White House

Three things to watch when World Series champions Nationals visit White House

Will Trump address that ‘Lock him up!’ chant from Game 5 in D.C.?

Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman hoists the Commissioner's Trophy as the team celebrates beating the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Washington Nationals are headed to the White House on Monday, broken World Series trophy and all, to celebrate their first championship in franchise history with President Donald Trump.

Bang! Zoom!

That’s one of the catchphrases used by the team’s primary radio play-by-play announcer, Charlie Slowes, when the Nats win. Washington’s Major League Baseball team did just that Wednesday night in Houston, winning Game 7 of the World Series over the hometown Astros to deliver the nation’s capital its first baseball championship in 86 years.

The team will celebrate Saturday with fans in downtown D.C. with a parade. Nationals players have kept their prize, the Commissioner's Trophy, close since it was presented to General Manager Mike Rizzo and Manager Dave Martinez at Minute Maid Park late Wednesday. They even managed to break off three of the pennants on baseball’s ultimate hardware during what appeared to be a raucous, alcohol-drenched clubhouse celebration.

The White House announced the visit — which comes remarkably fast after the team captured the crown — on its official Twitter account, with a video of the team celebrating its first National League championship last month.

Though the president, a noted sports fan, typically keeps such events focused on a team’s accomplishment, he does mention politics from time to time. Here are three things to watch when the team with the curly W on their caps celebrate with Trump.

Lineup scratches?

Some African-American athletes have opted out of White House visits after their team has won a title. And a number of entire teams have declined invitations.

There’s the 2016-2017 NCAA Champion University of North Carolina men’s hoops team. The same year, the University of South Carolina women’s championship basketball team did the same. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors also skipped that year, Trump’s first in office, with Trump feuding on Twitter with star guard Stephen Curry.

Also in 2017, the president disinvited the NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles amid reports that all but a small handful of players would boycott the visit after rejecting his call for all athletes to stand during the national anthem.

“The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event,” Trump tweeted in June 2018. “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!”

The 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros did go. But star players Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran skipped over Trump’s immigration and other policies. Superstar second baseman José Altuve did attend, but glared at the president while standing directly behind him as Trump spoke at his lectern.

In a 2018 meeting that included lawmakers from both parties, the president called African countries, Haiti and El Salvador “shithole countries.” The Nationals have not announced whether any players will skip the visit — but stay tuned.

‘Lock him up’

The president and first lady Melania Trump attended Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night at National Park. As expected, he was greeted by a chorus of loud boos.

Then something very political happened in the country’s political capital.

Some in the sellout crowd chanted “Lock him up!” at Trump as he stood in his box and smiled and waved after being announced.

They were serenading the president with a version of the “Lock her up!” chant his supporters have employed for years at his political rallies, referring to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — his 2016 general election foe — about her use of a private email server for official State Department business.

Trump has not commented on the chant since. In fact, he has only taken a few questions from reporters all week — on Monday, yelling over Air Force One’s idling engines. Can he resist going there when he meets with the champs?

Impeachment interference?

The baseball world has been hotly debating the runner interference rule since Nationals shortstop Trea Turner was called out late in Game 6 on a play Fox announcer Joe Buck and others said could have handed the championship to the Astros.

The president could use the stage Monday to try his own message interference with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. The baseball analogies are many.

He could use the event to accuse Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, both California Democrats, of trying to “steal” something, be it a political base or sign.

Trump might describe the not-camera-shy chairman of carrying his bat to first base, like Astros star Alex Bregman did after blasting a home run in Game 6 — which prompted Nationals leftfielder Juan Soto to do the same later in that game after hitting his own monster long ball.

The president might compare himself to World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg by saying he is easily winning the impeachment debate and striking out House Democrats at every turn.

Or he might just stick to part of his team’s new narrative, that the inquiry is creating uncertainty on Wall Street and hindering the economy, which two batches of government data released this week suggests is slowing.

“I think the impeachment story, in fits and starts, has hurt the stock market,” White House chief economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow told reporters Friday.

There are plenty of political possibilities for the event. Perhaps there is only one figure who can keep things focused on baseball: Nationals mascot Screech, a bald eagle in a red ball cap.

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