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Why the Nats Are Still Worth Watching

Here's today's story about attendance at Nationals Park. You tell me: Is a 35.2 percent dropoff from last year cause for alarm? Or is it adequately explained away by the circumstances detailed in the story (chief of which, of course, is the poor performance on the field)? I'll add this: Whenever I get asked if the Nationals are doomed to fail in D.C. (and believe me, I get asked this a lot), I always insist that it's unfair to draw any conclusions about the market until the team puts a good product on the field for longer than a couple of months.

Now then, let's look on the brighter side. Consider these facts about the Nationals, as they prepare to open an 11-game homestand tonight:

*Despite having the majors' worst record, they are only seven games out of first place in the NL East, which is closer than the Arizona Diamondbacks (10 1/2 games back in the NL West) and nearly as close as the Tampa Bay Rays (6 1/2 games out in the AL East) -- to name two teams frequently picked to win their divisions back in early April.

*The save percentage for all of MLB this season is 61.2 percent -- that's 244 total saves in 399 opportunities. If the Nationals' bullpen had only performed to the league average this season -- which is not asking for much -- rather than being absolutely putrid (a mere six saves in 16 opportunities, for a 37.5 percent success rate that ranks last in the majors), they would have converted an additional four of those save opportunities. Those four additional wins would boost the Nationals' record to 15-17, which would leave them three games out of first place.

*The offense is not just good -- it's arguably the best in the NL, given its league-leading .809 OPS. Their average of 5.15 runs per game ranks fourth in the league, behind only the two bandbox beneficiaries, Colorado and Philadelphia, and the Dodgers, whose production is almost certain to go down in the absence of Manny Ramirez.

*You tell me whose Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 hitters you'd rather have right now than Cristian Guzman (.390/.390/.500), Nick Johnson (.333/.411/.447), Ryan Zimmerman (.357/.408/.608) and Adam Dunn (.310/.444/.638).

Please discuss...

By Dave Sheinin  |  May 15, 2009; 8:21 AM ET
 
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Comments

We all knew pitching would be a problem going into the season. However, all I was looking for was exciting baseball, and that lineup is delivering. And its the whole lineup: you don't know who is going to step up from the bottom 1/2 of the order, but it seems that invariably someone does just that.

So for the first time in a while, I'm engaged in the day to day events with the Nats. Keep hitting, avoid injuries, improve the defense, and I won't care (for now) about the pitching.

Posted by: joemktg2 | May 15, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

These are interesting points, Dave. Maybe you should have written about some of this stuff in today's paper, rather than writing yet another attendance story.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 15, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

It'd be nice to see this on page 1 of the sports section. The casual fan who scans the sports pages but not Nats Journal only knows that the team stinks and might not realize that the team has booming bats. Attendance stories sell I guess.

Posted by: mojo6 | May 15, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Think of this: Break the season down in 16-game increments (since 16 games = 10% of the season).

In the first 16 games, the Nats were 3-13.
In the second 16 games, the Nats went 8-8. That's solid improvement, leaving them at 11-21 now.

If they replace Cabrera with ANYONE who is serviceable (the Nats are 0-7 in Cabrera's 7 starts; just get someone who will enable them to win 2 or 3 out of every 7 starts), and if they improve their bullpen, they could improve just a little bit, and go 9-7 per 16 games.

If they go 9-7 in every 16-game increment from here on out, they'll win 72 more games (9x8), ending up with 83 or 84 wins. That's above .500.

All is not lost. Go Nats!

Posted by: usmc53 | May 15, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

A good glass half full argument. Clearly an exciting offense with the potential to score at any time. Several good faces of the franchise (R Zimmerman, N Johnson, A Dunn, to mention only a few). The longevity of several like Guzman and Kearns matters to me, too. Young players with potential (e.g., Dukes) bring hope, as well.

The problem for a fan like me (and potentially for the players over time) is the heartbreaking nature of the losses with all those blown saves and blown holds. It is so dispiriting, and the reality is that the memory of that terrible feeling makes it difficult for me to get myself to the park. For those who have empathy for "their" players, the weakness of the bullpen is a major deterrent to attending games, as unfortunate as that is.

Posted by: arlingtonresident1 | May 15, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Dave, any particular reason you didn't mention any of these things in your story today - as well as the Nats having the #3 HR hitter in the NL, because I thought chicks dig the long ball - but instead let an economics professor's quote sum up your description of the quality of the team on the field? (Although I must admit, if you're only going to know who one player is on the Nationals, Mr. Zimmerman is the one you should know - because then you get credit for knowing two.) Any particular reason you decided to just quote Forbes magazine's assessment of the Lerner ownership group verbatim without either adding any critical analysis of your own or at least getting a second opinion from someone? Do you find yourself getting asked a lot whether the Washington Post is doomed to fail in DC? Because really, I think that's the question you ought to be worried about. There's a far greater likelihood that you'll find yourself taking a phone call in the Nationals Park press box telling you that you're being laid off than there is that you'll find yourself writing a story about the Nationals failing in DC. You've got to figure that what's happening now with attendance is probably about as low as it can go, and if that's a 1.6 million figure for the year, how bad is that really?

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I'm originally from Seattle and a constant discussion during the Mariners first 20 (all losing) years was whether Seattle was a baseball town. The team became competitive in 1995, and actually led all of MLB in attendance in 2001 & 2002 - and Seattle is a smaller market than DC. Your comment is directly on point: "It's unfair to draw any conclusions about the market until the team puts a good product on the field for longer than a couple of months."

Posted by: dcCougar | May 15, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

This criticism of the article is bogus. Great, we have a good hitting team. Yes, replacing Daniel Cabrera is a MAJOR factor. Get real, people.

The biggest factor in determining this team's future success is how much money they'll bring in. If attendance is off 35 percent, that's big (and bad) news. Add to that what we already know about the TV and radio ratings, and there have to be serious doubts over whether this franchise can find the fan base it needs to succeed, if not survive. Getting snarky with Sheinin isn't going to change that.

This is a perfectly legitimate story for a day with no game to cover, and it's an important topic to raise throughout the year.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 15, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

>Your comment is directly on point: "It's unfair to draw any conclusions about the market until the team puts a good product on the field for longer than a couple of months."

You got to wonder though why this comment never seems to make it into any story that gets printed in the Washington Post, don't you?

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Adding to what Andrew Zimbalist said in Dave's article: the club's in the midst of a perfect storm. Economy is bad, and continues to be bad; it's a relatively new market for the product; and it's a relatively bad product.

I'd like to see some data regarding ticket sales to businesses vs. individuals: you know the Nats have already done this, and can point to its soft spots (although they'll never tell).

Posted by: joemktg2 | May 15, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the others who wondered why these additional perspectives were not in the print column. While the Post should not be a shill for the Nats, it is clear to me that the Post does not capture the postives. The Nats are exciting too watch!

One other comment, why doesn't the Post publish each day the individual league leaders? If it is a question of space, maybe the Around the Horn item can be reduced in prominence.

Posted by: kecoh | May 15, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

DC hasn't had a winning baseball team to follow since the Roosevelt administration and yet the city is constantly accused of being a "bad baseball town"!

Every sports team in this area draws well when a reasonable product is put on the field, why would baseball be expected to be any different?

Why is this so hard to understand?

Posted by: cabraman | May 15, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

It's absurd to blame the fanbase for the attendance.

