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Nats: Last in the League, Last in TV Ratings

(Opening Day photo by Jonathan Newton - TWP)

Well this ballpark-christening season has gone about as smoothly for Washington baseball as rush hour at Metro Center. To recap: the big offseason signing got caught up in the steroid scandal, the exciting new outfielders both suffered serious injuries, the two fan favorites at the corners both suffered serious injuries, the ace and closer both suffered serious injuries, the attendance has hovered in the exact middle of the league for weeks (and is much closer to the bottom third than to the top), and the won-less record is currently the worst in the bigs.

Meaning "First in War, First in Peace, Last in the National League" is no longer a bad enough description.

But wait! Some good news! The team's percentage drop in regional sports network television ratings is not the biggest in the major leagues this season! It's, um, the second-biggest drop! Behind only the Mariners.

According to an in-depth baseball ratings story and chart by John Ourand, posted on Sports Business Journal today (subscription required), the Nats are drawing a 0.39 on MASN/MASN 2, down 43.5 percent from last year. The average number of D.C.-market households tuning in is 9,000, which is...checking, checking....last in the majors. By a lot. That 0.39 rating is...checking, checking....also last in the majors. Also by a lot.

The biggest average households numbers, according to the story (which is based on Nielsen Media Research numbers) watch the Yankees (325,000), Red Sox (233,000) and Mets (204,000). The highest average ratings, according to the story, are found in Boston (9.75), St. Louis (8.04) and Minnesota (6.92).

More to the point, the lowest average household numbers, aside from the Nats, watch the Royals (28,000), Orioles (33,000) and Pirates (34,000). To repeat, the Nationals' number was 9,000, less than a third of the viewership in next-to-last Kansas City. The lowest average ratings, aside from the Nats, are found watching the Angels (1.24), Rangers (1.49) and Dodgers (1.57). To repeat, the Nationals' number was 0.39.

I've been told not to make public our own numbers on Nats-based Web hits, but I think "disappointing" would be an accurate description. "Very disappointing" might also apply.

Seriously, what the heck is going on here? Why do we have a baseball team? Is this just yet another example of Washingtonians being front-runners? Will the numbers spike when the Nats start winning? Does it just require time, no matter what the W-L record is? Was Peter Angelos actually correct about the lack of D.C. baseball fans? Is it really that hard to find MASN2? Or is it just that, in general, with one notable exception, Washington is to pro sports what Billings is to high culture?

(For purposes of completeness, I should note that numbers were not available for the Blue Jays.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  July 7, 2008; 1:43 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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