Distinguished Senators had a post yesterday which kicks off what I think will be an emerging narrative over the coming months and possibly years. Will Nationals fans, many of whom for several decades migrated north to root for the Orioles, start to drift back to Birdland?
Baltimore is generating a lot of buzz these days with an exciting core of young stars led by Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Nick Markakis, and a rising posse of impressive pitching talent including Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta. Building around solid veterans like Brian Roberts and Jeremy Guthrie, it's not terribly difficult to imagine this Orioles team emerging as a contender in the tough AL East in the next couple years.
The Orioles have essentially done what the Nationals have only talked about. They got Wieters and Arrieta by investing in the draft and paying premium bonuses for premium players who slipped because of signability. They got Jones, Tillman, and a whole bunch of other useful parts by flipping declining veterans while they still had significant value. They got Koji Uehara by spending internationally. They executed "The Plan."
If the Orioles do make the leap into contention, is there anything the Nationals can do, short of fielding a true contender of their own, to keep NatsTown from becoming a complete ghost town? Would anyone, even the obsessives, really keep spending time and money on a mostly hopeless Nationals team if the Orioles are in the playoffs?
And if you assume that the Nationals are at the very most optimistic 2-3 years away from fielding a contender, what will it do to those plans if in the meantime season tickets fall under 10,000 (or 8,000? 5,000? how low could it go? we may find out...). It's a brutal downward cycle.