We got a team in 2004 that had some aging vets but no young talent and was desperately in need of a rebuild. Bowden spent 2 years running the team as if it was 1-2 players from contention, holding on to vets and shipping off what few young players he had and draft picks for more aging mediocre vets, digging the hole even deeper.

Bowden took a 2-3 year rebuilding project and turned it into a 5-6 year rebuild and waited 2 years to start.

Hence, no hope, crappy team, bad attendance.

And not signing Aaron Crow didn't help either.

Posted by: sbiel2 | May 15, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

There's more to watching a good game than just offense. The Nats pitching is dreadful, their base running is terrible, especially Dukes, and their defense is an embarrassment. It is painful to watch this team play even one game. This is a fundamentally rotten team.

Posted by: bupbups | May 15, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I would also add that a more minor factor in the attendance is the team's constant bad PR and self-inflicted wounds. Whether it's firing Chad Cordero on sports talk or the stadium rent or the bonus-skimming or not signing the draft picks or the bus accident... all you ever hear is negativity around this team, and these side-show problems are totally preventable.

Posted by: sbiel2 | May 15, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I have no bone to pick with Dave's article.

But, as I said in a comment to it, I am sick of hearing that "washington is not a baseball town."

When have we been given a fair opportunity to prove otherwise?

Contemporary press reports in 1924 show a city gone crazy over its AL champions. The government shut down to allow people to attend the game.

More recently, 2.7 million people watched the Nats take their surprising run at a playoff spot in 2005.

Since then, MLB and the Lerners have managed to squander all that goodwill in a series of missteps that NJ regulars don't need to have recounted for them.

Even such traditional baseball cities as Boston, Chicago, and New York have failed to support losing teams. The Yankees drew poorly during their bad stretch in the 1960's, the Red Sox played to lots of empty seats during their fallow periods, and the White Sox more than once threatened to leave Chicago for lack of fan support.

There are a lot of problems with this franchise right now, and they need fixing. But perception can become reality, and constant repetition of "Washington is not a baseball town" leads people to assume it is true.

It is not. And I look forward to our having a team and an ownership group, and an inviting atmosphere around the ballpark, that allows us to prove it once more.

Posted by: Meridian1 | May 15, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

The offense is worth watching. The heartbreak of another blown game is not. They still have too many corner outfielders, no centerfielder and no relief pitchers. Certainly Willingham and/or Kearns and/or Dukes ought to be able to fetch some help. I'd rather see them bring in someone from the farm, like maybe Maxwell, to help the centerfield problem, and replace Cabrera who seems to be someone who will never achieve his promise, than some old hasbeens or discards. The Dodgers might be interested in a corner outfielder until Ramirez comes back and be willing to trade Juan Pierre.

Posted by: shemtof | May 15, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

One other comment, why doesn't the Post publish each day the individual league leaders? If it is a question of space, maybe the Around the Horn item can be reduced in prominence.

Posted by: kecoh | May 15, 2009 9:27 AM

####

Or, since space is undoubtedly an issue, devote less of it to the Redskins during the NFL offseason. I mean, there's not going to be a meaningful pro football game until September so why take up valuable column inches now? Late July or August I can understand -- but May?

Posted by: greggwiggins | May 15, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

"It's absurd to blame the fanbase for the attendance....

Hence, no hope, crappy team, bad attendance."

Well, if you look at road attendance, the Nationals are 10th in MLB, averaging 31,641 a game. That includes playing games in such attendance hotbeds as Florida and Atlanta, both in the bottom 10 in MLB. At home, though, the Nats are 28th in attendance, averaging 19,416.

Same hopeless, crappy team playing at home and on the road, yet they're a top 10 draw when not in DC and bottom of the pack at home. So maybe the problem *is* the DC fanbase and not the team.

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I agree with SB on this.

---

It's absurd to blame the fanbase for the attendance.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Isn't looking at road draws a bit of an apples and oranges comparison? Unless the home team gets a bump when the Nats are in town. hmm, maybe it does because people are thinking they have better odds of seeing a win for their home boys. Hate to say that but...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Who kidnapped the real Dave Sheinin and what have you done with him? A positive story on the Nats? Glass maybe half-full? I'm in stunned disbelief.

I agree with all of the things to be positive. There will be at least five teams in MLB that have a worse record than the Nats at season's end.

Posted by: dlombardo1 | May 15, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I think that the surest way to get a new NJ post is for me to post a comment on an existing post. :-)

It hurts me to say this but compare the overall quality of the baseball experience at OPCY versus Nats Park and you will see another reason for the low attendance. Last year I went to games at both places very close together, and there was no comparison. For starters, we were able to get "group" tickets with a group of 12 at OPCY. When I tried to arrange something for my son's baseball team at Nat's Park I was told it took 25 to get a group package.

Also, there is no place at NP to sit down with your overpriced food and eat it, without going back to your seats. Picnic tables somewhere with a view of the field would be fantastic.

Finally, the customer relations at NP are very shabby. For example: We have been trying to get someone to talk to us about a way to make accommodations for my youngest son, who has a severe peanut allergy. We've made several calls and not had anyone call us back with much other than an "I'm sorry there's nothing we can do" response.

Posted by: twinbrook | May 15, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I seem to recall in earlier rounds of attendance bashing that the failure of the Nats to draw on the road as well as at home was being brought up - such as 2007 when the team was supposedly going to be historically bad and lose 130 games. If road attendance was grist for the argument then, it should be grist for the argument now. And road attendance is good now, indicating that other towns have figured out that this year's team is worth watching, while DC has not. Seems to me to be a clear indictment of the local fanbase.

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I think someone has come up with yet another moniker for himself.

Posted by: Section505203 | May 15, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Or, since space is undoubtedly an issue, devote less of it to the Redskins during the NFL offseason. I mean, there's not going to be a meaningful pro football game until September so why take up valuable column inches now? Late July or August I can understand -- but May?

Posted by: greggwiggins

======================

Because the NFL offseason gets better ratings than any other sports regular season. The NFL draft routinely gets higher ratings than NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, and WS games. I don't think you can fault the Post for providing coverage that more people want.

I agree with Dave's comment here that you can't judge the fanbase until there is a winning team. I went to a couple Caps games two years ago against Pittsburgh and Philly and both times we were out numbered by the road team. Now the Caps are all the rage and everyone wants to go. If the nats become a contender the same will hold true for them.

Posted by: Steveo11 | May 15, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

@section417planD: Your comment on the Nats as a road draw overlooks the dominant role that season tickets now play in each team's attendance figures. The only way to determine the Nats' effectiveness as road draws is to count the tickets sold above the season ticket base, and compare them with the same data for other visiting teams.

@twinbrook: You are so right. I was at OPCY last Sunday and the difference is night and day, both inside and outside the ballpark. The Nats can't control what is (or isn't) going on outside the park but they could do a much better job inside.

And, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan: "Mr. Lerner, TEAR DOWN THAT TENT!"

Posted by: Meridian1 | May 15, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of watching, can anyone out there in Northern VA recommend Verizon's Fios? Do you get MASN/MASN2? I've been a rabbit-ears and radio guy, but am thinking of making the jump into the 21st century.

Posted by: SorenKierkegaard | May 15, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I think it's definitely fair to place some of the responsibility on the fanbase. Sure, more people will come when it's sunny, when they're winning, when the Caps aren't in the playoffs, etc. But the definition of a good sports town is not having to make that type of excuses.

