Lots of great news on the field for the Nats this spring: a .500 record, a scrappy attitude, breakout seasons from Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa, Jordan Zimmermann looking like a top-of-the-rotation starter, Davey Johnson showing a very Mike Shanahan-esque smile.
And yet at the All-Star break, there are reminders of how far the Nats have to go as a franchise.
For example, Harris Interactive released its annual poll on the popularity of MLB teams among U.S. adults who follow baseball. The survey was done in mid-June, just before the Nats embarked on their potentially season-turning hot streak, and there’s certainly no indication that Americans were rallying behind the franchise.
For the third year in a row, the Nats finished 27th in the poll, this time ahead only of the Marlins, Padres and Blue Jays, who were obviously penalized by it being a U.S. survey. Since finishing 22nd in their inaugural season, the Nats have gone 24th, 29th, 26th, 27th, 27th and 27th. Consistent, anyhow.
(The top five teams were the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Cubs and Dodgers. The Orioles jumped from 20th to 13th this season, for no apparent reason.)
Then there’s Sports Business Journal’s annual mid-season look at MLB TV ratings on regional sports networks. I wrote just a few weeks ago that the ratings were climbing during the team’s hot streak, and that the ratings were above last year’s mark.
For reasons I can’t entirely explain, though, Sports Business Journal has a very different outlook.
The publication says the Nats are drawing a 1.17 rating on MASN and MASN2, down 24 percent from last year and ahead only of the Angels among baseball’s American clubs. That translates to 28,000 households, which SBJ says is the smallest household average in baseball. (The A’s and Royals are both averaging 34,000 households.)
(According to SBJ, “MASN says the posted rating does not reflect bonus coverage on the RSN’s second channel, MASN2, after Baltimore Orioles games end. That bonus coverage would lift the Nats’ mark from a 1.17 rating to a 1.25.”)
(The top five teams in regional ratings were the Cardinals, Phillies, Reds, Red Sox and Brewers. The top five biggest households averages belonged to the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Mets and Giants. An average Yankees game is viewed by 309,000 households, meaning it takes 11 Nats broadcasts to equal that audience.)
Attendance-wise, after finishing 24th and 23rd the past two seasons, the Nats are now up to 22nd in baseball, with marginally higher average home gates than they finished with the past two years.
Anyhow, good times are still ahead, but being the least-watched and among the least-popular teams in baseball isn’t necessarily the goal.