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For Dodgers and Dave Roberts, replay challenges this season have been … a challenge

Dave Roberts initially misunderstood the question.

Asked Friday about his team’s struggles with “challenges” this season, the Dodgers’ manager thought it was in reference to his club’s overall performance, which has tapered off in recent weeks.

When it was clarified that the query was instead about replay challenges, Roberts corrected himself with a sigh.

“Oh, God,” he said. “That challenge?”

Roberts had reason to sound exasperated.

Through the first three months of the season, few managers in baseball have been as bad at getting calls overturned as him.

Entering Friday, Roberts had been successful on only seven out of 20 calls, a rate of 35% that ranked 28th out of 32 major league managers (including interims with the Philadelphia Phillies and Angels).

It hadn’t been for a lack of trying either, with Roberts’ 20 challenges tied for fifth most in the majors.

“I’m hoping it starts to even out,” Roberts said. “We’ve been on the short end a lot.”

In years past, Roberts’ use of challenges had been sage. Five times in his first six years, he had a challenge success rate of better than 50%. The only time he didn’t, in 2018, he still got 46.2% of calls overturned.

This year has been a different story.

Not only have the Dodgers struggled to win challenges — Roberts has the final say each time but also relies on input from his dugout staff and the judgment of a two-man back-room team that watches video feeds in real time and calls into the dugout to discuss decisions — but they’ve also utilized them in questionable situations.

On May 11, the Dodgers used their challenge — Major League Baseball allows clubs one per game, though teams retain it if they get the call overturned — in the first inning of a game against Pittsburgh, claiming a Pirates runner hadn’t retouched second base while returning to first base on a flyout.

The Dodgers were wrong, left without a challenge for the rest of the game.

On Monday, they burned their challenge early again, losing it in the second inning on a failed review of a pickoff call.

Sometimes, players’ appeals have led Roberts astray.

On May 21, Mookie Betts implored him to use their challenge after he believed he had evaded two tags in a rundown.

The call stood after video replay appeared to show Betts was indeed tagged out — both times.

On June 15, Justin Turner thought a ball grazed his hand, but the review appeared to clearly show it missed him.

That wasn’t the only recent example of a missed hit-by-pitch review either.

On June 19, the Dodgers had umpires review whether Cleveland Guardians batter Austin Hedges had actually been hit with the bases loaded. The contact seemed clear on the replay.

Then, on Thursday night, in one of the seemingly most egregious examples yet, Roberts lost another challenge when a pitch hit the knob of Chris Taylor’s bat.

Roberts said Taylor believed he got hit. Taylor, however, said he didn’t ask the team to challenge it because he knew it was unlikely to be overturned.

Roberts also admitted he knew the success rate was low. However — even though it was only the fifth inning — he said he was “gonna believe the player and take a shot.”

“It didn’t cost us,” Roberts added, noting there were no other plays he would have needed to challenge the rest of the game.

“But,” he added, “we didn’t win it.”

Such has been the all-too-often result of Dodgers challenges this year, something Roberts blamed on several factors.

He cited MLB’s new 20-second window to initiate a challenge, down from 30 seconds in past seasons, claiming it gave the Dodgers’ two-man video team in the back room less time to get definitive looks.

He pointed to the added difficulty of challenging calls in non-national TV games, when there are fewer camera angles available to both the team and the league’s replay review office in New York.

He also said, at times, he has used the challenge either at the prompting of his players, or with the hope it would give one of them an extra hit.

“I would want a manager to do that for me,” he said.

Not all the Dodgers’ challenges have been bad.

They got a run scored by the Arizona Diamondbacks negated during a game in April after successfully challenging a play at first base.

In their shutout of the New York Mets last month, a diving effort by Taylor in left field was changed from a hit to an out after a review.

And a couple of days later, they were awarded a catcher’s-interference call in the 10th inning of a game that put the potential winning run on base (although they still went on to lose the game).

But most of the time this year, Roberts, his dugout staff and the back-room video team have too often made the wrong snap judgment, challenging calls that in hindsight seemed to have very little chance of ever being changed.

“We’re working through it,” Roberts said. “But ultimately, I make the decision to challenge or not challenge. I haven’t been very good.”

Short hops

Roberts said Betts could return from a rib injury “in the next few days” but still stopped short of providing a date. … Pitcher Ian Gibaut was activated Friday, one day after the Dodgers claimed him off waivers. Justin Bruihl was optioned in a corresponding move.



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