Team that de­fined los­ing sud­denly talk­ing a lot

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - THOM LOVERRO

Has it come to this? The Chicago Cubs — the losers of the 20th cen­tury — call­ing the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als chok­ers? Is there any greater in­sult? The Cubs, in town for a se­ries against the Na­tion­als, made their visit to the White House on Wed­nes­day, meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Trump, who un­aware of Wash­ing­ton run­ning away with the Na­tional League East, in­quired about how the Na­tion­als were do­ing this sea­son.

“They’re look­ing pretty good,” one uniden­ti­fied per­son in the Oval Of­fice said, to which An­thony Rizzo re­sponded, “If you want to come, it’s right down the street.”

Cubs owner Tom Rick­etts added, “We’re go­ing to run into th­ese guys in the play­offs. And you’ll come down and see them crum­ble.”

Is that the price Amer­ica has paid for the Chicago Cubs to fi­nally win a World Se­ries? The Cubs be­ing chesty about fold­ing?

Are you kid­ding me? What made it worse was that the Cubs have crum­bled un­der the weight of their World Se­ries rings this sea­son, barely a .500 team. And if those play­offs started to­day, the only way the Cubs would run into the Na­tion­als is if they pur­chased tick­ets to come to a game.

This, though, is the price Wash­ing­ton pays for its rep­u­ta­tion as the cap­i­tal of failed ex­pec­ta­tions.

In the past five sea­sons, the Na­tion­als have con­trib­uted their share to this rep­u­ta­tion with three ex­its in the NL Di­vi­sion Se­ries. But come on,

com­pared to more than 100 years of failed ex­pec­ta­tions by the Chicago Cubs? Are we mov­ing so fast th­ese days that five years of failed ex­pec­ta­tions equals 109 years of fail­ure?

The Na­tion­als have done noth­ing com­pared to the Cubs’ 2003 “Bart­man” fail­ure against the Florida Mar­lins. Wash­ing­ton hasn’t blown a 2-0 lead in a five-game play­off se­ries like the Cubs did against the San Diego Padres in the 1984 NL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries. And the Na­tion­als have yet to lay down in a se­ries like the Cubs did in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Los An­ge­les Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS.

In fact, the Cubs, in their long, rich, tra­di­tion of crum­bling, have been swept in six post­sea­son se­ries. Their proud post­sea­son record is 38 wins and 70 losses.

The Cubs de­fined crum­bling. It was their iden­tity.

So for the owner of this fran­chise to ridicule the short his­tory of Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als fail­ures to sug­gest they’ll crum­ble at the feet of the Cubs is an em­bar­rass­ment — for ev­ery­one, for Rick­etts, for the Cubs and un­for­tu­nately, for the Na­tion­als.

His com­ments speak to more than just Wash­ing­ton’s post­sea­son fail­ures. They draw from the rep­u­ta­tion that this team has had around baseball — the lack of tough­ness. It’s what San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Hudson spoke of be­fore the 2014 NLDS. It’s the residue left over from those in baseball who re­sented Wash­ing­ton shut­ting down Stephen Stras­burg near the end of the 2012 sea­son as part of the team’s Tommy John re­cov­ery plan for the pitcher.

Even though all logic and rea­son dic­tates Stras­burg’s ab­sence had noth­ing to do with their 2012 NLDS loss to the St. Louis Car­di­nals, many in baseball are still an­gry at the un­prece­dented move the team made, and see it as a sym­bol of the fran­chise’s lack of tough­ness.

All this is why Bryce Harper’s mound charge against Hunter Strick­land ear­lier this year — af­ter years of lay­ing down on the field fac­ing such con­fronta­tions — was an im­por­tant mes­sage.

This Na­tion­als team will fight back. This Na­tion­als team isn’t the Chicago Cubs, a team that right now is crum­bling back into its fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory — Loserville.

Af­ter the Cubs won the World Se­ries last year, Rick­etts spoke of that ter­ri­tory. “It was just so im­por­tant for this or­ga­ni­za­tion to put this lov­able loser crap to bed. De­spite all of the suc­cesses of the year, had that game (Game 7) got­ten away from us, the next morn­ing’s sto­ries were go­ing to be all about the Cubs los­ing again. That’s why it is so im­por­tant to get past that put that in the his­tory of the Cubs, and not in the fu­ture. We changed that di­a­logue, and now it’s all a thing of the past.”

He’s right about one thing — no one is talk­ing about the Cubs has lov­able losers any­more. They’re just losers right now, a mas­sive dis­ap­point­ment and fail­ure.

There’s noth­ing lov­able about them now. They are just a team point­ing fin­gers at each other for los­ing, de­mot­ing play­ers for speak­ing out, and a mouthy owner.

Sounds like they are fall­ing apart — crum­bling.

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