Hernández: Why haven't the Dodgers rewarded Dave Roberts with a new contract?

Everyone knows how this will play out — the way it plays out every year.

As the postseason approaches, the whispers will increase in volume. Eventually, they will become the story and all anyone will talk about is how Dave Roberts will be fired if the Dodgers don’t win the World Series.

The intensity of this speculation varies from season to season, depending on how much time Roberts has left on his contract.

In this case, Roberts has one year after this season. The conversations about his future will be louder than usual.

Which is a load of nonsense.

The Dodgers know what they have in Roberts, who now has a nine-season track record of nearly unprecedented success. Even if they falter in October again and upper management wants to deflect blame, there would be no upside in attempting to make him a scapegoat. Just like in the last couple of postseasons, the Dodgers’ likeliest playoff pitfalls will be the obvious holes on the roster, which the majority of fans are smart enough to recognize.

So why haven’t the Dodgers approached Roberts about a new contract? Why would they allow Roberts to be subjected to the kind of scrutiny that weakens him in the eyes of his players? Why would they give oxygen to theories that could only be a distraction for the team?

Just extend his deal already.

Asked if the Dodgers have considered doing that, Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, replied in a text message, “Doc is a big part of what we have accomplished in the past and we look forward to him being a big part of what we will accomplish in the future. Right now, all of our focus and attention are on doing everything we can to win a Championship this season.”

Again, why haven’t the Dodgers approached Roberts about a new contract?

Apart from four Negro League managers, no manager in baseball history has as high of a winning percentage as Roberts, and none of the four won as many games as Roberts.

Roberts is on track to lead the Dodgers to the postseason for the ninth time in nine years, and if that sounds boring, well, maybe it’s time to appreciate boring.

Consider the team’s current situation.

Tyler Glasnow, who is already nearing his career high in innings pitched, was blown up in a recent start. Yoshinobu Yamamoto hasn’t thrown a baseball since he was sidelined because of a shoulder injury. Walker Buehler isn’t even with the team, as he aborted his initial attempt to return from an elbow reconstruction and is working with private coaches in Florida.

Any other World Series contender would have been concerned, if not downright panicking.

The Dodgers? They’re behaving as if nothing’s wrong, even after they were beaten twice in a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This unmistakable calmness around Dodger Stadium shouldn’t be taken for granted — nor should Roberts, who is responsible for shaping this environment.

The Dodgers have made 11 consecutive postseason appearances, but their history didn’t guarantee them being on track to return to the October stage. Look at what’s happening to the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers.

A billion-dollar winter didn’t guarantee the Dodgers any victories, either. Look at what happened to the New York Mets and San Diego Padres after their spending sprees in recent years.

The peaceful atmosphere around the Dodgers obscures a number of events that could have distracted, or even derailed, them. Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara admitted to stealing nearly $17 million from Shohei Ohtani to cover his gambling debts. Gavin Lux played his way out of being the starting shortstop, resulting in Mookie Betts taking over the position. Last month, Betts went down because of a broken hand.

Roberts kept the Dodgers in balance. He did so with his deft management of an old bullpen, by talking confidence into the likes of journeyman reliever Yohan Ramírez, by trusting an unproven starter such as Gavin Stone and by ensuring Miguel Rojas remained engaged enough to be able to step in to play shortstop when Betts became unavailable.

Before one recent game, Roberts accompanied Clayton Kershaw to the outfield, where he watched the sidelined veteran throw on flat ground. On his way back to the bench, Roberts checked in with utilityman Chris Taylor, who was batting .095 in the team’s first 64 games but over .260 since.

Roberts claimed to not be concerned about a new contract, or how the absence of one could shape the public’s perception of him.

“The right answer, or the honest answer, is that I’m focused on this year and winning a championship for the city of Los Angeles and the Dodgers,” Roberts said. “Obviously, my hope is that I could be here. I don’t want to manage anywhere else, so I hope things work out.”

Roberts shouldn’t have to hope. The matter should be resolved as soon as possible.

The last time Roberts was in this position was in 2021, the year after the Dodgers won the World Series. They were eliminated in the National League Championship Series that year after Max Scherzer couldn’t take the mound because the front office implemented an unnecessary plan for him to close out the previous round. Roberts’ competence was called into question as the Dodgers lost control of the series and speculation mounted over his future. The Dodgers ultimately extended his contract before his lame-duck season the next year, but not until late in spring training.

Unless the Dodgers think Roberts isn’t the best option to lead them into the future — and every indication is that he is — there’s no reason for them to let him be scrutinized that way again. It’s disrespectful to Roberts, and it’s counterproductive to winning another championship.

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