Winter Meetings interview with Dave Roberts

Winter Meetings interview with Dave Roberts

Q. What do you think of all what you guys have been doing since you guys have been here?

DAVE ROBERTS: You know what, I got in last night and had a good conversation with Clayton in Dallas. You come here, and there's a lot of things going, a lot of balls in the air. It's just nice as a manager to know that we're trying to do the best we can to fill the best ball club possible.

Q. Have you thought about Zach, obviously, going to the Diamondbacks and the void that it now leaves in your starting rotation?

DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, it's definitely a void. You look at Zach and what he's done and any team's better for him, having him on the club, but I think that obviously we're going in a different direction. Wish him well, I guess.

I was looking forward to being on the same club, but that's the nature of this game. I think that we're moving forward and excited about the way -- the direction we're going to go.

Q. Dave, what was the tone of the conversation with Clayton yesterday, and what was his temperature as far as losing Greinke?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think as a player, it's somebody that you're friends with and you're invested in on a personal level. So I think that I can speak to that. So he was disappointed but understands the economic side of things. So obviously, you lose a teammate, but he's excited about the direction this organization is going in.

For me to have an opportunity to spend four hours with him was great for me, was great for him, and kind of talking about my vision for the group with the staff and his. It was a nice little marriage.

Q. How important was it for you to get on the same page with him in particular?

DAVE ROBERTS: It was kind of at the top of the list. You look at getting this opportunity and try to put together the coaching staff, and you look at the players that have meant so much to the organization and obviously perform at Clayton's level, that's kind of an obligation for me and something that I recognize and kind of wanted to build that trust with him.

So definitely, it was very important for me, maybe it was equally as important for him too.

Q. Did you ask him to get rid of Puig?

DAVE ROBERTS: There was some talk about Puig, and they're going to head down to Cuba and do some charity work together. That was encouraging for me. You hear things from the other side. I'm looking forward to, as I said, getting to know Clayton and having a chance to meet Yasiel as well.

Q. Do you know if they'll be roommates on the trip?

DAVE ROBERTS: Fortunately, the way it works, they don't have to be roommates. The state of baseball is in good shape, so they won't be sharing a room together.

Q. How involved have you been here so far? You say you met with Clayton, but how involved have you been in the moves this club has made?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think it's more of just my thoughts on potential acquisitions and players, and these guys, Andrew Farhan and Josh, they're very inclusive. So I think that I understand my role in the organization. It's not to get the final right -- last right of refusal, but then they've been kind of inclusive on things.

Q. What are your thoughts on the reports that Utley and Iwakuma? Any thoughts on that?

DAVE ROBERTS: Obviously, Chase and I went to school at different times at UCLA, and you see the way he's played the game. If that does get done, we're better for it. I like obviously Howie Kendrick and watching what he did and what he brings to the table. You look at Chase Utley, the intangibles, I think he's a special player and can make our team better.

Iwakuma, haven't seen a whole lot, but when he's healthy, he's as good as anything. Top of the rotation guy. From what I hear, he's healthy. We'll see what happens.

Q. Have to brush up on your Japanese a little?

DAVE ROBERTS: I definitely need to brush up on my Japanese. I'm a momma's boy, self-admitted momma's boy. She's fluent in Japanese. Have to get home cooking and go back to mom and go back to Japanese 101.

Q. Do you know how you say we're taking you out of the game?

DAVE ROBERTS: This is how I do. This or this [ hand signs ]. This is universal.

Q. Can you speak to the new additions to your coaching staff?

DAVE ROBERTS: We're trying to finalize. I think we kind of want to get it together before we kind of go there. It's going to be a different group, and it's a group that some of the guys are familiar with with the organization and the group, but it's going to be a group that's positive, comes with energy, and want to be teachers first.

Q. Talking about meeting with Clayton, how are you going to approach kind of going through meeting with most everybody on your roster this winter? And how many will you get to in person versus on the phone?

DAVE ROBERTS: You know what, fortunately, I've got the unlimited minutes plan, so that's perfect. So I've called all over the world and talked to these guys. Talking to all the guys. I've probably reached out to maybe 20 guys so far, and great conversations, numerous conversations. I just kind of want to get to learn these guys more on a different level.

I think that once you get to Spring Training and the season, things happen pretty quickly. So I think it's imperative for me to kind of reach out and take a moment of their time and get to know them a little bit better. As far as in person, there's going to be some guys coming to the stadium in January. As we get closer to Spring Training, guys are dedicating more time at the ballpark, so I'll get in front of them more.

