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Opening Pitches, Chats, Sales Pitches You Just Can't Make

At around 2 p.m. today, in Syracuse, Congressman Dan Maffei of New York's 25th district will take the mound at Alliance Bank Stadium and throw out the first pitch. Jordan Zimmermann will handle all pitching duties thereafter, as the Chiefs open their season against Rochester. With the Nats off today, that is the best thing to watch. Syracuse Post-Standard writer Mike Waters has a piece in today's paper about Zimmermann headlined, simply, The Phenom. Read it here. Also, check out this interactive graphic about the Syracuse starting nine here.

Also at 2 p.m. today, I'll be conducting a chat about all things Nats. This link should take you to the forum.

In the meantime, the morning reading...

The game story from yesterday's 6-4 disappointment details the ninth inning -- how it fleetingly raised the Nats' hopes, and brought them within arm's length of their first victory.

Boz's column takes issue with Stan Kasten's comments on a Philadelphia radio station. Boz writes, "Stan, you can pitch tickets from Helsinki to Hades, and nobody around here cares. But, please, don't do it in Baltimore or New York. And especially not in Philadelphia."

Amy Shipley writes about Elijah Dukes, who could push the issue for more playing time if he starts to heat up. He's the only other everyday outfielder on the roster suited for center field.

Here's a Q&A from the Syracuse paper with Mike Rizzo.

By Chico Harlan  |  April 9, 2009; 7:46 AM ET
 
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Next: Great-Uncle Roy, and Mid-Morning Reading

Comments

Sigh. I wake up this morning and the Nats are now 60-105. Will the 2008 season never end??

Posted by: Intrudr | April 9, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

> lol Boz has a point - if Kasten had put a better team on the field, he wouldn't have to beg other cities to come to the park. But it just speaks to his expertise - running the business side instead of the player side. Maybe he's just a shill. Maybe the guy really doesn't know sports.

Posted by: Brue | April 9, 2009 7:46 AM
-------------------------------------------

lol. When the city was wooing MLB, the line was "This is a major market absolutely starved for baseball. Just give us a team and we'll show you the love. You can't miss!" Boswell was right there leading that charge.

Now the line is "If you produce a winning team, then we'll come out and support your team. Maybe. You need to do everything else right too. We fans are a fickle bunch." Boswell in high dudgeon is once again right out in front leading that charge.

Sure Kasten's a shill. Maybe he doesn't know sports, but at least he knows enough to keep a team afloat and in town when he's surrounded by a bunch of fickle so-called fans. He knows what a bait-and-switch is, and he knows a hypocrite when he sees one. Boswell's a hypocrite, and so are any of you who just follow him blindly like sheep, hanging on every word he writes like it was the gospel truth.

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 9, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I followed the link to the Chiefs site and found myself thinking ... wouldn't it be nice to have more than one starting outfielder in DC who is pretty likely to catch a ball.

Posted by: dcbatgirl | April 9, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

So it's been 5 seasons already - yes, I'm surprised myself - and am still waiting for an actual baseball team to show up in the District.

Posted by: thisismydcsportsopinion | April 9, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Evidently not for you, intrudr.

As for the gamer, I liked this:

"I'm not worried about us battling," Adam Dunn said. "We're not going to be a team that ever lays down. Ever. We're just not getting the big breaks."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 9, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Today's Rochester Chronicle features an interview with Kasten inviting Red Wings fans to the game this afternoon.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | April 9, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Other than the opposition.

****************************
Evidently not for you, intrudr.

As for the gamer, I liked this:

"I'm not worried about us battling," Adam Dunn said. "We're not going to be a team that ever lays down. Ever. We're just not getting the big breaks.

*************************

They laid down against the Marlins. None of the games were even close, even the third game which was a 6-4 score in which they scored 2 runs in the 1st and a run each in the 8th and 9th.

Posted by: thisismydcsportsopinion | April 9, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

That interactive graphic is very cool!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 9, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

In an innovative marketing ploy, Kasten just announced that the first 5,000 Philly Phans to go through the gates of Nats Park on opening day will receive replica championship rings. :-D

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 9, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Chico????

