Posted on April 30, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Los Angeles Dodgers have scuffled throughout the entire month of April. On Sunday, those struggles prompted manager Dave Roberts to make a bold move. In the 5th inning of Sunday’s loss to the Giants, Roberts benched first baseman Cody Bellinger for what he called a lack of hustle on the part of the young superstar.
With the Dodgers trailing 4-0 in the 5th inning, Bellinger crushed a ball to right-center field. The ball carried to the warning track, bouncing off the outfield wall that read 421 feet. That part of AT&T Park in San Francisco is literally called “Triples Alley.” However, instead of trying to leg out a triple, Bellinger coasted into second base for a double. The inning ended when Bellinger got doubled off second base on a line drive. At that point, Roberts told him he was being taken out of the game.
“I felt there wasn’t hustle on the play — the ball that he hit 421 feet into right-center field, and he cruised into second base,” Roberts explained to reporters after the game. “For me, I just feel he’s too talented of a player, for a team competing every day and grinding. We’ve got a right fielder (Enrique Hernandez) out there who had the chills the day prior, throwing up, and (he’s) diving around out there. For Cody not to be on third base, it’s something we talked about before. I wouldn’t be doing him or the team any service by not acting.”
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Of course, there are two sides to every story. In this case, Bellinger didn’t exactly agree with his manager’s assessment that he wasn’t hustling.
“I took a big swing on a curveball and went down on my knee,” Bellinger said. “We’re down four runs, I’m not trying to make an out on the bases at third and be the first out. That was my reasoning. He saw what he saw, so it’s all good. I’m never going to dog it.”
Bellinger said that Roberts didn’t give him an explanation for why he was coming out of the game. Roberts also wasn’t interested in hearing Bellinger’s side. At first, Bellinger wasn’t sure if he was pulled for only reaching second base or for getting doubled off to end the inning. Roberts, meanwhile, thought it was obvious why he made the choice to pull Bellinger.
“I didn’t need an explanation; I saw it pretty clear,” said Roberts. “We’ve talked about it before. He plays every day, certain expectations in the way we have to play the game. When you don’t abide by that, we’ll get somebody in there that will. It’s pretty simple.”
With Sunday’s loss, the Dodgers are now 12-15 on the season. They are fourth place in the NL West and seven games behind the first-place Diamondbacks. Just a week ago, the Dodgers finished a stretch in which they won seven of eight games. However, they have just one win in their last six games, including a series loss to the Miami Marlins.
To this point in the season, Roberts has not expressed any displeasure with the effort of his team, despite the losing record. But on Sunday, he took the blame for the Dodgers not hustling as they should be.
“If guys aren’t, it’s on me,” said Roberts. “Wins and losses, we’re going to have those. The players and coaches are preparing the right way, but if guys aren’t playing hard – and that’s not just showing up, posting is not playing hard. Playing hard is effort when you’re out there, then that’s on me.”
Roberts believes he made his point by benching Bellinger on Sunday. However, Bellinger insists he was not at fault for not trying to stretch his double into a triple. With four games against the first-place Diamondbacks this week, Roberts can only hope his benching of Bellinger is what the Dodgers need to get moving in the right direction.