(CBS) It was in late June that Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts took a jab at the Nationals during a visit to the White House to celebrate his team’s 2016 championship. After acknowledging that the two teams would likely meet in the postseason, Ricketts added of the Nationals, “You’ll see them crumble.”
Todd’s brother and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts won’t be providing any similar bulletin-board material as the Cubs prepare to face the Nationals in the National League Division Series. Game 1 is Friday in Washington D.C.
“They’re a great team,” Tom Ricketts said in an interview on the Mully and Hanley Show on Tuesday morning. “They won 97 games. They did that with major injuries on their side. I know (Trea) Turner and (Bryce) Harper missed large parts of the season. They have some of the best starting pitching.
“They’re a real-deal team. Going into these playoffs, when you look at the Nats and you look at the Dodgers — and the Diamondbacks are good too, and not to take anything away from the Rockies — the fact is there’s no doubt the best teams won their divisions. This is going to be a great playoffs. I’m really excited.
“Our guys right now, given how we’ve played the last couple months and how healthy we are, I think we’re in really good position.”
Ricketts was particularly proud of how his Cubs turned their season around in the second half. After wallowing at 43-45 and 5.5 games behind the Brewers at the All-Star break, the Cubs went 49-25 in the second half, the best mark in the NL.
Some speculation swirled that the Cubs could be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, which president of baseball operations Theo Epstein acknowledged could’ve been the case if they’d fallen eight or nine games behind in the division race out of the All-Star break.
The conversation about being sellers never became real, Ricketts said. The hangover effect was, he said.
“If you remember, the time to decide to sell would be later in July,” Ricketts said. “We came out of the All-Star break with a string of wins and after that, there’s wasn’t a conversation. I don’t doubt that if our guys had come out and lost six after the All-Star break and fallen 10 or 12 behind, Theo would do whatever’s smart at the time. But it never got to that. We never really talked about selling, per se.
“The first thing you have to realize, it was the youngest lineup in the history of the World Series. And while young players typically get better over time, they don’t do it in a straight-line fashion. They have good months and bad months. And I think a lot of our guys got off to a slow start, which made it difficult for us to win games early on. So that was one thing.
“But I do think there is a little bit of a hangover effect. I mean, it just seems like every (champion) has to battle through. So I give credit to the guys. I give credit to Joe for not panicking. He keeps his eyes on the horizon. He’s always thinking of the big picture and the whole season. And then I give credit to the guys for not turning on each other and not letting it get them down when we fell behind the Brewers by five games.”