Other than Dukes.....who IS on the roster suited for CF....Kearns could do it...is that who you were talking about?

Posted by: JayBeee | April 9, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Half priced beers if you wear your Phillies gear to Nats Park!!!

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | April 9, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

I liked Waters' piece but the P-Nats play in Woodbridge, VA, not Potomac, MD.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 9, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

JayBeee beat me to it. What do you mean Dukes is the only "other" player suited for CF? He appears to be the ONLY player suited for CF.

Sec314

Posted by: arlingtontwb | April 9, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

I love this notion that if the nats were better there wouldn't be any phillie fans in the stadium. That might be true for opening day but not the 80 other games during the season. The one thing i've learned about DC sports is that people give up their tickets regardless of their hometeam's record. Last season the Steelers came into town when the Skins were 6-2 and Terrible Towels were in every section, I have also seen plent of Eagles fans at every home game for the last 6 years (thats as long as i've been going to games). Before this season the couple of Penguins or the one Rangers game i went to saw their fair share of Pittsburgh and New York faithful. And this was regardless of the Caps being bad, good or mediocre. Also when the Nats first game to town in 2005 i went to a Mets and a Braves game, the Nats were somewhat contending and a brand new team but somehow these out of town fans found a ticket.

Boz is right, the Nats need more talent and they need to win, but if he thinks that at that point we will turn into the Red Sox fanbase he is sorely mistaken.

Posted by: Steveo11 | April 9, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

In an innovative marketing ploy, Kasten just announced that the first 5,000 Philly Phans to go through the gates of Nats Park on opening day will receive replica championship rings. :-D

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 9, 2009 8:39 AM
-------------------------------------------

Maybe he should give them replica P-Nats championship rings and see if they even notice the difference.

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 9, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

hehe. Might depend on how many pregame beers they consumed, RDS.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 9, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

"I love this notion that if the nats were better there wouldn't be any phillie fans in the stadium. That might be true for opening day but not the 80 other games during the season. The one thing i've learned about DC sports is that people give up their tickets regardless of their hometeam's record."

Yeah. Chances are that the large majority of the "I was a loyal STH for the past four years, but I've had enough of this lousy team and am cancelling my tickets" crowd have been happily StubHubbing their Phillies and Mets games tickets the whole time. At every game, from 2005 on, the highest per-capita concentration of opposition fans has always been in the sections where the season ticket holders sit. In particular, the prime seats in the lower bowl. In past years, those so-called "loyal fans" were the ones inviting the opposition in, bit by bit. This year, they've bailed and Kasten has been forced to do the same thing en masse. But is what the so-called fans have been doing all along really any less of a sin than what Kasten is doing now?

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 9, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I like Dukes because he's not allergic to walks.

Posted by: dclifer | April 9, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

"But is what the so-called fans have been doing all along really any less of a sin than what Kasten is doing now?"

MLB teams now withhold some tickets and sell them on StubHub above face value.

Posted by: dclifer | April 9, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Here's a radical thought for Stan and the Lerners. Why not actually try to promote your baseball team to the local fans first? The only time management even TRIED to promote actual baseball to the local market was when Soriano was going for 40/40 at the end of 06. Otherwise it was always something else. In 2005 / 2006 the team was owned by MLB and focus was on fighting the City Council for the stadium deal. In 2007 the slogan was, "Buy season tickets for this year so you can get good seats at the new park next year." In 2008 the pitch was, "Come see the new park." This year it's apparently, "Hey Philthydelphians and New Porkers, there's plenty of good seats here to root for your boys."

Posted by: SimonOliverLockwood | April 9, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Hey, let's be fair. It's only been three seasons since we had decent baseball -- the 2005 Nats were a competitive team. (2005 and 2006 20-game STH here.)

Washington is (a) a transient town and (b) a front-running town. Add those two up with the Nats' horrible records of the past three years and you get road fan invasions. That still doesn't excuse Stan prostrating himself in front of usually drunk/obscene Philly fans in an effort to make the game experience worse for what loyal fans the team has left.

