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Plaschke: Dave Roberts hopes title-or-bust Dodgers fans can learn to enjoy the ride

“Ask me in October.”

They are four words that define a culture, four words that turn blessings into a curse, four words that hurt and haunt.

They’ve been repeated everywhere. They’ve been written in this space. Have you heard them? Can you feel them?

Ask a local what they think of this season’s Dodgers, those glorious Dodgers, the winningest team in franchise history, the authors of arguably the most amazing summer ever witnessed in Chavez Ravine.

Ask a local what they think of the 110 victories, the game’s best offense and defense, the Cy Young Award and MVP candidates, the six months of unadulterated greatness.

Then listen for those four words.

“Ask me in October.”

This collective response from fans and chroniclers alike has turned this Dodgers’ autumn into a month of ultimate boom or bust.

If the Dodgers win the World Series, they could be arguably anointed as the best team in baseball history.

If they don’t win the World Series, they could be forever known as one of the biggest disappointments in baseball history.

For many, there is no middle ground here. There is no getting close. There is no claiming lucklessness. There is no medal for trying.

As much as one can cling to the weird memory of the abbreviated 2020 bubble title, one remembers the crushing by the Atlanta Braves, the collapse against the Washington Nationals, the cratering against the Boston Red Sox, the cheating by the Houston Astros, and all those sucker punches by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Over the last decade the Dodgers have won so much, but ultimately failed so often, and so many have understandably become so weary of it all.

Dodgers players watch from the dugout during the ninth inning of their season-ending loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the NLCS last year.

(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

Stop talking about the journey. Quit harping on the grind. You have the best record in baseball? Then act like it. Bring home a full-season championship. Do it finally. Do it now.

Yes, only six of the last 22 teams with the best record in baseball have won titles. The postseason is a crapshoot. The postseason is unfair. None of it matters around here anymore. Be smarter than the crapshoot. Be bigger than unfair.

Los Angeles has loved the Dodgers this season with the largest combined crowds in professional sports. It happens every summer, but if the Dodgers really want to know what many really feel about them?

“Ask me in October.”

The Dodgers understand this attitude. They signed up for it. They have the highest payroll in baseball. They play in a city of champions. This is how it works here. They get it.

But perhaps some feel it diminishes the last 10 years of consistent excellence unmatched in the sport.

Only four teams in baseball history have won more games in a season. They are the first team in baseball history to finish three straight full seasons with at least 106 wins. This season’s run differential of 333 is the highest since the 1939 New York Yankees.

Dating back to 2013, they’re the winningest team in all of baseball. And remember, the last five times they were eliminated, it was by the eventual World Series champions.

Considering this is the greatest run of sustained success in franchise history, at least one Dodger openly wonders, why can’t fans just enjoy the ride?

Dave Roberts, Dodgers manager, voiced this sentiment Sunday morning during an impassioned Dodger Stadium dugout discussion with reporters.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts watches players warm up before a game against the Colorado Rockies.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts watches players warm up before a game against the Colorado Rockies in July.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

“Fans are fans for a reason, they’ve never put on a big league uniform,” Roberts said. “We want to win a championship just as much as they do. If not more, our jobs depend on it. We’re in the grind every single day from Feb.15, every single day.”

Roberts separated the fans into two groups, those who judge the team only by October, and those who appreciate the entire summer.

“So there are fans, some subset that feel that they don’t get interested until the postseason and the season is defined by that. That’s their prerogative,” he said. “There’s another subset of fans that can appreciate what goes into winning, having the season we’re having and understanding that there’s a lot of things that happen that play out in a postseason that are unpredictable … that subset that’s in it with us and really appreciates that this is a great team. And they’re prepared to handle any result.”

This reporter asked Roberts if he wished he ever longed for more unbridled regular-season joy around Chavez Ravine like in Seattle last week when the Mariners made the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “Unfortunately, the world has gone very cynical, which is sad. … Are certain fans, not all, jaded? Absolutely. And [they] don’t realize what it takes, what this team, in particular, has had to overcome, to get to this point.”

Roberts said he wished there was more pure happiness in the moment.

“The sense of gratitude and joy is many times lost in our society, and certainly in sports, it’s at the forefront,” he said, adding, “I wish they certainly would enjoy the ride and know and appreciate what we do, regardless of ultimately if we’re the last team standing.”

If the Dodgers aren’t holding that trophy, Roberts said he’s resigned himself to hearing the catcalls no matter how many cheers preceded them.

“If the Dodgers don’t win this season, there’s a subset that’s going to feel that we choked. We aren’t a good team. It was a lost season,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. That factual narrative isn’t going change for some people. But again, that’s just noise for our guys.”

Roberts actually fed into this noise this spring on “The Dan Patrick Show” by guaranteeing a World Series victory.

“We are winning the World Series in 2022 … we are winning the World Series this year, put it on the record,” Roberts said at the time.

He later modified his claim by saying, “We are winning the World Series if our starting staff stays healthy.”

Yet when Patrick asked him to reaffirm his guarantee, he did so, saying, “I’m putting it out there. I’m putting it in the universe.”

Like it or not, fair or not, the Dodgers universe will have a ready response when questioned about the wisdom of Roberts’ guarantee.

“Ask me in October.”

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