Nationals Baseball: The Great Strasburg Shell Game

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Great Strasburg Shell Game

I didn't comment on this before, mainly because I think other guys got it right, but the Nats hold no blame for the June 4th "mix-up". The team never said June 4th and just because they didn't say it wasn't June the 4th doesn't mean it was their fault everyone bought tickets to that game. They told fans they hadn't decided yet. Did they need to say they really, really hadn't decided yet? No seriously. We meant it. With a cherry on top?

Now, before we start talking about how the team is a little girl skipping through the flowers in the sunny meadow, they are now screwing with the fans. A mere one start before Strasburg's debut, they should know exactly what the plan is. If they don't know now they really are a bunch of screw ups that shouldn't be running a major league team. But I don't think this group is like that and neither (probably) do you. So why not say now exactly what day Strasburg will start? If it is, like everyone thinks, June 8th, keeping Strasburg on the 5 day schedule, why not say it? There's only one reason. Greed.

They want to sell tickets to every game in that Pirates series (a series that would be slated to be very sparsely attended) to wring every dollar out of the fans. It's one thing to delay a decision and accept the little advantages it gives you. It's another to not announce a decision to purposely gain that advantage.

I keep imagining the worst case scenario. The Nats start Strasburg on the 3rd, as per every 5th day would have it, then decide on the 4th or the 5th that he'll start on the 9th or the 10th. Wouldn't that be just a total jerk move, so blatantly made to squeeze blood from the stone that is the Nats fanbase, that you'd just have to question what kind of bastards are running this show?

At least that's what I would think. The Nats didn't need to make a decision any earlier than need be, but now the time has come. Just say it's the 8th, please.


Bryan said...

I object to the stone analogy. If I am cut, do I not bleed?

I understand the fans' distress, but really, the Nats can start Stras at any time they want. If they want to try to sell a few extra seats, even if its through some "undecided" deception, well, I don't have a huge problem with that. If you are going solely to see Strasburg, you aren't much of a fan and I don't have much sympathy. I can be a b@astard that way.

If you are a season ticket holder deciding whether to attend the June 7 or June 8 game, I can see your point. Still, while it would be cool to see Stras' first game, with any luck we are going to be seeing him for years and plenty of those games will be better than his "first."

Sure it would have been cool to see Nolan Ryans first game. But you don't ever hear guys brag about that. No, they'll say they saw his no hitter, or his 500th career win, or this or that accomplishment, but rarely his "first" game.

In other words, if you are going to see his "first" game you probably aren't much of a fan, and if you are, missing his first game won't matter much because you'll be counting on seeing lots more, and lots better, from him in the near future.

cass said...

So, Bryan, there aren't any Nats fans who just can't go to tons of games cause their friends & family either aren't that into baseball or don't like going to Nats Park. There aren't any fans who live a fair amount away and can't afford to travel to a ton of games?

And if these people do exist, none of them are big fans of Stephen Strasburg, having attended a couple of his minor league games and following his every start and they just want to see the MLB debut of their favorite player?

It looked for all the world like June 4th was the date and even now June 4th makes the most sense. Tickets were selling out and those who wanted to be there and not have to pay several times the face value to get a ticket had to buy.

If the Nats knew this was not going to be the date for sure and saw all the ticket sales, then yeah, I think the right thing to do would have been to say something before it sold out. But hey, Stan never even apologized for secretly selling out the home opener to Phillies fans and ruining the experience for the home crowd. About the only thing he's done right over the last year is sign Strasburg for at least half his actual value. Lovely.

Customer relations is not the Nats' strong suit, that's for sure. Of course, perhaps the incredibly high volume of everything at Nats park is not just to drive away all but the most diehard baseball fans but also to deafen their fans so that they can't heard the team's rude fan relations.

Harper said...

If given the chance at seeing the first game of the most hyped pitching prospect of the past decade, for most fans the first reason to be truly excited about the future of the team since Zimmerman popped in at the end of the inaugural season OR just any old game, why would they not try to see it? Are you saying that if you were offered a ticket you'd say "Eh, I had plans to go see Marmaduke that night. I'll just catch Stammen vs. Charlie Morton tomorrow"I can't fault anyone for going for this event and feeling bad if they miss it.

Not every Nats fan can go to a bunch of games every year for various reasons and most that go to limited games like to maximize the importance of the game they attend. This might mean seeing division rivals, or the better teams in baseball, or games during playoff drives, or games that just feel more important, be it opening day or the 4th or a games like Strasburg's debut.

Harper said...

Cass - I'm going to do something I rarely do and give the team the benefit of the doubt. Figuring they were debating choosing between breaking Strasburg's 5th day pattern or not, if they wanted him to break in versus the first place Reds or the hapless Pirates. When they decided it wasn't the 4th - they told the fans. And while I don't think they did everything they could to stem the tide I do think when they come out and say "Hey - we don't know when he'll start" that should be enough to let people know they are gambling on the date.

bdrube said...

I do blame the team. This is a BS move all around. SS proved he was ready to come up after that 2nd AAA start at the latest. They could have just been straight up with everybody and given him the first and last days of the next homestand and made plenty of frickin' money. Instead, his last minor league start will be on the road for a weekday afternoon game.

