So, Kornheiser says the Nats are the Caps. The Washington Nationals baseball team is the collection of “choking dogs (his term)” that are the Washington Capitals Really? Washington is a low bar for the postseason, to be sure, but in that pond, the hockey team is the big fish…by miles (with apologies to the fans of the local soccer team). Imagine if the Caps had reached the postseason five times in their last 23 seasons. Oh, that’s the Redskins. The Burgundy and Gold have one playoff win in their last 16 seasons (and really, how many Redskin fans are bragging about that win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being a classic?).
Or how about a team that has reached the postseason seven times in the last 28 seasons, a team that cleared .500 only seven times in that span? There are your Washington Bullets/Wizards. And not once in those 28 seasons does that franchise have so much as a division championship. The last one of those the franchise had was when the Bullets won the Atlantic Division crown in 1978-1979 on their way to their only NBA championship (kudos to them…at least they have one; the Caps are waiting on their first one).
Then there are the Nats. There are those three trips to the postseason of which Kornheiser speaks. The franchise has reached the playoffs only four times in 48 seasons (it would have been five, but the 1994 season was cut short due to a labor-management dispute with the Montreal Expos having the best record in the National League). The franchise went 30 straight years without reaching the postseason until the Nats did it in 2012.
Meanwhile, the Capitals have reached the postseason 26 times in the last 33 seasons, including eight of the last nine. The other three teams – Redskins, Wizards, and Nats have reached the playoffs a combined nine times over the last nine seasons (three apiece). The Caps’ playoff troubles have been discussed far and wide, but they have won five playoff rounds over the last nine seasons. The other three teams have won a combined two series (both by the Wizards; the Redskins have not won a postseason game). And, the Caps are the only team in Washington among the four major pro sports to have played for a championship in the last 24 years.
Kornheiser remarked about the Nationals, “Look, they’re the Caps now. Okay, the Washington Nationals are the Washington Capitals. They choke. They just cannot win any of these series.” Let’s leave aside the fact that against a very good Los Angeles Dodger team, the Nats were missing arguably their second best starting pitcher and starting catcher, both of them all-stars. Repeat the old clichés about guys stepping up, or that there are no excuses in the playoffs, but lose two players in the two most important positions on the field, and your chances of a deep playoff run start to approach zero.
But the larger point has to do with this claim that “the Nats are the Caps.” Hardly. In a championship-starved community, success has been hard to come by for its pro-sports teams (again, apologies to the fans of the United soccer team…theirs is a history to take some pride in). But the Nats are not the Caps. The Nats – not to mention the Redskins and the Wizards – aspire to be the Caps in these parts. We think we speak for most Caps fans when we tell Kornheiser in a manner a New Yorker would appreciate…. #@$% you, pal.