During a visit to The White House in late June, Chicago Cubs’ board member, Todd Ricketts, brother of the owner, Tom Ricketts, whose team was in the midst of splitting a four-game set in the nation’s capital, responded to a question about how the Washington Nationals were doing this season by offering a prediction for a potential postseason matchup.
“We’re going to run into these guys in the playoffs,” Ricketts said, “and you’ll come down and you’ll see them crumble.”
Cubs’ GM Jed Hoyer, whose team struggled out of the gate after winning the World Series last Fall, downplayed the idea that a member of the team’s ownership group provided motivational material for the Nationals.
"I'm not into billboard-material quotes," Hoyer said, as quoted by Chicago Tribune writer Mark Gonzales.
"We have to worry about our own house, in my opinion. We're one game above .500. That's exactly where we deserve to be. We haven't played well enough to be beyond that.
"[The Nationals] have taken care of business. These guys look great. They have run away with their division. They have lived up to their potential, and we should be looking up to them.”
Dusty Baker, informed of the comments from The White House in a pregame presser later that day, didn’t put much stock in them.
“What are we going to crumble from, you know what I mean?” he asked rhetorically.
“Who is their owner?” Baker followed up. Informed it was Todd Ricketts who’d made the comments, he said, “Oh the son? Well, we’re not playing Todd.”
Well so much for that incident stoking the flames of a heated rivalry. We’ll get to find out if the Nationals do, in fact, crumble when they meet the Cubs in the NLDS in next week’s postseason matchup.
While Washington cruised to their second straight NL East crown and earned a fourth trip to the postseason in the last six years, Chicago’s Cubs rallied with a strong second half, posting a 47-24 record thus far, and claimed their second consecutive NL Central title this week.
Baker has yet to transition, publicly at least, to thinking about what lies ahead in the Division series, opting instead to focus on finishing strong when he was asked about the matchup with the Cubs.
“My thoughts are finish the season strong and then we’ll worry about Chicago,” Baker said after dropping the finale of their three-game set in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
“We’ve got another four days to go and we want to finish strong and go into the new season with some momentum.”
“We’ve got four more games to play first, before you start thinking about that,” he reiterated before the start of the final regular season series last night.
“We’ll worry about that when it gets here,” Baker continued. “I hope [the players are] not thinking about too far ahead, because you’ve got think about today, you know, so I mean, I’ve thought about it.
“It might be crazy to tell a lie that I haven’t thought about it, but it’s not foremost in my mind, but it’s right behind that.”
The series starts in the nation’s capital, where the Nationals, who finished 50-31 on the road this season, are 46-32 so far with three to play, but Baker said they would have to wait and see if having the home field advantage in the series worked to their benefit.
“I don’t know,” he explained, “I’m proud of this team. We won 50 games on the road, that’s tough. So, that means we’re a pretty good road team so we’ll have to wait and see if there’s an advantage to that other than the last at bat and your home fans. You know?
“I think that’s the advantage,” Baker added, “and that you play three games here instead of two. That’s the advantage, so we’ll see. We’ll find out like real soon.”