After 19 games a year ago the Nationals were 5-14.
Today they’re 10-9. just a game-and-a-half behind the first place Phillies in the NL East.
Now, I know it’s a small sample, but nonetheless, it shows a decided improvement. They’re not doing it with smoke and mirrors, and you have to admit, they’ve played a pretty challenging schedule to start the year.
All that said, for a 6-4 homestand, the crowds were pretty thin at times. Now, to be fair, that’s a trend you’ve seen throughout baseball this year. The Indians, Blue Jays and Orioles have already recorded the smallest crowds in the history of their current ballparks. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times noted in his Sunday column this week that the Mariners drew three of the four smallest crowds in the history of Safeco Field during their just completed homestand.
Locally, DC-area fans have traditionally been a little slow to notice when their teams are on the upswing. The Capitals sell out almost every night now, but the previous couple of seasons had some spotty nights at the turnstiles.
I grasp the fact that I’m not like everybody else when it comes to baseball. Growing up in the District and Northern Virginia I knew the Senators - and the Redskins - weren’t very good, but knowing that never lessened my desire to go to the games. I’ve said this many times before - the game itself was a thrill, a win was like getting two-for-one. Sure, I was disappointed when they lost, but it was never a deterrent to going back the next day.
Nationals’ fans were appropriately excited when baseball returned in 2005, and that 50-31 start only fueled the fire. The 2010 Nats have better personnel overall, and their offseason acquisitions have changed clubhouse chemistry in a very palpable way. The current excitement over the Capitals is distracting, and the Nationals’ front office understands that. Until they either win the Stanley Cup or are eliminated, a lot of fans are going to be more interested in the Gallery Place metro stop than Navy Yard station. The just-concluded NFL Draft was also a distraction.
It would be pure hyperbole to suggest that the Nationals are contenders, or have even turned the corner. However, they now can at least see where the corner is. Fans, in general, are frontrunners, and it’s no different locally. Baseball doesn’t offer the kind of instant gratification many fans are seeking, unfortunately, but every game is its own piece of history. That’s what works for me.