Have some damn pride in your organization already -- if you can't and you built it, why should we?

Posted by: JoshCVT | April 9, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone have Kasten's email address? I'd love to ask him personally not to ever address any Philadelphia sports market while in charge of a major DC franchise, ever again.

My favorite games to go to are at home when we play Philly. Of course there's always a large number of Phillies fans at our park (or every single other opposing team that comes to visit), but when the Phils are in town, I really take it personally. I go through a list of "Philadelphia sports heroes", and I read it out loud. I spend about 30 minutes talking about Via Sikahema and Randall Cunningham. I finish with the "Son of Philadelphia", Rocky Balboa. I'm afraid that this year, my Phils fans audience will be a lot larger.

Posted by: NatsandSkinsareclassclassclass | April 9, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

No, DC isn't Boston, nor should it try to be. Because we are the nation's capital, we have large numbers of people (like me) who aren't "from here." Regardless, we transplants do like to find something to bring us together with those who have been here for generations. The Redskins had done that so well for years, until the current owner and his absurd Lost Decade of the Pursuit of Faded Starpower.

I have been a serious (albeit novice) baseball fan since the Nats came here. I strive to learn the game and still have a partial season ticket pack and even upgraded my tickets. But I am getting very tired of watching minor league ball for major league prices. I am getting tired of having one of the lowest payrolls in the MLB. I was also very happy with the Dunn signing and still have very high hopes that the first three games of this season are not indicative of what is to come. I have high hopes that we will have some entertaining ball to watch this season. That said, the Boz is right that it is insulting for Stan to beg for Philly fans to come to Nats stadium, ESPECIALLY on opening day! He is also right that when entering a new market with no baseball tradition, it was foolish to field a team on the cheap. Just foolish.

I'll still be there this year, though, with my high hopes. I shall hope for Kearns to have really found himself (hey, Guz did!). I shall hope for one Zimm to get over his slo-thro errors and the other to come join us and dazzle. I shall cheer towering homers by Dunn and Dukes (they'll come, I'm convinced of it). I shall tip my hat to the sheer professionalism of Nick. I shall root for our baby hurlers to show the stuff that got them here so early. I shall do that one more time....

Posted by: NatsFly | April 9, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

"Why not actually try to promote your baseball team to the local fans first?"

Don't even get me started on this. Why hasn't there been a FREE Nats Park fanfest? One I went to as a STH and the other had a $10 charge. For what? To make sure too many people didn't come?

IMO, (1) they should have second preseason game at the park free to everyone. (2) They should hold an all-star event at the park, again, free to everyone, reply the HR derby on the big screen during the day followed by the A-S game. (3) Host the start or finish to events (like the Suntrust marathon in March) and raise the visibility of the stadium.

For Angelos and all of his frugality, he still held annual O's fanfests in Farragut Square. They were open to everyone and had free food.

Posted by: dclifer | April 9, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

"Don't even get me started on this. Why hasn't there been a FREE Nats Park fanfest? One I went to as a STH and the other had a $10 charge. For what? To make sure too many people didn't come?

IMO, (1) they should have second preseason game at the park free to everyone. (2) They should hold an all-star event at the park, again, free to everyone, reply the HR derby on the big screen during the day followed by the A-S game. (3) Host the start or finish to events (like the Suntrust marathon in March) and raise the visibility of the stadium."

They did a free "come to the park and watch a road game on the big screen" thing last year. Did you go? Apparently not.

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 9, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

"They did a free "come to the park and watch a road game on the big screen" thing last year. Did you go? Apparently not."

Apparently I didn't hear about it. Maybe if the President was on a DC radio station promoting it...

By the way, how much were the hot dogs and sodas?