Ask yourself - how many people do you know who are excited about having the Nationals in town? What percentage of your friends can you talk baseball with instead of them chuckling at how nerdy you are? I think those answers are lower in DC than other towns.

I personally think DC is the best city in the world, but not the best baseball city - by far.

Posted by: nattaboy | May 15, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

"You got to wonder though why this comment never seems to make it into any story that gets printed in the Washington Post, don't you?"

To be fair, that's because it's an opinion and Dave is a reporter/analyst. Now if you want to ask why an opinion columnist never offers said opinion...

A run down of some other points worth making:

*Day-to-day is a bet, because if you put a player on the 15-day DL then he is gone for 15 days. Since you're allowed to make it retroactive it ALWAYS makes more sense to wait one or two days to see if you can avoid a DL trip and losing a starter for over two weeks. ALWAYS.

On a team like the Nationals, where you don't have any worthwhile backups, it makes sense to wait a little longer, since calling someone up is just going to give the other team an extra out. At some point, though, it becomes counterproductive, because you're playing short-handed.

The Nationals have sometimes done a good job finding the balance, sometimes a bad job. With the double-header coming up, it would be bad to go into the games with 24 men.

*"God Bless America" is a very heartfelt song. Singing it in a stadium full of people hurrying to get their last beer before the tap closes doesn't feel very heartfelt at all. It is very American, though, God bless us!

Posted by: Section506 | May 15, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

"Also, there is no place at NP to sit down with your overpriced food and eat it, without going back to your seats. Picnic tables somewhere with a view of the field would be fantastic."

Actually now there are more places to sit and eat than there were last year. Picnic tables have been added on the upper concourse and near the left field gate, and maybe even other places that I haven't noticed yet. Also, there are stand-up counters behind some sections that weren't there last year, and hopefully that means they'll be adding even more as the season goes on. While you can't necessarily see the field from all these tables, I defy you to find a location in OPCY with its closed concourses where you can do that either.

"Finally, the customer relations at NP are very shabby. For example: We have been trying to get someone to talk to us about a way to make accommodations for my youngest son, who has a severe peanut allergy. We've made several calls and not had anyone call us back with much other than an "I'm sorry there's nothing we can do" response."

What accommodations was OPCY able to make for you? Perhaps you could suggest to the Nationals that they do the same.


Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I think a couple other points about attendance are worth making. Remember that attendance is tickets sold, not people showing up - and season ticket sales are way down because of lousy performance last season. There is then the overlay of tickets sold for the day, and it seems to me that the weather has been particularly miserable this year so far - two games were cancelled for rain, and lots of us waited out rain delays in several games to see them played. For those games there was certainly zilch walkup business.

I do wish that the team management would do some more special deals - the Orioles, already mentioned, have had a lot of ticket deals that are appealing, and I think the Nats would benefit from doing more of those types of promotion.

I, like several people on this blog, have been excited by a lot of the level of play that we have been seeing this year, and I would like to have that be better publicized, other than just Zn's hitting streak - hitting overall has been terrific, Znn has been a find, and Shairon is the real big news for the Nats and baseball. There is a lot here to like.

Posted by: Traveler8 | May 15, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I screamed from the rooftops before the season that our offense was head and shoulders improved from last year.

I told ya'll.

now I thought the bullpen was a weakness, but not one that we couldn't overcome. I figured they'd be at least league average or close to it.

I had absolutely no clue that they would be THIS HORRIBLY BAD.

on that, I was dead wrong.

Posted by: MrMadison | May 15, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I really think that the crappy weather has been a major factor in the 35% decline in attendance over last season. That, and the fact that some of our home games have been in competition against Caps playoff games, at VC and on the tube. Now that the Caps are done (unfortunately), and once the weather improves, I think that attendance will improve significantly. I see a 15-17% overall dropoff in attendance by the end of the season, which would kind of be in the middle of the dropoffs of teams in their second year in a new stadium listed in the dead tree edition.

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 15, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

DC has been provided crap baseball teams since the Roosevelt administration. And yet the fans are not considered "good baseball fans". How would anyone know?

I am sick and tired of those that say DC is not a good baseball town not recognizing that having a team that actually is competive ONCE A CENTURY might be necessary before you can judge this city.

Every sports team in DC draws well when the team on the field is reasonably competetive, Caps, Wiz, Redskins, DC United, Terps, Hoyas, why would baseball be different?

Posted by: cabraman | May 15, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

The owners have stumbled, Bowden left the bullpen bare, the weather has not cooperated at all (we have to finish the suspended home game in Houston because MLB only had the Astros visting DC once?! Good planning, eh?), and has anyone noticed that there is nothing around the stadium but construction sites and fences?
The last point, I believe, to be the biggest reason attendance is down. When MCI Center opened, the surrounding area was a fallout zone. Now, its happening down there. When some bars and shops open closer the Park (instead of 3 to 5 blocks away) people will come early and stay late.
Lastly, as beautiful as the stadium is, this area was spoiled by Camden Yards. That was and still is the coolest ballpark in the country. Once the team has a bullpen, and the restaurants start opening, the attendence will go up.

Posted by: jmurray019 | May 15, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Road attendance is a poor example because we don't know all the factors involved. For one thing we had two road "opening days" (Florida and Atlanta) to only one at home, which were probably the two weakest teams in terms of attendance. Our home opening series was cut short and was completely dreary. Our next road series were against the Champion Phillies and the NY Mets with their brand new ball park. You think people were there to see the Nats those games?? Through the Dodgers in there as well and its not hard to see how we are getting 30,000 on the road. Also outside of that one Braves game I can't think of that many times the Nats faced weather problems on the road. Another factor we don't know is what promotions may be offered at a particular stadium. For instance that third Giants game there seemed to be a pretty good size crowd after there hadn't been the to night games prior. Maybe they came out b/c it was a nice day but my guess is their was a good deal going on as well.

Posted by: Steveo11 | May 15, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

The people who are asking Dave Sheinin if the Nationals are 'doomed to fail' may be worried that the 1960s scenario will play out again---after a few years of bad teams and low attendance, the team will move elsewhere.

It should be pointed out to those people that not only is this team unlikely to be that bad for that long--even if it is, the team CAN'T move; the 30-year lease is IRONCLAD. It is a situation similar to that of Tampa Bay; it's quite likely that, bad as the (Devil) Rays were for so long, and in an unwelcoming place like Tropicana Field, the team would have moved were it not for their ironclad lease.

Posted by: sjberke | May 15, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

More reasons our Nats are still worth watching:

-They might be in last place, but just barely. They overtook the Indians for a night or two during the recent win streak and are close to many a squad. Team, record, games ahead of Nats:
Orioles 15-20 2.5
Athletics 13-18 2.5
Pirates 13-20 2.0
Indians 14-22 1.0
D'backs 13-22 0.5
Padres 13-22 0.5
Nats 11-21 0.0

-Since the 0-7 start, we've been outplaying a lot of clubs. Check out some records since then:
Nats 11-14
O's 9-17
Rockies 9-16
Pirates 10-16
Padres 7-19(!)
Marlins 10-17
Mariners 9-17


Posted by: nattaboy | May 15, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

The pitching problems are in the bullpen. What used to be a strength, now is a major weakness, not helped by how it is being used. Look at the starters....four of the five are worth working with.(we all know the Cabrera was a BIG mistake, even though he is struggling right now, Jon Gaarland would have been a better veteran anchor for a young staff.)

