LOS ANGELES -- One day in September, amid one of the worst stretches of baseball in Dodgers history, manager Dave Roberts strolled into the dugout at Dodger Stadium for his pregame news conference.
Standing nearby was first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, an injured veteran pretending to be a reporter. Roberts smiled as Gonzalez pitched a question.
"Are you the best manager in the world?" Gonzalez said. "Or the worst manager in the world?"
Roberts heard only the first part. His answer explained how fast the pendulum of public opinion can swing.
"I was about 10 days ago!" Roberts cracked.
The joke by Gonzalez represents a microcosm of the challenges that face Roberts and the Dodgers as they open the playoffs on Friday at Dodger Stadium.
A championship would justify the summer-long hype that trailed the team, exemplified by an already infamous Sports Illustrated cover-line: "Best. Team. Ever?"
An early exit would dredge up region-wide pessimism about the organization, which has fallen short of reaching the World Series in every season since 1988.
These are the stakes. All or nothing. One of the most memorable teams in franchise history or one of the most disappointing.
Roberts, the 45-year-old reigning National League manager of the year, bears the burden of this responsibility. He rode the wave with the rest of his club as they ran away with the National League West, playing the best 50-game stretch since 1912 and going on a 52-9 streak. He crashed with the group in August and September as the team went 1-16, including an 11-game losing streak, the longest by any Dodgers team since 1944.