Posted by: dclifer | April 9, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Amen, dclifer. And to all the comments about the fair-weather fans and front-runners and all the other stuff: you're missing the point. The city was without baseball for more than 3 decades. Nobody - no matter how many games they've attended, or how much stuff they buy - is a "die hard" Nats fan. It's impossible. They've only been here since '05. You can't compare them with the lifelong, generation to generation "live and die with my team" passion of fans of the Phillies, O's, Yankees, Cubs, Mets (yeah, they're on their third generation of fans already) or any of the established teams.

What the Lerners/Kasten and MLB before them should have done all along is market the sport to the city and the area. What kind of presence does the team have outside of their own stadium? The only ads for the team are within their own TV and radio broadcasts (apparently well-hidden, too. Do they plaster the Metro or busses with signs? Have they done any high profile events/programs with the city to push the games to the millions of people who visit here every summer? When Kasten first got to Atlanta, they couldn't sell tix then either, so they gave them away to schoolkids who got good grades. My niece used to drag my brother-in-law and family to games all the time when they first moved down there. Now they're huge fans, as will her kids be, and her siblings, and their friends...that's how it works. And the team makes $$ because once you buy a hot dog and a soft drink, you've already paid for a $10 seat. Add a beer or two, and it's a $20 seat. Or look at what Leonsis did with the Caps. 2 for 1 ticket deals. Tie-ins with local companies. It's a tough economic time right now, sure, but that just means they need to be more creative.

Somebody show me where the Nats presence in the city is. You can't get people to come to something if they don't know about it. The freakin' Orioles store in Farragut Square was still in business for the first years of the Nats. What an embarrassment that was. But when they closed up, did the Nats open their own? No. Have they made any serious efforts to go after the $$ in the MD & VA suburbs? Do they host events in Columbia or Reston? For somebody who's supposed to have business acumen, Kasten sure seems lost to me, if he has to resort to begging Phiilly fans to come on down. If they're not spending money on the payroll (4th or 5th lowest in MLB) and not on marketing, and not on their top draft pick in '08, then what are they spending it on?

Posted by: smallsamplesize | April 9, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

"Apparently I didn't hear about it. Maybe if the President was on a DC radio station promoting it..."

You mean Bush? I think he had already checked out mentally by then. Obama, Hillary and McCain were busy with the campaign. Oh, you mean Kasten? Well, I don't know if he personally promoted it or not, but somehow I heard about it beforehand.

"By the way, how much were the hot dogs and sodas?

Posted by: dclifer"

I don't know. I ended up not going after all - although as I recall it was a beautiful day. I'm sure the food wasn't free, but they have given out free food and food vouchers at other events. If you're looking for a food handout, though, I can recommend SOME and the DC Central Kitchen to you. That's their main gig. The Nats are a baseball team.

And hey, did you know there was a live opera simulcast at Nationals Park last year? I hear the Pope did a gig there too. (He didn't give out free food either, except for some cardboard wafers. And oh, the lines...)

Really, if they use the ballpark for something and don't tell you about it, does it still count?

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 9, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I went to the Nats Park road game broadcast last year. As I recall, some concessions were open, as with the exhibition game on Saturday. I do like the idea of them offering something like that again, perhaps in years when the team starts on the road.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 9, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

>When the city was wooing MLB, the line was "This is a major market absolutely starved for baseball

Full Moon much?
The market is STILL starved for baseball. The team is still talking about 20 games under .500 as progress. Yeah, blame the team on the fans. People know when they're getting fleeced. Sounds like the 'I'm a better fan than you're a fan' knob thing. It's the Wizards marketing thing - 'even though it's our fault we suck, it's the best we can do so we'll pimp the opposition because hey - we can'. The team's got organizational problems and it shows up on the field. People can sense that. Boswell cancelled his season tix. So what. Just shows that he's got a brain. Unlike you and your high octane suburban angst-ridden posts. Attendance mole!! Bean counter!! Nerd!!!

Posted by: Brue | April 9, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

"Really, if they use the ballpark for something and don't tell you about it, does it still count?"

If they use the ballpark for something baseball-oriented, and people who are interested in baseball and this team don't hear about it, is their marketing effective?