Look....Lannan, Olsen (hopefully will right his ship), Zimmermann, Martis are pretty good. Add Stammen from Syracue or Strasburg in June. Not a bad rotation. With the Nats offense it could be interesting.

As for the bullpen, things have got to be defined for these guys. It looks like they don't know there roles.

Posted by: sazzwho | May 15, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

"Maybe they came out b/c it was a nice day but my guess is their was a good deal going on as well."

Maybe they came out to see an easy hometown win?

Posted by: Section506 | May 15, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

SorenKierkegaard,

I highly recommend DirecTV over FIOS.

Posted by: Section505203 | May 15, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

To address some of the comments, this attendance story has been written in The Post like 10 times now. I've never advocated that The Post should be a cheerleader for the Nats, and I'm not now--I'm all for insightful, critical pieces. But good grief, this article from Sheinin today was recycled, unimaginative nonsense that adds nothing, even on the attendance issue. People on this blog in response to the article have already raised more compelling attendance-related issues and questions than anything Sheinin wrote about in his article. How many times do we need to read what Andrew Zimbalist has to say? Seriously, that's news?

In the article, Dave writes that "privately, team officials point out their attendance has been kept down by factors both within and outside the franchise's control." OK, so then what? What are the factors that are within the franchise's control? The article doesn't say, or even venture to guess. An article that addresses blunders the team has made that have impacted attendance--either in constructing the team on the field, or in connection with off-field moves--would at least make an effort at being insightful and give us something new.

Assuming that Dave wants to continue to write negative pieces about the Nats per his agenda to make Kasten look bad after Stan knocked him around on Washington Post Live, there are any number of timely, critical stories that could be written that would have been more interesting than this. Why not do some investigating and write about how the Nats could have possibly left Florida--or even gone into Spring Training--with a bullpen as crappy as they did? Did Bowden snow Kasten and the Lerners going into Spring Training that he could make it work? How about writing about their rotation plans going into the season, and their apparently faulty assumption that Olsen and Cabrera could adequately replace Redding and Perez? Was that a Bowden snow job too?

Similarly, on the positive side, there are all sorts of newsworthy stories that could have been written, some of which Dave hints at in this blog post, that would have been timely and insightful coming off an off day and road trip.

If The Post does have limited space to cover the Nats in print, then it should at least use the space wisely. Not with recycled stories about "attendance issues."

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 15, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

All those complaining about GBA being too jingoistic for baseball, consider this. There are only four things that ever were truly American. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. But hot dogs are full of insect parts and nitrates, apple pie is loaded with carbs and trans fats, and Chevrolet is bankrupt. All the true American patriot has left to celebrate is baseball. Don't deny him that!

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

There are a lot of reasons for the drop off in attendance.

IMO though, the Lerners are the biggest reason. They just don't get it.

From not spending enough on payroll, to keeping Jimbo and now The Plan Man around way to long, to horrible PR and customer service. They have screwed up in almost every way possible. Hopefully, they will learn from the mistakes they have made, which have been huge.

Posted by: Section505203 | May 15, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

i refuse to link to that article about attendance.

look how much response is given to the attendance question as opposed to the lineup and our top four hitters comparison.

apparently we are mostly interested in crap also.

give me the phillies lineup.

Posted by: longterm | May 15, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

"As for the bullpen, things have got to be defined for these guys. It looks like they don't know there roles."

Their role is to get guys out. It just looks like none of them know how to do that.

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Road attendance can be a useful tool to look at, but not one month into the season. The Nats have played in many cities where the teams draw really well--Philly, NYM, LAD among them--and then 2 road opening days. Later in the season, or at the end of the season when things even out, road draw might provide some insight, but really not before then, as it is too dependent on the home team at this point.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 15, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Good point, longterm.

Another note - we're playing .500 ball since 4/26. It's a start.

Trying to answer Dave's question, even with Rollins struggling, a lot of people might pick Philly's 1-4 hitters over ours. But those people all have poop instead of brains.

Posted by: nattaboy | May 15, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

One other comment, why doesn't the Post publish each day the individual league leaders? If it is a question of space, maybe the Around the Horn item can be reduced in prominence.

Posted by: kecoh | May 15, 2009 9:27 AM

####

I'll third that comment. As kids, didn't most of us pour over league leader stats in the newspaper? That's certainly what my kids want to do. But we're relegated to searching the web, while the Around the Horn box grabs a huge chunk of prime baseball space to tell us what?: that J.J. Putz had a cortisone shot and James McDonald (who?) was optioned to Albuquerque. Please. Put the stats in there every day in a readable fashion (a la USA Today), not the smushed version the Post has occasionally managed to print. Please. This year in particular, one of the few treats Nats fans could have is to see Guzman (in a few days, he'll qualify in at bats), Zim, Dunn and NJ among the league leaders. Who knows, that may even draw fans to the park.

Posted by: hitch39 | May 15, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Those four additional wins would boost the Nationals' record to 15-17, which would leave them three games out of first place.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Dave - Great point! Plus your observation of the offense. Don't forget Lannan, SMartis, and JZ in the pitching rotation.

Fix the bullpen! Even if you have to pick up a FA starter to convert (heck it worked with Smoltz and Kerry Wood when they were healthy).

Posted by: dmacman88 | May 15, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

SK, I made the jump to FIOS tv with the new year. I don't have experience with other cable providers and can't make a comparison there but I've been happy with FIOS tv so far (and with FIOS Internet service, which I've had longer). An added bonus has been MLB Network, which I enjoy a lot.

And a tip of the cap to nattaboy for the GB/A resurrection.

---

Speaking of watching, can anyone out there in Northern VA recommend Verizon's Fios? Do you get MASN/MASN2? I've been a rabbit-ears and radio guy, but am thinking of making the jump into the 21st century.

Posted by: SorenKierkegaard | May 15, 2009 10:05

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

On the attendance front, school isn't out yet, which, along with warmer weather, tends to boost attendance if I recall correctly.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Low attendance does not alarm me at all and it absolutely can be explained by all the factors mentioned:

102 losses last year
0-7 start this year
bad weather
bad publicity in off-field areas

I have no worries whatsoever that this town will activate when the team starts winning.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 15, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

... and Martis!

Posted by: hitch39 | May 15, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

hey nattaboy! let's talk lineups!

i'll take the phillies because they have great power/speed combos. dunn/howard are pretty much a wash. but i have to respect their positions. they have ss/2b as core which makes it so much easier for everyone else to find a role. they can run the bases.

and they have done it together for seasons at a time before. nats are hot as could ever be hoped for.

not to take anything away from our lineup. i love the power/obp but i think we lack speed and a track record. go nats!

Posted by: longterm | May 15, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I second CiL's comment about the article on attendance being recycled, and other commenters who have complained about the lack of any other story elements.

It reminds me of campaign season, when the Post spends so much time covering the tactics of the individual campaigns and analyzing whether their tactics are effective or not. You never have any idea what the actual substance of the issues are, either what the candidates themselves think or what is really going on.

We care about baseball, just as much as we care about handicapping the success of the baseball team.

Posted by: Section506 | May 15, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Another issue is that DC is a far more transient city than just about any other city. Those of us who are baseball fans already had a favorite team before the Nats got here. In my season ticket group of about a dozen people, only 2 were from the DC area. We didn't renew this season because people didn't want to keep paying that much money for their (really bad) 2nd favorite team.

