- - Thursday, June 29, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

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.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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