When the Cubs hosted the Nats back on Opening Day, Washington was coming off an 80-81 2011 campaign with a seemingly decent shot at contending for the playoffs this season. Five months later, the Nats are virtually assured of a postseason spot after seeing their wealth of young talent find sustained Major League success at the same time.
So with the Cubs toiling 31 games behind the Reds in the National League Central entering Thursday, manager Dale Sveum recognizes a potential roadmap for his club.
"It just goes to show where you've got to be, when it's all said and done," Sveum said of the Nats' success. "Every position, the pitching, everything -- it just goes to show a lot of young guys that, wow, this is what a contending, World Series-type team looks like.
"They've got to understand there's a lot of people on this field for the Nationals that lost 100 games a couple years in a row. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but all these guys have improved quite a bit over their Major League careers."
Sveum's comments came at an interesting time, one afternoon after he said Wednesday night's 9-1 loss to the Nats was "just men playing against boys." Indeed, the Cubs have used 20 rookies -- including 11 pitchers -- this season, a feat that hasn't occurred since 1974.
Even more interesting -- and, perhaps contradictory -- is the timing of the comment after it was 19-year-old Bryce Harper who did the most damage for the Nats on Wednesday. Harper knocked two solo homers to finish 2-for-3 with two walks.
"Yeah, I thought about that after I said that," Sveum said. "It's a 19-year-old kid. One thing about him, even in the history of the game, there's been only a couple of those kind that have ever come along. Alex Rodriguez was almost 20 years ago now, and obviously [Harper's] another one of those people to come around."
Regarding Harper's home runs, the first of which struck the back wall of the Cubs' bullpen in left-center field, Sveum was even more superlative.
"That's about as good as I've seen bat speed in the big leagues, period, let alone from a 19-year-old kid," he said.