Posted by: slewis1 | May 15, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

"Road attendance can be a useful tool to look at, but not one month into the season."

The same can be said about home attendance - but it doesn't stop people from looking into it, does it?

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

dodgers are silly with or without manny. they also have 2b/ss in favorable order.

but i would take our lineup over theirs without manny.

colorado is the worst lineup of the four. lacks power. and tulowitzki is a mess right now.

Posted by: longterm | May 15, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

does anyone else follow other teams or just home/away attendance figures?

Posted by: longterm | May 15, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

More optimism:
-The Phils will be more tired than us after going to extras yesterday. Lidge had a long inning and was scored on and he's a guy who feeds off momentum.
-Donkey will be extra ready
-ONLY a 30% chance of rain tonight

Posted by: nattaboy | May 15, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

We had DirecTV and had to switch back to Comcast when we got HD because our neighbor's trees were too high. I liked the overall picture of standard definition on DTV better than Comcast. We did loose signal on DTV out during heavy rain storms, which didn't happen with Comcast. We are moving over to FIOS next week. I hope the picture is at least as clear as with DTV.

Posted by: twinbrook | May 15, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse


And the Washington Generals had the best road attendance of any team in clown basketball. But I doubt many in the seats bought those tickets to see the Gens.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | May 15, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Just as with the Wizards and Capitals, the Nationals will only draw when they're winning. DC is a football town and takes note of its other 3 major teams only when they're worth seeing. So, as others have said,

My big beef as a former season ticket holder who dropped (along with 35% of my peers) for the 2009 season was customer service from the team. Or severe lack there-of. I think this area has to really improve if the Nats want to regain all those former ST holders.

Posted by: tboss | May 15, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I'll gladly talk lineups, but I won't take anybody's over the Nats, based on hometown pride. Especially the Phlukes.

What makes their top of the order strong, I think, is all 4 of them are very suited for their roles. Very defined 1-4 who are all used to their assignments.

You gotta love the Tigers with Granderson-Polanco-Ordonez-Cabrera. Remember when they came to RFK and simply embarassed us?

I got DirecTV this year to finally watch some Nats, and it's turning me into a baseball zombie. Ask me at the end of the year and I'll rank em 1-30

Posted by: nattaboy | May 15, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"Road attendance can be a useful tool to look at, but not one month into the season."

"The same can be said about home attendance - but it doesn't stop people from looking into it, does it?"

Well, we do already know from home attendance figures that season ticket #s are way down. So that is something one can already look into, if one cares about this stuff in the first place.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 15, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I'm on Comcast and just made the upgrade last night from a regular digital box to an HD digital box. On my new, 26-inch HD TV screen, the only difference I see when watching sports is comparable to watching a movie "full screen" vs "wide screen," i.e. you see more of the field. Picture quality itself isn't much different.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 15, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

What are we talking about when we say customer service? I have a feeling for some people it's a very long list.

All I want is:

1. Get my tickets on time
2. Keep the seats and the restroom relatively clean
3. Don't have Screech stand in my way during a critical late inning.

I suspect there are some out there who want to be coddled, though.

Posted by: Section506 | May 15, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse


1) the programming you were watching may not have been broadcast in HD - this depends on the channel's equipment, not yours;

2) 26" is about the smallest screen size that can accurately be called HD. In many cases TVs this size have less than 800 horizontal lines, which is fine for 720p/i broadcasts, which aren't done much any more. If the program is 1080p/i, the signal has to be downconverted and won't look all that different from SD.

3) Unless you're using component or HDMI video connectors, you're getting a compressed/downconverted display.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | May 15, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I can't comment on FIOS HD quality because we still have an analog tv (baby steps).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Also vendors.

---

3. Don't have Screech stand in my way during a critical late inning.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

"My big beef as a former season ticket holder who dropped (along with 35% of my peers) for the 2009 season was customer service from the team. Or severe lack there-of. I think this area has to really improve if the Nats want to regain all those former ST holders."

People keep complaining here and elsewhere about poor ST customer service, but no details are ever provided about what went poorly for them. Myself, I've been a STH for three years now and have zero customer service complaints. I didn't like my initial seat assignment in the relocation, and was able to change my seats with a phone call the very day that the relocation notice came in the mail - no waiting. Then I didn't like the new seat location I chose, and was able to change it again early on in the season - with one phone call. And before I renewed for this year, I upgraded my seat location yet again. I've always found the ticket office very responsive - although my typical MO is to e-mail them first rather than call and work my way through the phone maze. Every time I do that I get a call back from a ticket rep within 24 hours, and the issue is taken care of.

So am I doing something right while everyone else is doing it wrong, am I just lucky, or what? Perhaps some of the customer service complainers can enlighten me here. I'm really curious about this.

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Re ST customer service: I was a full season ticket holder for 4 seasons. Last season I called and asked for my account rep because I wanted to buy one additional ticket for a game and was told I didn't have one despite being a ST for 4 years (granted only 2 with the Lerners as owners). When did I get an account rep? When I didn't renew this season and received a call from my "account rep".

Posted by: slewis1 | May 15, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

"And before I renewed for this year, I upgraded my seat location yet again. I've always found the ticket office very responsive"

I think you answered your own question.

Posted by: dclifer97 | May 15, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The problem with the Nationals is that they NEVER make consistent year over year progress in any area.

One year the pitching is decent and the team can't hit.

The next year the team is leading the NL in runs but can't get anyone out in critical situations late in games.

Younger players careen up and down in productivity but rarely show a trendline that at some point shows they have 'arrived'.

The Nationals waited 3 years for Felipe Lopez and Ryan Church to show they were major league core players. Neither produced here.

The other thing that is troubling is why the Nationals felt the need to trade Jon Rauch to the Diamondbacks for Emilio Bonifacio?

At least part of the Nationals bullpen problems can be traced back to the departure of a player in Rauch who was durable and could fill a number of roles as middle reliever, set up man or closer if needed.

The Nationals got another middle infielder that was quickly in and out of the organization and who is now in division rival Florida's organization.

While the Nationals needed help at second base and with depth at shortstop, couldn't these issues have been addressed in the offseason?

Posted by: leopard09 | May 15, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

As twinbrook and Meridian1 touched on, there is a difference between watching the Nats and going to the park.

I am a season ticket holder in section 315, and am regularly disgusted by the fan experience at the stadium. Single registers being open while 1-2 others sit unused and there are long lines, menu items being unavailable, very long waits for any grilled foods, employees who cannot keep track of food orders, concourse audio not always being shut off during the anthem, escalators that don't always work (and are blocked off so they can't even be used as stairs), the "party tent" being more important than our view of the Capitol building, etc. A lot of the carts sit unattended, too: I haven't seen the kosher cart on my level open once yet this season.

A recent example was on 5/5: we finally got a weekday day game, but only FOUR food places on my level were open. I'd already been grumbling because the stands on the right field "edge" of the concourse had been closed regularly (including the only one that sells chicken tenders), but forcing everyone to stand in horrific lines for limited food choices was just a really bad decision. I get that they didn't want to be overstaffed or waste food, but going to the other extreme was not the answer.

