L.A. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is a 'servant-leader' on pace for winningest record

Dave Roberts never planned to be an MLB manager.

He’d had a long, successful career as a player, and was looking forward to spending time with his family and dabbling in sports broadcasting. Instead, Roberts was hired in 2015 by the Los Angeles Dodgers despite zero managerial experience, and only a short stint as a bench coach for the San Diego Padres.

It’s worked out well.

Roberts is leading the best team in baseball — 76-40 through Tuesday, a commanding 18-game lead in the NL West — and in range of owning the best winning percentage for an MLB manager ever. Through 580 games, Roberts has the fourth-best all-time winning percentage (.598) among 324 qualified managers. If the Dodgers keep winning at this pace, Roberts could own the record by the end of next season.

Though he has yet to win a World Series — L.A. has lost in the Series the past two years — it’s a staggering amount of success for Roberts, and the kind of fame that could overwhelm someone. But in an interview this spring with Biola University’s “Think Biblically” podcast, Roberts said his faith in Jesus gives him a perspective on his career.

“I work as hard as I can work. 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,” Roberts said. “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 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. That ability helps me survive in a season where there’s so much noise outside and scrutiny each day. I just don’t know how people under this kind of scrutiny and this pressure would survive without their faith.”

The scrutiny and pressure won’t fade anytime soon. According to Baseball-Reference.com the Dodgers are the most likely team to win the World Series (24.8 percent of 1000 simulations). They’re currently tied with the New York Yankees (74-39) for the best winning percentage in baseball (.655), but the Dodgers own a staggering +182 run differential compared to the Yankees’ +141.

With a killer offense, suffocating defense and some of the best starting pitching in the game, it’s easy to credit Roberts’ success as a coach to the immense talent he has to work with. But creating a clubhouse environment that manages egos, keeps players focused and inspires everyone to give their best is a difficult task.

“There’s no bigger servant that walked the earth than Jesus Christ,” Roberts said. “I kind of pattern my life or my leadership in the sense of being a servant-leader. When you can be the manager of the Dodgers and you can clear off plates for your players and your staff, and do things like that, and serve your coaches and players, I think that that goes a long way. And then it trickles down where everyone else is incentivized to serve others. When you get a bunch of people that are talented, same mind of winning, and are servers, man, you’ve got something pretty special … I just feel blessed and honored every day that I get to call this work.”

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