Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Attention, Nationals Fans! Both Of You!

We're closing in on the halfway point of the baseball season, and the news is not good for our Nats in their first year of operations at the new ballpark. Read on from the DC Sports Bog in the Washington Post:

Well this ballpark-christening season has gone about as smoothly for Washington baseball as rush hour at Metro Center. To recap: the big offseason signing got caught up in the steroid scandal, the exciting new outfielders both suffered serious injuries, the two fan favorites at the corners both suffered serious injuries, the ace and closer both suffered serious injuries, the attendance has hovered in the exact middle of the league for weeks (and is much closer to the bottom third than to the top), and the won-less record is currently the worst in the bigs.
Meaning "First in War, First in Peace, Last in the National League" is no longer a bad enough description.

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

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

The biggest average households numbers, according to the story (which is based on Nielsen Media Research numbers) watch the Yankees (325,000), Red Sox (233,000) and Mets (204,000). The highest average ratings, according to the story, are found in Boston (9.75), St. Louis (8.04) and Minnesota (6.92).
More to the point, the lowest average household numbers, aside from the Nats, watch the Royals (28,000), Orioles (33,000) and Pirates (34,000). To repeat, the Nationals' number was 9,000, less than a third of the viewership in next-to-last Kansas City. The lowest average ratings, aside from the Nats, are found watching the Angels (1.24), Rangers (1.49) and Dodgers (1.57). To repeat, the Nationals' number was 0.39.

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

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

Hate to say "I told you so", but I told you so. When the Senators left town in 1971, I became an Orioles fan, and that suited me fine for the next 30 years or so. Aside from a small band of fans who could never get over the fact that the Senators were gone, Washington's baseball jones was plenty satisfied by having the Orioles at Camden Yards. If the Nats want to fix their woes, they're going to need better luck in the injury department, better access for fans to their new ballpark, and more important than anything else, a division title! DC loves winners and the Redskins - and nothing else.

Don't worry, Nats fans... your misery will be short lived... The Skins go to training camp on July 20th - and after that nothing else will matter.

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