I am more than happy to keep watching the Nats (and keep getting my heart broken), but sometimes my SO and I choose to watch the game at home or at a local bar instead of dealing with the stadium -- even though we've already paid for our tickets and we have good seats. Spending Friday night games at the Red Porch has become a preferred option, too.

When the team is playing badly, the least the owners can do is make sure the stadium experience is the best it can be.

Posted by: Jenny71 | May 15, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"Re ST customer service: I was a full season ticket holder for 4 seasons. Last season I called and asked for my account rep because I wanted to buy one additional ticket for a game and was told I didn't have one despite being a ST for 4 years (granted only 2 with the Lerners as owners). When did I get an account rep? When I didn't renew this season and received a call from my "account rep"."

I guess I have an account rep, and I vaguely recall being told his name when I first bought my season tickets three years ago. But every time I contact the ticket office (as I said, usually via e-mail to the general ST address, not to any particular person) I get a call back from someone different, and that person resolves my issue. It appears you don't need to do business with the team via a specific account rep, and I've never been told "you need to talk with your account rep about this". Maybe that's the way to go. Don't let one bad apple (the account rep) spoil the whole bunch for you.

And to the person who suggested maybe I was getting good service because I was upgrading, in reality I wasn't upgrading. I was just changing locations within the same price point. (And actually, when I changed my assignment in the new stadium relocation, I moved to a cheaper section than what they had put me in.) So they weren't making any more money from me because they provided customer service to me.

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Do you know who I feel like? Remember the movie "Major League"? I feel like one of those three people that sat out in the bleachers when the season started. You root for your team, regardless of the owners, weather etc. When the team starts winning, people will come. Be lucky that we have a team at all. Baseball is about patience and I'm willing to see how things evolve. Go Nats!

Posted by: timb67 | May 15, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

One thing affecting attendance is the weather -- it has been rainy and awful generally for every homestand. Any walkup business is being lost when every game is being played in rain and 60 degree weather. The only thing the team or the league can do to improve this is not make people come out and sit in the rain three hours before calling a game when the weather forcast calls for rain for the next four days (i.e. the St. Louis game on may 3).

I'm a full STH and I have found they have improved in responsiveness in the past year. I was able to move to the exact seats I wanted THIS season, but I should have been given them in the first place without having to go through two upgrades in a year. I think they are doing a better job with this but they've already turned people off thanks to the awful job they've done in '05 - '08.

Posted by: raymitten | May 15, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I think it is easier to predict the future of the Nats than of the Obama Administraztion.

1. At some point, Papa Lerner passes on to his reward.

2. The heirs start squabbling.

3. To end the squabbling, the team is sold (See Wall Street Journal).

4. A new owner takes over, minus Stan (The Plan) Kasten.

5. Then we have a chance to see what major league baseball looks like.

Posted by: JohnRDC | May 15, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Good article on the Nats attendance. Two things - I don't think anyone can stress enough that the Lerners (and Kasten) wasted the "goodwill" that was present when the Nats arrived in 2005 and was still present when the Lerners arrived in 2006. However, they spent most of the time since then not improving the team on the field and pinching pennies - and that has been evident to the casual and serious fans alike.

Secondly, and I don't see this mentioned enough. Washington isn't a baseball town. In time, I hope that it can become one. But without a team from '73-'04 - how can it be a baseball town. Two teams have left and took their history with them. An entire generation of fans has been raised without a home team to root for. Sure, the Orioles were always nearby. But the Orioles never truly embraced the DC fandom. And frankly, you couldn't just decide one afternoon to swing up to Baltimore. It's nearby, but it can be a hassle to get to.

Posted by: comish4lif | May 15, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I agree wholeheartedly. Batting tends to be more consistent over the years. If you put together a good lineup of batters, it should produce relatively predictably over the seasons subject to injury. That bodes well for the lineup the Nats have put together.

Pitching tends to be more volatile, and can come together or fall apart more quickly. A GM is much more likely to find a pitcher who is a diamond in the rough than a batter. If one cannot be developed, it should be possible to trade for a closer, and middle relievers are relatively speaking fairly inexpensive (although the Nats need to choose more carefully than the Birds did). Top starters are more expensive, but there is promise in some of the Nats young starters.

The Nats plan seems sound to me, even if the results have not arrived yet. Put together a good farm system, develop a range of good young pitchers and have them grow up together. Keep in mind that Detroit's staff was a disaster three years before they won a pennant.

If nothing else, the Nats are exciting. Over time, and as the economy improves, attendance will grow as well.

Posted by: henryschmeltzer | May 15, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

If the Redskins had not won all those Superbowls, would DC still be a "football" town? I wonder...

Posted by: Juan-John | May 15, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Second that, timb. Wonder who would be the Bob Uecker character? My money's on Dibble...

---

Do you know who I feel like? Remember the movie "Major League"? I feel like one of those three people that sat out in the bleachers when the season started. You root for your team, regardless of the owners, weather etc. When the team starts winning, people will come. Be lucky that we have a team at all. Baseball is about patience and I'm willing to see how things evolve. Go Nats!

Posted by: timb67 | May 15, 2009 11:46 AM |

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

How aobut the empty $300 and $150 seats? Sure they reduced some prices and basd upon other new stadiums, $60, $50, $45 and $40 aren't bad for the bowl. But the others clearly are priced for a winning team, not what we have now or will have in the near future. At the 12-14,000 attendance games, it was glaringly and painfully obvious that season ticket holders are crammed into a narrow swath of seats in the $60-$40 areas (with lots of gaps in the $45 and folks jammed into the front of the $40). Many of those folks would spring toward the backstop if the prices were more reasonable (Say $200/$100 or even $150/$75). That would allow everyone else to slide up a bit and would make for crowds that gravitated toward the field instead of gapped back where the price is right.

It seems to me there should be a sliding scale on pricing that is in direct relation to the priduct on the field. They have to build a fan base by creating habits, not by gouging whoever comes in for a look. When they field a major league team, they can charge major league prices. Right now, it should be $1 hot dogs and $4 beers. Sign Strasburg, $2 dogs, $5 beers. Field him and a better bullpen, $4 hot dogs $6 beers. Surpass 500 ball and get out of last place in the NL East, okay $7beers $6 hot dogs. I really like hot dogs and beer.

Posted by: GregHerrick | May 15, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

>*The offense is not just good -- it's arguably the best in the NL, given its league-leading .809 OPS. Their average of 5.15 runs per game ranks fourth in the league, behind only the two bandbox beneficiaries, Colorado and Philadelphia, and the Dodgers, whose production is almost certain to go down in the absence of Manny Ramirez.

And still losing. Maybe the fans just have a sense that Acta's a loser, tied to the old regime of Bowden. He certainly hasn't proved to be anything different.

Posted by: Brue | May 15, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

"1. At some point, Papa Lerner passes on to his reward.

2. The heirs start squabbling."

#1 is a lock, but I wouldn't count on #2. From all appearances, this is an incredibly tight-knight family that has been in business together for decades. They have integrated the husbands of the sisters into the family business along with the lone brother (Mark), and appear to have established well-defined areas of responsibility for everyone. Along the way, there have surely been many opportunities for squabbling among them, yet apparently there has been none. All of them defer to the patriarch Ted, but within the second generation they all defer to Mark. I would expect this to turn into an extended family ownership of the team a la the Rooney family ownership of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In other words, you'd better get used to it.

