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Posted at 09:16 AM ET, 05/04/2012

Washington Nationals attendance: Is pitching boring?

Barry Svrluga has a timely front-page story on the attendanceless Washington Nationals, who, as noted here last week, specialize in pitching and tend to win by a score of 2 to 1 (hold on, let me check the score from last night’s game — yup, a 2-1 victory). [So sometimes they lose by the same score. As did the Caps the other night. Still, close counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and blogging.]

The crowd on a very pleasant evening last night didn’t quite accrete to the 20,000 mark, and, as always in these parts, you wonder if the number includes people who didn’t actually show up, or spent the entire time in a beer garden texting the office or tweeting about some legislative sausage. What Washington needs, now that it has a good baseball team, are more good baseball fans. (And this is not a new issue. See what we asked in a blog item retrieved from the Achenblog archives, 2008: “Where the heck were the fans?”)

Baseball is an acquired taste. Since the Nats materialized in 2005 on the superstructure that was the Montreal Expos we’ve seen some middling-to-poor attendance figures. Barry’s story says there are some long-term trends that skew positive. We’ll see. Right now, it’s not a baseball town, and although there’s no reason to despair, neither should anyone assume that the Nats will ever be as beloved as the Redskins.

But winning has a way of building converts. I’ve watched the Nats a lot this year on television. Am totally sold on a team built around the nuclear arms of Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson and Detwiler. Strasburg’s return from Tommy John surgery has been a triumph, and he’ll pitch tonight against the Phillies. But the Nats don’t hit, and pitching duels are, again, an acquired taste.

This new guy, Bryce Harper, is great fun to watch and so far has lived up to the hype. But ... and I don’t want to exaggerate here ... you have to get used to the fact that most of our batters are not physically strong enough to hit the ball all the way over the heads of the infielders. It’s like Little League. They might really put the big lumber on the ball and it will seem to be well launched toward the fence, only to drop, sadly, into the waiting glove of the shortstop. I think we’re just weak, and should invest in a weight room. We should feed these boys more, maybe have some kind of pre-game buffet. Or someone should draw a line, in chalk, in the outfield, about halfway to the wall, and that can be the new home run line.

Also they should switch to aluminum bats. Imagine the new team slogan: “More Ping In Our Swing.”

Obviously, there’s a difference between being a TV fan and someone who goes to the actual stadium and cheers his or her team on directly, and patronizes the concession stands and heckles opposing players. I haven’t been to a game this year, but I have an excuse — I’m lame, inert, and a stick-in-the-mud. But what about all these other Washingtonians who haven’t showed up? What’s their excuse? Can’t they get their behinds in gear and show some love to our first-place baseball team? Especially this weekend, when the goal — true fact, see Barry’s story — is to have more Nats fans at Nationals Park than Philly fans. No more of this Philly South nonsense.

Surely that’s not setting the bar too high.

By  |  09:16 AM ET, 05/04/2012

 
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