, only 29 Black managers have been hired since Robinson’s arrival in 1975. Since Gastons first World Series championship in 1992, just 11 black men have managed various MLB squads: Don Baylor  Dusty Baker, Jerry Manuel, Davey Lopes, Lloyd McClendon, Jerry Royster, Willie Randolph, Cecil Cooper, Ron Washington, Bo Porter, Dave Roberts.

The Pressure To Win

It’s 2018, but Roberts’ presence as a Black manager is still a significant storyline, along with the franchise’s quest to bring another championship home on the 31-year anniversary of the Dodgers winning in 1988. It was the bravery of Kirk Gibson and bravado of manager Tommy Lasorda that won that chip. 

Lasorda told Dave Roberts before Game 7 of the 2017 World Series that, until Roberts wins a ring he hasn’t done a thing. 

Roberts has probably suffered nightmares about that rant — which also happens to be one of the biggest jinx’s in sports history.  At the time, he handled those harsh words of encouragement with the same class that he approaches his craft and handles being the lone brother managing in the sport. 

His latest run for the ring starts with three wins over the Washington Nationals in the 5-game NLDS and then a meeting against the multi-talented St. Louis Cardinals or the young gunning Atlanta Braves led by Ronald Acuna Jr.  

 

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