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

The offense is definitely worth watching! Yes, there is the chance they may blow it in the 9th and you will feel bad. At least you FEEL something. Last year they couldn't even put up enough runs to win. This year if we go down by 5 runs you KNOW there is a good chance they can come back to win. And the young pitchers are fun to watch - Zimmermann has some really sick stuff and Martis was great on Wednesday. It really is worth watching. Buy those tickets DC people!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | May 15, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Lets see how the offense produces over the long haul. I refuse to get excited about a couple of guys hitting over the career averages. Several of them, Dunn, Willingham, Johnson, etc are really not part of the long-term plan anyway. Plus, it doesn't excuse the lousy defense, baserunning, and RISP production. It's time to take your lumps and build for the future now - move Dunn and Johnson to contenders before the trade deadline, stockup some arms and young postion players through that and the draft (sign them too). You've got to be patient and build this team the right way - a consistent approach is best....the fans will come.

Posted by: bendersx6 | May 15, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I wish more ink / talk was given to the positives of this team rather than dwelling on the record or ownership. Even Boswell, whose opinion I value, has seemed to jump on the Nat bashing bandwagon. If 2 or 3 of their pitchers would come around, they're in the mix in their division.

Posted by: Ratzoe | May 15, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"And still losing. Maybe the fans just have a sense that Acta's a loser, tied to the old regime of Bowden. He certainly hasn't proved to be anything different."

First two weeks of the season: 1-10.

Next three weeks: 10-11.

Let's see what the rest of the season brings before we go sticking the loser label on anyone, okay?

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Haave these guys paid their back rent and taxes yet? For all those who told the rest of us that this ridiculous expenditure of public money on a new stadium would pay for itself, and that would include all the sportswriters who make their livings covering the sport, there are bigger issues at play here than whether the team is adequately supported.

Hey, maybe they could downsize the stadium, making the upper tiers into a parking lot, and make this into a stadium for DC United. They, as I'm understanding things, are outdrawing the Nationals, and actually win.

The public financing of stadia has got to stop. Too made it will take some fiascos like the current one to save the rest of the country from similar disasters.

I want my rent, damn it!

Posted by: cohenra | May 15, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

The improved hitting is wonderful. Having a reasonable chance to come back when you're down 4 or 5 runs is great. But then to repeatedly squander it: That's crushing. The Nats have to try something else with the pen. Get Bergmann or Clippard or both up here, please. And I fear that, as good as the hitting has been, we probably can't expect Guz to hit .390. Zim to hit .350 or Dunn to hit .310 for the season. That was be miraculous. If the hitting cools off a bit, and nothing is done about the bullpen (or DCab), it will be a long season.

Posted by: nats24 | May 15, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"Haave these guys paid their back rent and taxes yet?"

Yes, like six months ago. And they already paid this year's rent. Early.

Go find some other dead horse to beat.

Posted by: section417planD | May 15, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Road attendance is a poor example because we don't know all the factors involved. For one thing we had two road "opening days" (Florida and Atlanta) to only one at home, which were probably the two weakest teams in terms of attendance. Our home opening series was cut short and was completely dreary. Our next road series were against the Champion Phillies and the NY Mets with their brand new ball park. You think people were there to see the Nats those games?? Through the Dodgers in there as well and its not hard to see how we are getting 30,000 on the road. Also outside of that one Braves game I can't think of that many times the Nats faced weather problems on the road. Another factor we don't know is what promotions may be offered at a particular stadium. For instance that third Giants game there seemed to be a pretty good size crowd after there hadn't been the to night games prior. Maybe they came out b/c it was a nice day but my guess is their was a good deal going on as well.

Posted by: Steveo11| May 15, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

_____________________________
All good points but they pale in comparison to differences in the season ticket base. In the old days, most baseball tickets were sold on a single-game basis, but no more.

So the attendance on any given night, for most teams, may be upwards of 80% season or multi-game plan holders, for whom the identity of the visiting team is irrelevant in the purchase decision.

The only way now to measure the Nationals as a road draw is to compare their "delta" between season and single-game tickets in a given venue, and then compare with the "delta" for other visiting teams.

And then, as Steveo correctly points out, you have to further correct for weather, promotions, etc., especially if you are only looking at a small sample size (fraction of a season).

Another way to do it is to look at StubHub, which, like a stock market, is a good indicator of supply and demand at any given moment for ALL future games this season. This provides a larger sample size and a more dynamic price environment sensitive to supply and demand.

I haven't taken the time to do it, but you could go to a particular MLB team and look at the variation between prices being asked for games vs. the Nationals compared with others.

Even this would have its drawbacks, of course. Games that are farther in the future may be less reflective of the tickets' ultimate game-day value, and there are the other variables Steveo described.

Even in the absence of empirical evidence, we can safely assume the Nats are not among the premier road draws in the major leagues. But comparing their road attendance to their home attendance is really pointless.

Posted by: Meridian1 | May 15, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

The Nats fans want to embrace this team, but management has to put a product on the field and step up its marketing effort to entice more than just the die-hard fans regularly through the gates. Everyone forgets it was just three seasons ago that the Capitals were flatlining attendance wise even though they had the transcendent Alex Ovechkin on the squad. The Nats should follow the Caps model and get rid of the overpaid, overrated and underachieving while building a core of team-developed players that fans can see grow and become attached to. Austin Kearns? No. Ronnie Belliard? No. Daniel Cabrera? definitely not (make it stop, please!). Fans are tired of the stopgap "Rent A Red" method used by JimBow rather than visualizing where this team should be three years down the road. The Caps have slectively used trades and free agency to supplement their core players, not to BE their core players. Why is Belliard, for example, taking at bats from Anderson hernandez if Hernandez is supposed to be part of the future of this team? When Guzman and Belliard are the middle infielders, range up the middle is non-existant. The Nats need to burn "How to Build a Non-Competitive Ballclub on the Cheap" authored by one J. Gordon Bowden III and start developing players other than R-Zimm, J-Zimm. and Lannan who can become their Ovechkin, Semin and Green. Remember, three years ago NOBODY was rockin' the red at the Phone Booth. The Lerners should pick up the phone and call Ted Leonsis about how to make the fan experience better. Stan the Plan Man has a reservoir of management contacts throughout MLB, the NBA and thr NHL who can advise on how to make the on-field and game production products more palatable. A sports franchise cannot be run by fiat from on high. Fans need two things to help sustain a successful franchise - emotional investment in a team and the disposable income to view the product. But fans also vote with their wallets and many are voting to keep theirs closed where the town's baseball team is concerned. Ted and Mark Lerner and Stan the Plan Man, the ball is in your court.

Posted by: leetee1955 | May 15, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

New post is up

Posted by: twinbrook | May 15, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

>Let's see what the rest of the season brings before we go sticking the loser label on anyone, okay?

Acta's a donkey.

Posted by: Brue | May 15, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who finds comparisons of Verizon Center ticket sales to those for Nats Park another case of apples and oranges? Seeing as how the seating capacity for the Caps is about one-half that as for the Nats. Just saying...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I thought Dunn was the Donkey???

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Thanks ShineBoy, your ability to pontificate on the obvious and abdicate on the onerous makes you one fine scribe.

I have no earthly clue what the WAPO has against this team. Going on 5 years now and you ba*tards continue at every chance to stick a fork in their backs.

If you don't like Kasten, and the Lerners to bad, they own the team.