Posted by: JoshCVT | April 9, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

"Boswell cancelled his season tix. So what. Just shows that he's got a brain. Unlike you and your high octane suburban angst-ridden posts. Attendance mole!! Bean counter!! Nerd!!!

Posted by: Brue "

I bet I paid to go to more games last year than you and Boswell combined. I attended 30 games myself, and for at least half of them I brought along a friend or family member with me, my treat. I only left early once, and that was the Saturday afternoon game early in the season that had a 2-hour rain delay before it even started and I waited until the 8th inning to leave because it was a blowout. So I would say I have a fair investment in coming to the park to see major league baseball. And guess what? Although I saw some pretty ugly losses, the Nats were 16-14 in the games I was at. I suppose you could call it a small sample size, but 30 out of 81 games is still batting .370 on attendance. I was watching the games while you and Boswell were on your third beer slamming the team on the internet.

And if you'd remove your head from your other region just once, you'd realize that I'm not arguing that the quality of the team doesn't drive attendance. Of course it does. But Boswell and the others who sucked up to the MLB teat pre-2005 went out of their way to say that it didn't matter. Over and over they said "Give us a team, any team, and we will support it like you wouldn't believe." Never once did they say Oh, it needs to be a winning team or at least not a AAAA team or anything like that. All they ever said was GIVE US A TEAM. Now they have a team, and they're throwing it back. Hypocrites.

Posted by: RickDotSalt | April 9, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

>I bet I paid to go to more games last year than you and Boswell combined. I attended 30 games myself, and for at least half of them I brought along a friend or family member with me, my treat. I only left early once, and that was the Saturday afternoon game early in the season that had a 2-hour rain delay before it even started and I waited until the 8th inning to leave because it was a blowout.

I rest my case. Another fan measurer. And probably a young one. Geek alert!!
Did you have a note for the game you left in the 8th inning? You better have been sick, because the attendance monitor won't put up with that.
I can't even remember how many times I've heard this noise. Hasn't been a winning team here since '69. You remember '69, don't you? Didn't think so. I'm not gonna feel the least bit guilty about closing the wallet until they get serious about winning. Which means running Acta out of there. Sure, I'll go because I have a buddy who's loaded and gives me freebies. I mean, you wouldn't go see a bad movie if you knew it was bad before you went, right? Or a band you knew was crappy? Of course not. It's not the customer's job to support a sub-par product, it's the product-maker's responsibility to put out a good product. Let's face it - any organization that takes almost four years to tell Jim Bowden to piss off has got problems.

Posted by: Brue | April 9, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Let Teddy Win has a link to audio of the Kasten interview. There's some interesting "Plan" stuff between the opening comments about Philly phans, and you can also hear the questions that led to those comments. (Oh yeah, and the Philly broadcaster says that we should expect to see a lot of Nats hats thrown onto the field. Nice.)

http://blog.letteddywin.com/2009/04/07/stan-kasten-invites-phillies-fans-to-nationals-park/

Also, hey, where's nunof?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 9, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Ask Abe Pollin how promoting tickets to opposing fans resulted in long term success for the Capitals. Then ask Ted Leonsis how building a local fan base with a good team is working out.

I'm a Full STH, and the games I'm already dreading is that weekend against the Phillies. I'm going to the ballpark to have fun and relax, not fight with a bunch of Philadelphia drunks.

Boswell scolding Kasten for selling tickets is Baltimore is hypocritical, considering the way he continues to embrace the Baltimore Orioles. Tell you what, Tom, if you and your Washington Post buddies stop trying to sell the Baltimore team here, maybe the Washington Nats officials will stop trying to sell our team there.

Posted by: raymitten | April 9, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

dukes has to play everyday, if it needs to be in center so be it, someone really needs to go for some pitching

Posted by: bford1kb | April 9, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Try being locked into a 7-year contract for 4 presidential seats. Talk about bad timing. So even if 20% cancel their tickets, the economic collapse doesn't mean the team's not still getting paid from its most lucrative sales.

Posted by: AlexL925 | April 10, 2009 12:21 AM | Report abuse

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