Dodgers manager Dave Roberts hasn't been on the job for a full week of regular-season play, yet he's already experiencing what it's like to be second-guessed by most everyone who was in attendance or watching along at home.
On Friday night, Roberts made the controversial decision to lift debuting starter Ross Stripling in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game. Stripling was working on a no-hitter, but had just hit the 100-pitch mark while issuing his fourth walk of the night. Roberts elected to insert Chris Hatcher, who promptly allowed a game-tying two-run home run that ended Stripling's stake in history and the decision.
Hence the debate over whether Roberts erred in pulling Stripling when he did.
Here's a vote for no:
The best arguments against Roberts' decision are emotional in nature. It's understandable that many -- including, in all likelihood, those in the Dodgers dugout -- would have liked to have seen Stripling determine his no-hit bid's outcome rather than Roberts or Hatcher. Still, a deeper examination of the situation -- and some stripping away of emotion -- reveals that Roberts made a reasonable, if difficult decision.
Consider the following factors: that it had begun raining; that Stripling had never topped 100 pitches before; that he was only two years removed from Tommy John surgery; that his command was wavering, leading to more pitches elevated and/or out of the zone; that Hatcher was fresh; and so on.
There's also this pivotal revelation to ponder: Roberts' responsibility is not to Stripling or to chasing history, but to the Dodgers and to winning games. Granting Stripling a hall pass to throw as many pitches as he can before giving up a hit seems romantic, but some threshold must exist. What if Stripling had walked the next two batters, or the next four -- would it have been OK to pull him then?
That doesn't mean Roberts' decision was simple to make. He's a rookie skipper, after all, and he could well face internal backlash for not allowing the kid to pitch on. It's especially easy to criticize Roberts' call because of how quickly and decisively it backfired on him -- had Hatcher recorded the next two outs, or held the Giants to a run, then perhaps this is all shrugged off. Instead, the Giants won the game in extra innings, and Stripling has nothing to show for his impressive big-league debut.
Well, nothing aside from the distinction of being the reason many questioned Roberts for the first time.