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Dave Roberts is uniquely qualified to manage Dodgers’ title pressure

ARLINGTON, Texas — How do you help someone coping with the first signs of hair loss?

You put a bald person on the job.

Consider Dave Roberts the perfect bald guy, so to speak, to navigate the Dodgers to the promised land as they trudge through their 32nd year in the desert.

Oh, I’m not here (at Globe Life Field) to tout Roberts’ tactical genius or his connectivity savvy; he has experienced some turbulence in the former category and none in the latter. No, this is about the baseball franchise that faces arguably the most pressure in the entire industry to finally earn a championship parade and just how well-equipped Roberts appears to be to handle that pressure.

“I think it’s just more understanding the great fan bases and what it means to them [to win it all],” Roberts said Friday, before Game 3 of the World Series. “When you take on this job with a team that hasn’t won in a long time, that’s part of it. That comes with the job.

“I take it as the passion and care of the fans. I want it for all of us.”

A speedy outfielder selected by the Tigers in the 28th round of the 1994 amateur draft, Roberts began his big league career with the Indians in 1999, Cleveland’s 51st consecutive season without winning it all. He concluded his run with the Giants in 2008, that franchise’s 54th straight campaign without standing last. The Giants ended their drought two years later, and then again in 2012 and 2014; the Indians are still trying, their 72-year run the longest in any North American professional sport.

Dave Roberts
Dave RobertsGetty Images

In between those stints, Roberts played for the Red Sox in 2004, their 86th try at ending the alleged Curse of the Bambino. The drought ended right there and then in no small part due to Roberts’ ninth-inning steal of second base during American League Championship Series Game 4 against the Yankees, which sparked the historic comeback that culminated in Boston’s World Series victory over the Cardinals.

“I don’t think there could be any more than what we dealt with in Boston,” Roberts said. “That was a lot of burden to inherit.”

Asked whether he thought those collective burdens enabled him to deal with the narrative surrounding the Dodgers, who last won the World Series in 1988 (this marks their 14th postseason appearance since then), Roberts, known to most of his players as “Doc,” said, “I think so.”

“Everybody’s aware of the drought in L.A. The fans are itching for the championship,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said Friday. “We’re working hard with Doc to bring home a championship for the city of L.A.”

Think of those Indians teams in the mid-to-late 1990s that fielded those fearsome lineups — Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and more — yet couldn’t finish the job. Or the Giants’ long run of relevance under Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou continually falling short before they undertook a rebuilding that led them to their mini-dynasty. This game ain’t easy and keeps getting harder. You need every advantage you can find.

No manager will be perfect. Roberts, however, might just possess a set of particular experiences that makes him an optimal guy to appease the good folks of Southern California.

“The way he has trust in the clubhouse, everybody trusts Doc,” Barnes said. “He’s very personable with everybody. We’ve been through the grind with each other.”

Thirty-two years can be quite a grind for a fan base, yet it could be far worse. As the bald guy in this situation, Roberts (who does actually have some hair, writing non-metaphorically) knows.

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