It is particularly unforgivable given all the rotation issues right now. The team needs him sooner rather than later, when other options like Wang and Detwiler will presumably be available. Management just doesn't seem like they will be happy until they have alienated the entire fanbase.

cass said...

I'm not sure they just decided it wouldn't be the 4th, but I'm not sure, since I still see no reason for it not to be the 4th. Boswell suggests it might be due to Pudge's injury, though that seems a bit silly. Maldanado seemed to catch Strasburg awfully well in AAA...

Wasting a start on June 3rd/4th in the minors still doesn't make sense. No idea what the reasoning is.

Harper said...

I can agree that this guy should have been brought up pretty much as soon as the Free Agency limit had been hit (about 3 weeks into the season) Maybe a week or two later. A couple starts in AA showed he was ready for AAA. A couple starts in AAA showed he was ready for the majors.

DCnatty said...

Bryan...what if Strasburg throws a no hitter in his first minor league start?....then people will brag about that forever. I dont agree with your logic. 500 career wins...I hope Strasburg gets there. haha

Anonymous said...

On a lot of different places I've seen season ticket holders castigating people who bought tickets for 6/4, sniffing that they are "not real fans" or other, similar sentiments. That misses the big picture problem: THERE AREN'T ENOUGH NATS FANS IN THE AREA. And this too-cute-by-half shell game is driving people away when the team should be bringing them in.

And there was a shell game, although it was lying by omission rather than commission and so a bit more defensible. (@Harper) Don't you think it's a little convenient that "when they decided" it wasn't the 4th was immediately AFTER the game sold out? And now this tap dance around the Pittsburgh series. Come on.

It wouldn't matter if the team had ever taken the long term pro-fan position instead of the short sighted "grab what you can get now" angle. But whether it's nickle and diming the city on stadium payments, trying to build a team on the cheap while being one of the richest owners with one of the best operating cashflows in MLB, marketing the team in Philly for the one game all season they could've sold out in DC, the Lerners and Kasten seem determined to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

I hope they learn. They're not as bad as Snyder, but the don't have decades of fandom and three championships of goodwill to draw on (and Snyder may be hitting the bottom of that well soon). The Lerners should learn from Ted Leonsis how to nurture and build their fan base. Or they're going to wake up in a few years and wonder why no one comes to the games or even cares about their team.

John C.

facekdr said...

I think that this "ill will" will be forgotten quickly. Once strasburg is a staple in the rotation people will continue to come out, and if the Nats win, they will grow their fan base.

Harper said...

John C. - It is kind of suspicious but I think it also fits in with a pitcher's routine. If you believe that this example is pretty standard

then the first two days are kind of set in stone, it's only on Day 3 when you'd begin to change things up based on the next start. This also kind of jives with what they are still saying - that the decision won't be made until a couple days after his last start.

As for the fanbase - something I think Kasten believes is that the fanbase will respond to winning regardless of how the team treats the fans. So they'll screw with things here and there as long as they think they are still on track. I don't think he's wrong either.

Hoo said...

"As for the fanbase - something I think Kasten believes is that the fanbase will respond to winning regardless of how the team treats the fans. So they'll screw with things here and there as long as they think they are still on track. I don't think he's wrong either."

Team has pretty much stripped itself of all but the most loyal bedrock support. For the first part of this year, most of the people attending would probably still be attending if the nats were 10-35. It's the core group that has suffered through the years but are the diehards.

Kasten gets to reboot the Nats with The Debut. I don't think he's losing much goodwill compared to the previous seasons of fail.

Basically, when you're at the bottom you get to go up. I doubt many people who aren't fans but bought tix to June 4th are going to say, I'm never gonna be a fan.

If the Nats start winning, they'll forget about any grips and jump on the bandwagon.

And for the long-suffering, if you endured Kip Wells, Daniel Cabrera etc, are you really that much more upset by the delay in announcing the debut?

Bryan said...

Couple things - as a Philly area Nats fan, I can tell you they didn't "market" the opener to Philadelphia. Philly fans travel well in most sports. Its more that than the Nats marketing.

I guess I see some of the points about the tickets, but I just have a hard time feeling upset about people who bought tickets to a game based on their "hunch" that Stras would pitch that day. The team had said nothing of the sort. If you love Stras so much that you want to see his first start live, you'll pay the price. If you try to jump in on the "cheap" by buying the ticket for the game you "think" he'll pitch in, well, that's on you.

And I should say... I'm not a season ticket holder, and have never seen a game in Nats stadium. I see them - when I can - when they come to Philly. I'm a fan and I pick by availability and what day fits my schedule best, I don't try to figure out the best pitching match up or if Player X will be back by that time. If the team trots out its B lineup on the one game a year I get to see them, well, that's the way it is.

Oh, and unlike some commenters, I don't even get to see more than probably a dozen Nats games on TV a year. Most of my watching is done on the "pitch by pitch" game day feed.

Bryan said...

oh, and for years Phillies fan dogged the Phils.

Talk about poor, fan-dispiriting management. The Phils had some of the worst. They wouldn't spend any money and couldn't do much right. They were, and are, the losingest team in the history of sports.

But around the time they lost their 10,000 game, the team got hot, and in a town with plenty of other options in sports, the Phils now sell out every game.

The lesson: If you win and are competitive you'll draw fans regardless of your past sins. Unless you are the Marlins.