Don't have any plans right now to go visit anyone at their home because I also want to be respectful of their time, their off-season. But there's definitely communication, consistent dialogue for sure.

Q. How much more do you think your roster's going to change between now and opening day?

DAVE ROBERTS: Now and opening day, I wish Andrew and those guys were sitting right here, but I don't expect a ton. This is a group that won the division three years in a row. So I think that we've got a nice core. Obviously, when we lose Zach, that's a big deal, but I don't expect too much turnover.

Q. Dave, even though Zach leaves your team, he stays in the division. How does the National League West shake out in terms of your perspective at this point?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think I've always had a bias towards National League West. Seeing the competition level, it just continues to keep that talent in the division.

You know what I think, real quick, speaking to Zach and his impact on the group, there's a lot of guys that I've talked to that he impacted these guys. Obviously, he's gone now physically and going to be pitching for the Diamondbacks, but I think that what he did for the group and preparation and things like that will continue to resonate with the group. So I think we win in that sense.

But, yeah, with the Diamondbacks, I love watching those guys play. Chip's done a nice job with those guys. They play the game the right way. They're better, obviously, having Zach at the top of their rotation.

The Giants and the Padres and the Rockies always find a way to be tough and competitive. So I have a lot of respect for the division for sure.

Q. What are your thoughts on the possibility of having two closers given the chance that you guys might pick up somebody like Chapman?

DAVE ROBERTS: My thoughts, if this thing does kind of come to fruition, I'm all about trying to get the best group together. I think that, if you talk to the players and the fans, the organization, I think that's the goal, to get the best club you can together and me and the coaching staff to have these guys perform.

I think, if this does happen, that's something I would obviously be excited to have. Potentially, you get two of the best closers back in the rotation -- or pen guys back in the game, guys in the bullpen, sharing the same bullpen, that's exciting.

Q. Is it possibly a toxic situation at all? [ No microphone ]?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think it's just managing things. Again, this is all hypothetical. We don't know. May be a pleasant problem, so we'll see what happens.

Q. How critical do you think it is that you improve the late game bullpen?

DAVE ROBERTS: I've been around teams where you pride yourself on pitching defense and shortening the game and being a bench coach and talking to opposing managers. When you have the threat of lockdown seventh, eighth, ninth inning guys and have the ability to shorten the game, it puts a lot of pressure on the opposition.

For me, I think it's important. I think it's important, and it kind of -- it's tough to manage against teams that can shorten the game like that.

Q. Dave, over the course of the game, you've had multiple roles. Does your perspective on the position of being manager, has that changed? Has the position changed? Do you think it's different to manage these days than before, when you were playing?

DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, I think it's definitely -- it's still managing people. I think at the core that's what managing is in any leadership role. But the game definitely has evolved. I think that obviously with social media, media, players change, people change.

So I think that for me, having the background as a player and doing a lot of different things from media to the front office to now being a coach for six years and having that, kind of seeing that progression and seeing it from a different lens has helped me. But I think at the end of the day it's about trying to make players better and communicating. I don't think that's changed.

Q. Having that background as a player, how much does that inform your conversations with the guys as you're getting to know them and knowing what you would want to hear from a manager, what questions you would want to ask of from a new guy coming in?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think that's some of the things, the questions that I ask myself all the time. When you're dealing with players, where you're praising them, do I praise them too much, when do I praise them, when do I come down on them? And I definitely kind of refer to how I would have wanted things to be kind of put forth to me from managers and coaches.

I think that, at the end of the day, you don't want to forget how hard this game is to play. I think for me, having played and not been a great player but played for quite a bit of time, I think the players can respect that. But I think that, for me, I'll never forget how difficult the game is. But still with that, still challenge guys. I think that we all understand the game's difficult, but we can all try to strive to be better and put in the work to be better.

So I think that, for me, I definitely think back to my playing days on how the message needs to be sent to each individual player, and every player is different. You're going to handle player A one way and player B a different way. So I think that I'm always cognizant of that as well.

Q. Dave, when you talk about being excited about the future here and the plan and everything, how critical is it to keep those young guys that you've heard so much about, whether it's Seager or Urias down the line. How important is it to this orientation?

DAVE ROBERTS: It's very important. These guys, when you start up as a young player and that's all you know, you're kind of invested in the organization, and there's a sense of pride when you're wearing that Dodger uniform because that's all these guys have known.

