Nationals Baseball: Mixed Notes

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Mixed Notes

Nats beat the Braves. Take that Michael Bourn! Rick Ankiel 4-eva!

After bottoming out in the Astros series Jayson Werth has hit .333 / .447 / .615. Keep it up Jayson (for 6 more years if possible). In roughly the same time frame Zimm has hit .419 / .432 / .488 so my worrying about maybe needing to worry later? Yeah, NAILED IT!

It seems to me, and this is just a "seems" situation, that we've heard less about Bryce since he's struggling in AA (picking it up recently but still a little underwhelming for the next Barry Ruth). I guess that does make sense though. Bryce is 18. If he's hitting awesome in the minors, that's news. If he's scuffling a bit, well, he's 18. Call me when he's a scuffling 21 year old in AA.

Despite the better play and more interesting players, Nats attendance is down over the same time last year. (not by as much as they say - they have two 0 attendance games factored in there - take it out and the numbers go up but still not as high as last year) That's not much of a surprise because at this point last year fans were still screaming at the airport everytime Strasburg and his mop-top do rolled into town. I kind of expect to get closer to equal as the year goes on and Past Strasburg gets injured. Still attendance is mediocre with what I'd say is a substantially improved product on the field. Say what you will (and you will) but given the newness of the park, the newness of the team, and the market - the Nats have been woefully under-perfoming when it comes to bringing in fans for their entire existence. I will continue to be fascinated by why this is.


This is a question for DC residents for curious me. How is the area around the park developing? This whole Islanders thing got me re-thinking about it because I heard the same bad arguments about bringing work and jobs and development that have been summarily dismissed by most economists being tossed around like I remember back in 2005 or so. (It's not the support that I mind. It's the fake concern about economic improvement. Why these people can't simply say "I want hockey here. If the public is getting fleeced so a rich guy can get a break, I don't care. I want hockey.")

I know "the economy" makes a convenient (and reasonable) out, but taking that into account would you say that the progress in that area has been underwhelming, as could be expected, or better than you would think?

19 comments:

Carl the Big Fool said...

If Strasburg comes back to the bigs in September, we'll see a big crowd for Strasmas II, won't we?

calindc said...

@Carl

Maybe, but everyone will know he'll be on a very short leash.

@Harper

Zimm/Worth are starting to produce, and in key situations too, but it's Morse's consistency that is really surprising. He hasn't dipped at all.

The nats get most of their large attendance from Atl/Mets/Phi fans when they come to town. Looking at their schedule, they have one more set against each (not including today & tomorrows games vs. ATL). Outside of those series, I expect 20-25k nights. Not very good for an up and coming team with a promising future. Not Tampa-bad, but still should be better.

bdrube said...

I actually think the attendance this year might be the high water mark regardless of how the team does. When the federal budget cuts really start to bite in this area, there will be far fewer people who can even afford to go to the games.

I have a good friend who used to go to games regularly with me who got laid off this year and has been out of work for seven months. No more games for him unless I treat.

The neighborhood around the stadium is actually a little unsettling--in a moribund state of half completion. There has been a little progress made this year, but I expect that to stop when the double dip fully kicks in.

jessep said...

The development from my perspective has been completely underwhelming. While a few high rise office buildings/apartment buildings have gone up somewhat near to the park, the main development, "Half Street", sits empty. When you walk into the park, you walk down a street that has huge wood fences on either side with advertisements about how awesome "Half Street" is going to be--the same fence and same advertisements that were there when the park opened.

Overall, I've been thoroughly unimpressed with the progress. Yes, I do understand that the financial crisis is a (somewhat) valid reasons to postpone it, but I am beginning to wonder if "Half Street" will ever be brought to all its glory...

Anonymous said...

D.C.'s economy is not a reason--it's been strong throughout the recession--given the stimulus and growth in the federal budget. It makes one wonder what'll happen to attendance if a real dose of austerity hits town (not likely any time soon, though).

Dave Nichols said...

The lack of development around the park is the key reason Nats Park won't be hosting an All-Star game anytime soon.

MLB is all about the pagentry for these things, and it's paramount for them to have hotels/restaurants/nightlife within walking distance to the stadium. none of those things currently exist, or even to be completed in the near future. it's sad that at this point the neighborhood is no different than when the park opening in 2008.

