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Roberts focuses on big picture during streak

MLB.com @TracyRingolsby

In the spring of 2016, Dave Roberts, the new manager of the Dodgers, knew his challenge was changing a clubhouse mentality if the club was going to shed that underachiever tag that has been given to a franchise that has gone 29 years without getting to a World Series, much less winning it.

So, amid a session with a motivational speaker who was brought in to address the team, Roberts was the volunteer, who laid on a bed of bricks and had a giant block placed on his chest, which was shattered with a sledgehammer.

In the spring of 2016, Dave Roberts, the new manager of the Dodgers, knew his challenge was changing a clubhouse mentality if the club was going to shed that underachiever tag that has been given to a franchise that has gone 29 years without getting to a World Series, much less winning it.

So, amid a session with a motivational speaker who was brought in to address the team, Roberts was the volunteer, who laid on a bed of bricks and had a giant block placed on his chest, which was shattered with a sledgehammer.

"I was showing complete trust in a person I just met five minutes earlier," Roberts explained.

Roberts was looking for that missing ingredient on why a franchise that is considered one of the game's elite has not been able to hang with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox and Giants when the postseason rolls around.

The Dodgers have faced futility for nearly three decades.

They stunned the Oakland A's in the 1988 World Series, well-remembered for Kirk Gibson's limp-off home run in Game 1 that helped send the Dodgers to a world championship.

It was the sixth world championship and 18th World Series appearance in franchise history.

It, however, was also the last world championship and last World Series appearances for the Dodgers.

And that eats at the franchise.

It's not like the Dodgers have faded into oblivion. They are still one of the game's strongest brands.

In the last 29 seasons they have, after all, only had five losing seasons. They have been to the postseason 10 times, second among NL teams to the Braves (17). The Braves, though, have advanced to the World Series five times and did win a world championship. Of course the cynics have been critical of the fact the Braves only won one world championship, which underscores the image of failure that the Dodgers have to battle.

The Dodgers have a .529 winning percentage since the start of the 1989 season, which is third in the NL, behind only the Braves (.551) and Cardinals (.535). The Giants are the only other NL team with a winning composite record (.521) over that stretch.

But there aren't any world championship banners that have been hung at Dodger Stadium since 1988.

It is not that the baseball world hasn't expected more.

Think about it. Since that World Series win in 1988, the Dodgers have made nine postseason appearances. Despite that, Roberts, who led them to the NL West title in his first year as manager a year ago, is the only Dodger to win the National League Manager of the Year Award since Tommy Lasorda in 1988.

They have had only one player claim a Most Valuable Player Award, left-hander Clayton Kershaw in 2014, and he has accounted for three of the four Cy Young Awards the Dodgers have earned in the last 29 years.

Only five teams currently have a longer World Series drought than the Dodgers. The Mariners and Expos/Nationals franchises have never been to a World Series since their creation out of expansion. The Pirates last appeared in 1979, the Brewers in 1982, and the Orioles in 1983.

Four expansion teams have been added. All of them have been to the World Series. Arizona, created out of expansion in 1998, won a world championship in 2001. The Marlins, a product of expansion in 1993, won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. The Rockies lost to the Red Sox in the 2007 World Series, and the Rays, who joined the American League when the D-backs were added to the NL, lost to the Phillies in 2008.

The Dodgers? Well, in those nine postseasons they have played a total of 48 games, but it hasn't been enough to get them into the World Series.

They have been eliminated in the National League Championship Series three times, and the Division Series six times. What's more, in losing those nine postseason series, the Dodgers have taken the series to the limit just once -- losing the NLDS in five games to the Mets in 2015.

And that hasn't been lost on Roberts.

The Dodgers open the four-game Freeway Series against the Angels Monday night having won their last 10 games and 16 of their last 17. That has helped them move to the top of the NL West, but they also carry the best record in the NL (51-26) and are just one game behind the Astros, who have the best record in the Majors.

"People talk about how hitting is contagious, well, winning is contagious," Roberts said in the aftermath of a weekend sweep of the Rockies. "There is certainly a vibe, a mentality that we're going to win each day, regardless of who takes the mound or what the circumstance, we are not getting down."

That's nice, but Roberts knows it's not enough, not to satisfy the Dodgers, and their fans.

They need to be hosting the final celebration of the postseason to be able to enjoy what they accomplish.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers