He hit .272 and stole 65 bases and the world little noted nor long remembered. But his manager did.“Dave was out there working on his throwing every day before games,” said Tim Torricelli. “And he was an absolute sponge. He asked me questions about everything you think of. So, no, I wasn’t surprised at all when he started managing in the big leagues.”Playing in the big leagues? Many were surprised at that.Roberts did not get there for five more years, at least not for good. General manager Dan Evans and manager Jim Tracy allowed him to shoot for the Dodgers’ centerfield job in 2002 and he took it, and he stole 45 bases and hit .272, but he was 29 then. When he stole the Base Heard Round The World for the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series, he was 32.Roberts never had managed a club before Andrew Friedman hired him to run the Dodgers this year. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Considering that he was named National League Manager of the Year on Tuesday, with 16 first place votes to Joe Maddon’s eight, you’re tempted to say experience is overrated.But every day of Roberts’ long quest, and the ability to trust the existence of light behind the darkness, contributed to 2016.He proved that, in managing or any kind of executive position, who you are is more important than what you know. Maddon and Terry Francona did, too.Roberts, who is the first Dodgers’ manager to win the honor since Tommy Lasorda in 1988, also proved that civility is not the antonym of strength. Three times he removed a starting pitcher from a no-hitter or a perfect game. He took brazen chances in the postseason, when the Dodgers beat Washington in the Division Series and when Clayton Kershaw saved Game 5 for Kenley Jansen. He lived with the hits and misses.The Dodgers won their fewest games (91) since 2012 and gave up their most runs since 2010. Yet they won a fourth straight N.L. West title. Yet they were forced to use 15 starting pitchers and played without Kershaw for nearly two-and-a-half months. They were Dodger Blue Cross for most of the season, and Roberts kept throwing minor league pedestrians like Andrew Toles and Rob Segedin into late-season drama, and everything kept working.A frivolous, fractious clubhouse came together. Professionals like Howie Kendrick, who left his second base comfort zone to play left-field and third base, made that happen. So did Roberts’ knack of reaching out or backing off and knowing when to do either or both.J.P. Howell formerly was the Dodgers main lefthanded setup man. Roberts did not include Howell on the postseason roster. Instead he selected Grant Dayton, who came from the wilderness of the Marlins’ system. Mentally, Howell remained on board.“We’ve tried to come together as a group, every year since I’ve been here,” Howell said, “but we never did. You’d come in and go home. It was like a job. Now it’s a family, and Dave’s the leader of the family.“My favorite managers are the ones who can relate to each individual. There’s egos involved in the clubhouse, different cultures, different people. Dave made it possible for us to police it. None of his opinions are negative.”Roberts is not the first manager to let his position players know when days off are coming, but the Dodgers appreciated it nonetheless.“Twelve more hours to relax,” Howell said. “You know you shut it down. You don’t want to show up and find out you’re not playing and say, hey, last night I could have gone to the movies.“You don’t play for yourself here anymore, you play for Dave. If you have a bad outing, he’s wearing it, too. We could win 5-3 and I could give up 3 runs, and he’s bummed for me. The old-school way would be to say, ‘Just clean it up.’ The way he expresses his opinions, it’s clean.”Roberts’ reward is to absorb more upheaval in 2017. It’s tough to find a good sponge. They don’t make cuddly movies about baseball teams like the 1996 Visalia Oaks.That club was The Walking Dead.The Oaks were pasted together from different organizations, including some Japanese players on loan. They lost 90 of 150 games. They played at three different parks. Somehow four of them found their way to the major leagues. Dave Roberts and Rod Barajas played in World Series.Roberts was an outfielder for Visalia, or wanted to be. He was still fighting the effects of two shoulder operations. For 30 games he was a designated hitter.