Cory said...

I live very near the park, and there are two reasons why attendance is disappointing, and it has only mild connection with the quality of the team.

First, while residential and community space development has been awesome, the commercial side (restaurants, bars, attractions, notably Half Street) has been miserably slow. If there were more things to attract crowds before and after games, then people would find it more worthwhile to trek in.

Second, and this is an ever-present issue in DC, is that this is a very "scene" town. In other words, there's a fad-like quality to the attractions in the city. While team quality is part of it - the Wizards and Caps have had booms and busts in line with team success - it also has to do with the relative cost of attending games. DC is affluent to a point, but also very young, so disposable income goes to the hottest new things, and attendance feeds on itself. If the team does well, more people will go, and more will go when it's hip to go.

Harper said...

Carl - I'd expect a big crowd for game 1 with sustained interest if he's lights out, but a severe drop if he's not. The crowds in the two home games post injury rest last year were significantly smaller

cal - Morse is staying up there with a crazy BABIP (which wasn't the case before). Still that doesn't mean a drop in stats is coming (just a drop in BABIP). Nothing is Tampa bad - really I think the whole Florida team thing should be given up.

bdrube - I disagree. It'll get better when they win. But how much better is the question.

Harper said...

Jessep on - It bothers me a lot that supporters jump on the "if we build it, they (businesses) will come" when the truth is more "If we give them incentives, they will come, the park is more of a nice side feature to a comprehensive development plan"

Donald said...

There's one more factor that I wouldn't underestimate. This was the hottest July on record in D.C. Not sure if it's possible or not, but would be interesting to see a correlation between attendance and heat index.

Steve said...

While I believe that the economy, lack of development around the ballpark hurts efforts to build attendance, I think there is something else at work here. A team like the Orioles has squandered its fan base through years of losing baseball. If they start to win consistently, eventually that fan base will return. However, they didn't lose it overnight, and it won't return overnight.

The Nats have a different problem. There was no baseball here for 34 years. If you aren't at least 45, more likely 50 years old, you don't remember baseball in Washington prior to 2005. If you grew up here after the Senators left and were a baseball fan, you probably root for the Orioles, and you're not likely to let go of that allegiance easily. I have 3 sons ages 12-18 who play baseball in the Gaithersburg area, and 80% of their teammates are Oriole fans. Where the Orioles need to reclaim their fan base, the Nats need to BUILD a fan base, a much more difficult task.

Can that happen? Of course. You don't need to look any farther than the Caps. They couldn't draw flys 10 years ago, now they might only be a Stanley Cup and a couple more bad Redskins seasons from replacing them as the top dog in town. It will take consistent winning however, and the attendance will lag behind the winning for awhile.

DCNatty said...

"it's sad that at this point the neighborhood is no different than when the park opening in 2008." This guy is a moron and clearly does not live anywhere near the area and simply walks a straight line from the metro to the stadium. I agree with Cory...the residential and park aspect has seen massive growth and as such the population in the area has risen dramatically over the last 5 years. The commercial side is what has been extremely underwhelming.

Although, I do know the Yards area has several tenants signed to move in within the next year or two. So its coming...check out JDland's website for an awesome overview of the hood.

(ps. i live across the street from the stadium, where another apartment building is being built)

Anonymous said...

I walk to the Park from Capitol Hill. Building on what Cory & DCNatty said, the neighborhood is night & day compared with pre-Nats Park days, when there were housing projects, industrial sites, strip clubs, etc. While development has LONG way to go - the comments about few retail establishments are right on - it's also come a long way.

The Wash Post had an article last year about how the new apt complexes around the Park are doing fairly well: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/26/AR2010032604729.html

I've heard Lehman Bros was backing a lot of the big commercial projects that were planned.

PASwiss said...

I've only lived in the DC region for about a year, but I've been a Nats fan since 2005.

I work a few blocks up South Capitol St. from the Stadium, and my wife works at the Navy Yard, so I've wandered around "Near Southeast" a lot in the last year. In fact, I probably know it better than any other part of the city. That being said, I was asking some DC natives what things used to be like. According to one, it would have been a bad idea to walk past the McDonald's on South Capitol St. before the stadium was built. That seems like a modicum of progress (though we could get into a debate about affordable housing and moving problems elsewhere, but I've had enough politics for awhile).

Another random observation. I went on vacation to Williamsburg VA during the Nat's 9 game win streak. While I was there, Nats gear outnumbered every other team significantly (even the Phillies, being from Eastern PA originally, I'm used to seeing nothing but Phillies P's wherever I go). Anecdotal? Sure, but most of the people wearing the stuff were kids. It gave me a bit of hope.

Kenny B. said...

It's basically echoing others here, but it's pretty ridiculous that the closest place to go before the game is the Bullpen (though we'll all probably reminisce about it to our kids, telling them how it 'used to be')

As far as fans, I think the groundwork is being laid. You see a lot kids at the games, and they will grow up as loyal fans as long as Dan Snyder doesn't buy the team. As the team gets better and the area develops, the Nats will have a bright future.

In fact, my prediction is that they will be the next non-Caps DC team to go to a championship. That's not saying much, really, but it's my prediction.

Marc said...

Harper -

This just to agree with most of what's been said re: development. The big-ticket items (housing, commercial buildings, etc.) have gone up and continue to. But, there is absolutely no place really to go and hang out before or after a game - there's no scene to go hang out akin to what's around the Verizon Center in Chinatown or what's around Camden Yards.

That said, i also think that you're more likely to see that retail development hit the hardest by the economic downturn - those places can't really create the year-round revenue stream they need until the apartment buildings are mostly rented and the office space is mostly occupied. In addition, because attendance at the 81 days and nights of Nats games hasn't been what you'd want, there's not a clear source of revenue there.

The part of me that believes in timing hopes that the stars all align and that those places are in place and opening in March 2013, in time to watch the Nats run to win the NL East.

On the field, Morse is sliding into the "he might really be this good" territory with me - his BAbip is high now, but it's not that far off his career number and his LD% is right around his career number too. He's got 700+ PAs with the Nats now, and over that season+ he's an 883 OPS player. I think he just had a slow start this year and this is who he is.

As for that BAbip, he's hitting more line drives than last year, hitting more fly balls overall and hitting fewer fly balls on the infield and has more extra-base hits as a percentage of his hits. All of that tells me that when he connects, he's hitting the ball hard, which tells me that you should expect an above-average BAbip. I'm sure there's some hit luck in there, but I think some it is like his single last night where even when he hits a ground ball, he's smashing grounders through the infield before the fielders can reach them.

Anonymous said...

@PASwiss

I live in Loudoun, and I can say that I see a lot of Nats gear on display out here. But even further south, I see a fair amount - Williamsburg may not be representative, as it's primarily a college/vacation town, but I've seen it in other areas down the VA coast, and it seems eastern North Carolina is fertile ground for the team (at least as long as no MLB franchise opens up in the region).

It's just a shame that the departure of the old Senators from DC (and their eternal awfulness while they were in the city) allowed the Braves to sneak in and snap up the large Southern support they had (and the O's to take most of Northern Virginia and Maryland). Although the same thing might have happened as with the Redskins, who had big support in the South, but seem to have lost a lot of it to newer franchises (Falcons, Panthers, Titans).

Hoo said...

Complete anecdotal, but the Nats star is waxing while the Skins are waning. Part of it is from the NFL work stoppage. But a lot of folks have given up on the Skins under Snyder till they start winning.

The Nats have the positive buzz with Stras, Harper to a much lesser extent. I see a lot more Nats gear than I've ever seen it before.

I think the casual fan's feeling on the Nats have shifted to "These guy don't totally suck and maybe I'll check out a game."

Scott said...

Why is Nationals' attendance down and flat? Along with the economy, I think it is ballpark access/parking. RFK is accessible by both Blue and Orange line trains, both of which are easy to access for fans living in Virginia. The new ballpark is only accessible by the Green line, which means any Virginia fan is now looking at a 3-step transit (drive to Metro, Blue/Orange, transfer to Green). Much bigger hassle both ways.

I wonder what the attendance stats at the new ballpark look like if you break them out by who lives in Virginia, Maryland and DC?

Wonder how much of the Capitals attendance (at Verizon) comes from Virginia?