The flat out bandwagoning that went on over the past few weeks for the CAPS by your paper was the icing on the cake. As a lifelong CAPS fan and partial STH, I remember the days (as short as 24 months ago) when the CAPS didn't even rate more then a quarter page. Go screw yourself, I'm glad I don't pay for your print edition anymore

Posted by: TippyCanoe | May 15, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

someone needs a nap...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 15, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

hehe

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

"I thought Dunn was the Donkey???
Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 1:16 PM"
_________
That's Dunn-key, as in Shrek. The difference is, Manny is digging himself, and the team, into a pit they won't get out of, according to some here.

IOW, one's a burro, and the other's a burrow. One's an ass, and one's a hole in the ground. Not everyone here knows the difference.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 15, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I went to my first game at the new stadium last year and had a great seat in a skybox above the visiting dugout. My business partner and I decided to walk around see the new stadium. We stopped for food in the outfield (figured we'd buy some food even though the box had a catered buffet) and walked over to the area under the scoreboard to eat our food and watch the game.

The entire section was completely empty, so we decided to sit down while we enjoyed our meal. A stadium security person came over and rudely told us to leave since we did not have tickets for those seats. We explained that our actual seats were much more expensive and we were just sitting there while we ate. The guy rudely dismissed us and threatened to have us ejected from the stadium.

We left those seats and we have both left the stadium for good after that game. I prefer to not be hassled by security. It's a shame that someone at the bottom of the ladder for the Nationals organization ruined our experience, I'm sure we're not the only ones that have been driven away by overzealous ushers. We both had been considering buying season packages (I have 5 kids and he has 2) and as business executives who can afford tickets, that's a lot of lost sales. (And in case you were wondering, neither of us had drunk any alcohol when this happened.)

Posted by: captclamdigger | May 15, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

How about a story entitled "Why the Nats are Worth Watching" in tomorrow's paper?

Posted by: 6thandD | May 15, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Got it, sec. 3.

That's (their treatment of you) ridiculous, captclam.

I like it, 6thandD.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I agree natsfan1a1. Dibble makes a great Uecker! I enjoy his commentary. The next great question is... Who's our Wild Thing??

Posted by: timb67 | May 15, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Dave --

I enjoy your writing, but you committed a major faux pas last night/today.

The Nationals do not have the sporting stage to themselves. I won't even bring up admittedly fringe sports such as tennis. You're overlooking a team that had higher television ratings last year than the Nats: DC United. They play the world's most popular sport, and have a very devoted following.

This year, United has only lost one game. As the summer develops, I expect that the area will be a lot more excited about DC United than the Nationals.

Posted by: fischy | May 15, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

i'll echo comments made for the related article about dc sports fans in general. because of the transient nature of the metro area's populace, many people do not feel tied to the teams (exaggerated by the nats coming from canada). while many would point to consistently sold out skins games as a counterpoint, i'd argue that many are more interested in the EVENT rather than the game or the team. use the caps as a more recent example: who cared one iota about the caps 18 months ago?

dc sports fans, generally speaking, of course, are not so much interested in their teams as they are in the event or the story. the nice thing about bandwagons, though, is that they're easy to get on and get off (again, example caps). i agree with dave that this nats team has the potential to be very good and make a run at some point this year. we could get some decent middle relief for johnson and the second half of the season could very well be more interesting than many predict at this point. then, when there's a story, the fans will show up.

Posted by: Waffle1 | May 15, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

How you lose, team OPS, all that stuff doesn't matter -- all that matters is your record.

Dave, don't stoop to the levels of ignorant and/or drunk fans who use "shoulda/coulda/woulda" arguments to say what the team's record "should" be. It's ridiculous to speculate about what their record would be if they had an average bullpen -- they don't, so who cares. Why not give them an average team OPS as well and take away 4 wins? Oh I see it doesn't work like that...

Posted by: SatchelPooch | May 15, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

If you win they will come and how do you win? I said on post during spring training that fundamentals are essential to winning baseball,the fanbase can tolerate losing for a while if they can see progress and a vision for the future but misjudging fly balls,poor base running(Dukes repeatedly getting picked off) and the inability to lay down a bunt when needed can scuttle any hope for the future especially when its a veteran ballclub,Manny is to blame for the lack of fundamental's that we've seen so far. Acta's job is too oversee his coach's and their day to day duties with this team and that should have happened in March,yes there will be the occasional error but this is a veteran ballclub for the most part, and for what I've seen so far doesn't say a whole lot on Acta's behalf.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 15, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

D-Cab, I'd say, but not sure for how much longer.

---

I agree natsfan1a1. Dibble makes a great Uecker! I enjoy his commentary. The next great question is... Who's our Wild Thing??

Posted by: timb67 | May 15, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Also, some new posts are up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 15, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

the beer is always good, the Nats are going to start wining more games and the attendance will rise.

Posted by: skygrunt | May 15, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I don't write often but I want to jump in on the obvious negativity of Mr. Sheinen toward the Nationals - lots of valid points already made about the repetitive nature of articles on attendance and how his postive points are on NJ instead of in the dead tree - can anyone from the Post tell us why they need to be so negative - I also don't want them to shill or gloss over what is obviously a flawed team but as a fan it would be nice to feel good after reading the Post - Is it true that Kasten blasted him? Ihope he is not carrying a grudge, how childish that would be. Anyway I will be there tonight as part of my 20 game package and am praying for decent weather and a well pitched game - no doubt in my mind we will hit - Also glad to see Colome get another chance and getting rid of LK was a no brainer

Posted by: sjm3091 | May 15, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

" All of them defer to the patriarch Ted, but within the second generation they all defer to Mark. I would expect this to turn into an extended family ownership of the team a la the Rooney family ownership of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In other words, you'd better get used to it."

Sec. 417: God, I hope not!

Posted by: JohnRDC | May 15, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

captclamdigger: Re assigned seats. I've heard from others the same stories about ushers throwing people out of rows of otherwise empty seats, and not doing it politely.

Some people I know will be going to see the Red Sox, but not because they're treated decently, you know, like customers. They're not. The Nationals' overall management is dopey beyond belief. And for that I blame Stan (The Plan). What a bust he's been.

Posted by: JohnRDC | May 15, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

There's a team about 45 minutes north of here with a better 1-4 lineup. I'm surprised they got no mention considering this is, after all, Orioles territory according to one asbestos lawyer.

Posted by: KellRawLive | May 15, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

the team is worth watching because the steps they've taken are positive, the problem is the extra steps that they have yet to take, i.e. thinking the bullpen may be important

Posted by: bford1kb | May 15, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

the o's lineup isn't as good either the phillies have a case though

Posted by: bford1kb | May 15, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

You want to build excitement... STRASBURG, STRASBURG, STRASBURG... Put him on the mound while the ink is still drying on the contract... who wouldn't want to see a pitcher go straight from college to the Pros with no minor league experience... at least every 5 days there would be some attendance!

Posted by: tony325 | May 15, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Boreball is dying, get used to lower and lower attendances before the Nats leave town within 10 years and Snyder builds his dome on the razed site of Gnats Park.

Posted by: alecw81 | May 15, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Yes, except for the shooting, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play??

Posted by: paulkp | May 16, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

Apparently the Times does a better job of acknowledging DC United's existence:

http://washingtontimes.com/news/2009/may/16/first-down-69050799/

Don't think much of their politics, but they deserve the click throughs on this one.

Posted by: stancollins | May 16, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

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