I think that, for these guys to go out there and develop them and organization that's can develop the system and get guys throughout and have they will perform at the major league level, you're doing something right. It takes a lot of people to do that, from the scouting to development and obviously the major league staff and all that kind of stuff, I think it's very important.

Also, you kind of look at the guys that are already in place. That's one of the things that I think that dialogue from me is the guys that are already in place that have service time, I look at it as responsibility to kind of show these guys and teach these younger players the right way to do things and understand that you don't get ten years of service, it just doesn't happen. There's a right way to do things.

Me, when I was a young player, I had great veteran players that taught me the right way to play games and respect the game and the media and how to handle yourself.

Q. The skills that you bring to the package, is there any particular area that you feel like you had to work real hard on to be ready to manage this team?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think that obviously, from a position player background, I never pitched, and so I think that, once I became a coach, a major league coach, and realized that I wanted to manage, if the opportunity presented itself, I think that's something that I really try to pay extra attention to. So having the opportunity to be alongside Bud Black and Darren Balsley, who I speak very highly of both those men, and I think the industry will echo. We've had lengthy, lengthy conversations, and I credit those guys a lot for their openness to teach me about pitching.

Q. What's the role of advanced stats going to be in your dugout? Are you going to have a binder?

DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, I'm sure we're going to put together something, but I don't want to get too crazy.

I think that it's a lot, but for me, it's a matter of -- I'm familiar with the National League West and the National League, and all of this information talked about is I want as much information as I can get. All this data is good stuff. That's stuff that we kind of prepare beforehand and kind of have an idea of what direction we want to go.

I'll try to keep my binder a little bit more to a minimum, but I'm sure there's going to be plenty of information in the dugout.

Q. Dave, you talked about Zach and his ability to filter down into the players, to increase productivity, that kind of thing. Do you see that happening with the Diamondbacks, his stature, his personality that you saw with the Dodgers filtering down to a new team?

DAVE ROBERTS: Absolutely. I think that there's certain players in the game that do certain things the right way. Players talk. Players -- they're always on their phones. They're kind of communicating. What do you got on this guy? What do you got on this guy? And watching TV and watching how guys do their job.

I think that the impact he made on the roster today, I'm certain he'll have that same impact on those guys over there in Arizona for sure.

Q. Your visit with Clayton was, what, Saturday?

DAVE ROBERTS: It was Sunday. So he was gracious enough to open up his home and had a chance to spend some great time with him.

Q. You guys play ping pong?

DAVE ROBERTS: No, I need to tighten up my ping pong skills. I'll take him in a game of horse, but then my ping pong, my kind of backhand is a little short. I'll work on it. I've heard about his skills.

Q. That's one of the staples of the Spring Training locker room. He's got the ping pong table is right there for him.

DAVE ROBERTS: No, I know. I did the Glendale facility tour, and there's ping pong tables on the major league side, on the minor league side. Went to his house, I see a ping pong table. I kind of -- every time I saw a ping pong table, especially at his house, I changed the subject. I got to prepare. I like to be prepared.

Q. So you're a vintner, right?

DAVE ROBERTS: I am. I own a winery. I don't make the wine, but I've got a nice little brand.

Q. Any ideas about the 2015 vintage?

DAVE ROBERTS: '15 is going to be short. The crop is going to be a lower production. But '12 and '13 were great.

Q. He's trying to get a freebie.

DAVE ROBERTS: I'm going to work on getting you some wine.

Q. Dave, a lot of teams, when they interview managers, they have like some kind of video game or computer simulation of a game for the prospective manager to manage. Did you have something similar?

DAVE ROBERTS: I did. Through this process, we went through some things during the season and also through the division series. I think that, to their dismay, trying to re-envision the division series. So we talked through that, just some of my thoughts. I was familiar with the Mets and obviously the Dodgers, so you kind of go through that and just kind of my thoughts on that. So we did do that, and it was a very thorough process for sure.

Q. Did you manage a full nine-inning game?

DAVE ROBERTS: I did manage a nine-inning game, but fortunately, we had the fast forward. We didn't have commercials and kind of things like that. So we kind of got through that, and it was a little bit more condensed.

Q. So you had to think even faster then, huh?

DAVE ROBERTS: I had to think even faster, yeah. Fortunately, I got through it.

