The National League Manger of the Year Award ballot sits on my desk — but not for long.
Anyone wanting to dispute my vote for Dave Roberts?
Didn’t think so.
Chicago Cubs fans have a legitimate claim for their guy, Joe Maddon. The innovative and motivating Maddon has directed the Cubs to the playoffs and their best record since Old Style was New Style.
That’s a Midwestern beer, my friends, and did Roberts get all the celebratory suds and champagne out of his hair yet?
Roberts, of Cardiff, rolled into town this week with a crown. For the fourth straight year, the Dodgers are the NL West champions. But for the first time, it was earned by a rookie manager.
In a Dodgers season known for the iconic Vin Scully bidding everyone good bye, Roberts had everybody at hello.
“His energy is infectious and he has the rare ability to make a genuine connection with every person he comes across,” Dodgers president Andrew Friedman said. “We feel fully confident that he will effectively lead our team in pursuit of its ultimate goal — bringing a world championship back to the city of Los Angeles.”
That’s so 1988, but the challenge Roberts, 44, is asked to conquer.
In Sunday’s postgame scrum was Roberts, wearing a huge smile as the champagne seeped into his eyes.
“You got to let it burn,’’ Roberts said of the sting.
Roberts, aching to be a manager, was stung during the offseason.
The Padres, where he was Bud Black’s bench coach for two years, had an opening. When Roberts knocked on their door, no one answered.
Roberts recanted his Padres faith and ceased pestering them for an interview.
“When I made the decision to cut ties with the Padres I thought that was the best thing for me,’’ said Roberts, a San Diego Hall of Champions member. “It was kind of a leap-of-faith, bet-on-yourself-type thing.’’
The upbeat Roberts rolled the dice with the Seattle Mariners. But he was runner-up to Scott Servais.
“I was prepared for it not to happen,’’ Roberts said.
Roberts’ phone grew quiet. The Dodgers had a void at manager, but Gape Kapler, a close colleague of Friedman’s, and Black, of Rancho Santa Fe, were candidates.
But Roberts talked his way into the Dodgers offices.
It wasn’t that different from when the former Rancho Buena Vista star convinced UCLA baseball coach Gary Adams to let him walk-on with the Bruins.
The Dodgers went with the unproven Roberts and he’s still pinching himself.
“Obviously for me to land with the Dodgers in this capacity, like I’ve said before, this is a dream job,’’ he said. “I couldn’t be happier.’’
His glee is matched by mine to scribble his name as the NL’s top skipper. Roberts, while backed by the financial wherewithal of the Dodgers, had to piece together a fluid roster.
Clayton Kershaw, the planet’s best pitcher, missed two months. When Kershaw’s back revolted, the Dodgers were well behind the first-place San Francisco Giants.
Roberts reeled in S.F., but only because Roberts blended an influx of fresh faces with veterans.
The Dodgers used a franchise-record 55 players this season. Roberts deployed 31 pitchers, which included 15 different starters.
Next man up? The 28 Dodgers to land on the disabled list is the most in the majors in 30 years.
But Roberts’ steady hand helped the Dodgers navigate the choppy seas.
“I’ve loved every bit of it, and every day has been a challenge but a lot of fun,’’ Roberts said. “I’ve learned a lot. I’m just excited for the coaches, the players, the city. It’s already been a winning club — they’d won the division three years in a row — but the way we’ve grown as a team this year, it’s pretty special.’’
Adrian Gonzalez, another former Padre, summed it up: “We used to out-talent teams, but this year we out-played them.’’
With Roberts pulling the right levers.
“If you can play a certain brand of baseball and commit for nine innings, play every pitch — that’s why when we were 8 1/2 games down there was no panic, there was no worry on our team,’’ Roberts said. “And we continued to play that brand of baseball, so I was never concerned about the win-loss.’’
Just like I’m not fretting picking Roberts over Maddon.
Follow Jay Paris on Twitter at jparis_sports. Read his new book, “Game of My Life San Diego Chargers.”
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports