Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's Official! The 2008 Washington Nationals Have he WORST NEW STADIUM ATTENDANCE EVER!!!

Congrats, Stan, Jim, Ted, and Mark, you did it. You so completely bored, turned off, alienated and disgusted your potential fanbase that you have achieved a unique level of fan disinterest never before seen in the last 30 years of major league baseball.

Last night, you needed to draw a piddling 20,660 to stay ahead of the 2003 Cincinnati Reds for worst new stadium average attendance ever. But you couldn't even draw that many. On a gorgeous night with no NFL or college sports on TV, no Olympics, nothing really at of note to distract fans,
a mere 20,657 showed up.

You have now drawn 2,297,101 fans for the year, a per-game average of 29,077.23, the worst ever for a new stadium in its first year since the new generation of ballparks began in 1989. Click here for the full list of 17 new parks that drew better--most much, much better.

You did it despite a massive subsidy in the form of a publicly financed stadium. You did it despite thousands of Phillies, Mets, Cubs, and other out of town fans pouring into the stadium each night. You did it despite none of the anticipated problems with traffic or parking around the stadium. You did it despite minimal competition for fan loyalty from the nearly as awful Baltimore Orioles. You did it despite 30 years of pent-up desire for a hometown nine of our own.

In good weather and bad, wins and losses, day games and night--the stadium remained unfilled. It's a true testament to a level of organization-wide, day-in and day-out incompetence that few if any thought possible.

Oh, I give JimBo a lot of grief here, and indeed if it wasn't for four years of sub-par player evaluation and schizophrenic roster construction strategy, we couldn't have achieved this level of putrescence on the field. Even the Expos in their last quarter-century, in all their years under MLB stewardship with a salary cap playing home games in Puerto Rico--even those wayward, orphan Expos never lost as many games as the Nationals have this year.

But no, Jim couldn't have achieved this dubious record alone. To achieve this level of failure you had to stiff the city's taxpayers (aka your potential fanbase) of millions in stadium rent, refuse to sign your number one draft pick apparently out of some principled objection to the existence of player agents, decline to sign any recognizable 'name' free agents, unceremoniously dump one of the team's most popular players on sports talk radio, build an eyesore of a parking garage blocking the Capitol view that you marketed so aggressively to season ticket-holders, cut corners on off-season fan forums and botch the marketing of the team in innumerable ways, provide slipshod customer service to season ticket holders and others, embrace Exxon-Mobil--one of the nation's most hated corporations--as your most high-profile sponsor, hold your annual charity gala in Maryland not DC, get mixed up in a bonus-skimming scandal... and so many other things I'm sure I'm missing.

Congrats, boys. And yes, Jim, I'm being sarcastic.


An Briosca Mor said...

Here's my response to Maury Brown's article, copied straight from the comment I left there:

Interesting analysis, but there's one huge aspect to this that you've overlooked entirely. All of these markets you've cited here were new baseball park virgins during their first seasons with a new park, and several of them were also new team virgins. Washington in 2008 is neither. It has been the recipient of two new baseball teams since 1960, with a third adopted baseball team (the Orioles) for basically an entire generation in between those two teams. The Washington area has also already been through the opening of a new stadium for its adopted home team (the Orioles) in 1993. That stadium opening was treated at the time as a Washington event by the local newspaper, the Post, with front page saturation coverage in every section of the newspaper, not just Sports. Estimates are that as many as a quarter of the fans who filled Camden Yards those first few years came from Washington.

Everyone knows that the second kid is never met with as much anticipation, hype and favor as the first kid was. The Washington Nationals are the area's fourth baseball kid, and Nationals Park is the area's second new baseball stadium kid in the Camden Yards era. With a baseball team that will lose 100 games playing in it, it is no surprise that Nationals Park did not draw enough fans to pass Cincinnati on this list. The surprise is that despite this being the second time around the block for DC and a new stadium, and despite the team being as bad as it is, Nationals Park drew remarkably well. That's the story you ought to be writing.

Dave Nichols said...

the Nats have used up an awful lot of their fan goodwill for the reasons Steven states in his post today. only the diehards remain, and truth be told, with all the negative ads early on about transportation issues there were a lot of folks that never came in the first place.

let's hope whoever they bring in to manage the marketing next year gets the resources and commitment necessary to bring more people out to the park. but the biggest component of that would be a better product on the field. in most markets, simply having a new stadium was enough to pull folks in for a couple years. as ABM properly states, we've already seen that, and Camden Yards was a prettier picture to boot. maybe their gamble of making Nats Park look "DC" failed. perhaps more people would have come if they'd have made it out of brick!

Brian said...

From The Sporting News

Trouble in D.C.

The shotgun marriage of Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten and general manager Jim Bowden should end soon.

According to several major league officials, Kasten wanted to fire a member of the Nationals' scouting staff for an embarrassing display in the press box before a game at Colorado. The scout loudly and profanely criticized the Rockies' player-development operation. Bowden convinced ownership to keep the scout in question.

That showed Kasten that he lacked the authority to do the job as he did with Atlanta. As Braves president, Kasten was an unheralded hero for the manner in which he brought order to the organization and allowed the baseball operation to do its job without outside interference.

The Nationals desperately needed the same type of leadership. If Kasten leaves, as expected, it will be a huge setback for an organization mired in chaos. That seems to be Bowden's preferred manner of operation.

An Briosca Mor said...

Sometimes you read report after report in the press citing anonymous sources that predicts that something will happen or something is true, and it turns out that way. Like with Clay Aiken being gay.

Most times, though, you read all these press reports full of anonymous sources and the cataclysmic event that they're calling a lock never comes about. That's why, this time next year,the smart money says that the Nationals' heirarchy will consist of the following people: the Lerners, Stan Kasten, Jim Bowden and Manny Acta. You read it here first. No anonymous sources were consulted in making this prediction.

Steven said...

@ABM--your second post I think has some merit. There's undoubtedly a lot of swirling rumors that will come at any team that is doing as poorly as the Nationals are on the field.

On your first post, I'm glad you point out that particular data point, because you're right I hadn't considered that. But I think it's a bridge too far to explain the attendance with a 'second child effect.' First, there's the TV ratings. We know that people are turned off by the Nats generally, not just that the stadium attendance is underwhelming. And I don't think you'll see that same effect in Oakland or New York when multiple new stadia open in rapid succession. Also, some of these new stadia did happen in places where there were other 'new ballparks' in the area--for different sports--Philly, Baltimore, for instance. I'm making a bunch of a apples to oranges arguments, but bottom line I just don't buy that there are 10k people a night out there thinking, "yeah, I saw Camden, I don't need to see Nats Park." In fact, I could argue that the success of Camden Yards would prime the pump--that people would think, "wow camden was so cool taht first year I'm definitely going to check out Nats Park."