Q. You're sitting here, so I take it you won the game.

DAVE ROBERTS: I guess so. There was a different result. No, we went through that, and it was a good process for me and kind of for them to kind of see me in that seat and have the scouting report going into it, which I was given, and kind of talk through things. So it was good.

Q. Did you start Greinke?

DAVE ROBERTS: I did start Greinke. I didn't hit him third. I hit him ninth.

Q. Which game was it? Was it a playoff game?

DAVE ROBERTS: Just kind of went through the whole division series and obviously some focus on Game 5 and things like that.

Q. Any thoughts about bringing Jimmy Rollins back?

DAVE ROBERTS: You know what, I think anything's a possibility, but I think that we're pretty comfortable with Seager at short.

Q. Dave, you mentioned Utley. Do you feel like he's the answer at second, or is he part of the puzzle at second base?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think that where Chase is at in his career, I don't foresee him logging 600 plate appearances that he's used to getting. So I think that Chase, he's always been a team guy, and I think that that's a conversation that he's earned the right to have that discussion with me, and we'll kind of paint the picture and figure out what direction we go.

I think there's going to be constant communication, David. He's definitely a big part of this, without a doubt. But as far as kind of the number, I really -- and where, I really don't know.

Q. Dave, how can you make up for the loss of Greinke? Do you expect this team will still be the best in the division when the season starts?

DAVE ROBERTS: Yeah, I think that -- how do you make up for the loss of Greinke? I don't think you do. I think that he's such an elite pitcher and baseball player that you do the best you can to make the group the best with what's out there.

So I think that -- do I believe we're going to be the best team? That's the goal. That's the goal. But I think that there's probably three or four other teams that feel the same way. So I think that our job is to go out there and prove that, at the end of the season, that we are. I think that everyone shares that same sentiment from the beginning.

Q. Obviously, there's a lot of pressure with this job, but is there extra pressure with the win now mentality and the past three years of being division champs and not winning a pennant?

DAVE ROBERTS: You know what, no. You know what's funny is I don't see any pressure. It's just a matter of you've got a group of guys that's put in front of you, and mine and the coaching staff's job is to get the best out of them. It's a long process. October is a long ways away. A lot of things can happen.

I think that, for me, it's just about getting better every day. Right now these are things that I've got to kind of address as far as preparing and going into the winter and then towards spring. But once we get down to what I love to do is coach baseball and teach baseball and play baseball, then it's about the day to day, about trying to get better.

I think that, for me, it's not going to be talked about as far as pressure or winning the World Series. It's about getting better every day, and I think with the group we're going to have, feel good about.

Q. Dave, a lot of the managers who get hired for the first time for the most part, they have a direct link to the general manager often for a year. How do you think you've been able to overcome lacking that?

DAVE ROBERTS: I think that, obviously, Andrew's seen me as a player, Farhan's seen me as a player, but I had no previous track record or history with those two guys. I've known Josh, Josh Byrnes somewhat, and we've had some history.

But I think that, honestly, it was a matter of them kind of learning me and talking to people in the game and trying to do some digging on me and having the opportunity to get in front of them, just being true to myself and being honest.

And I think, at the end of the day, I've mentioned to some of you guys, is that you hope there's a fit. But I think, at the end of the day, I was honest with myself and my vision and hoped that it was a marriage. We kind of had the same thoughts and beliefs.

So I wasn't too worried about the history or -- because I think that, for me, you've got to kind of bank on being good and being prepared. So I think that, even for me -- I have history with players that I've been around, but it's not about just getting guys I'm friendly with and familiar with. It's about being good. Right at this point in their careers and this stage for me, and I think I'm going to continue to grow and get better and take their information and kind of want to get better and learn.

But think that they just saw a fit for this club, and there's definitely no perfect fit with anything, I don't believe. But I think that for this club they believed it was the right fit.

Q. Were you saber metrically inclined before, or are you changing your mindset in that regard given the influence from --

DAVE ROBERTS: I don't think there was any change as far as saber metrics for me. It was more of evolving. You look at saber metrics over the last seven, eight years, and it's kind of really started to ramp up. I think over that time, fortunately for me, I've been around the major leagues. So I've kind of seen things, and some teams become more aggressive, some teams a little bit more resistant.

But I've always kind of had the mind to being open and being open minded to change. So I kind of see it. For me, it's not a change for me. It's kind of something that's kind of gradually evolved. I think that things evolve in general anyway.

But I do believe, on that note, just the open mindedness that people got to have, and whether that's staffing, players, that is something I definitely believe in.