Heading into the final three games of the current homestand - with the Mariners in town - the Nationals are averaging 23,103 fans per home date, which ranks them 21st overall in Major League Baseball. It's not earth-shattering, but among the nine teams they're ranked ahead of are some contenders, and they're not far behind the 15th-ranked Detroit Tigers, who are one of the game's heritage teams.
Only the Nationals and Giants have played as few as 31 home dates. If daily attendance hovers around the same, the Nationals will draw somewhere around 1.8-1.9 million fans this year. If they continue to play as competitively as they have this month, they could easily top two million.
It's a basic fact in this game that good teams draw and bad teams don't. There's almost always a correlation between winning and attendance, which tends to completely blunt the argument of those who still contend that Washington shouldn't have gotten another baseball team. This year's numbers tend to bear that out, other than the two teams in Florida, who tend to bring up the rear regardless of how well they play.
The worst teams in the current top 10 attendance rates are the Cubs at ninth with a .417 winning percentage (and an iconic stadium,) and the Twins are fourth with a.443 percentage. The Twins won the American League Central last year, so there's some residual impact from that, as well as a new outdoor ballpark in Target Field.
In 2005, the Nats' inaugural year, they drew over 2.7 million fans. Combined with the Orioles' attendance, more than 5.35 million fans saw major league baseball in the Mid-Atlantic region that year. Every year when the two teams match up in interleague play the question is asked, "Will this ever be a true rivalry?" On June 21, 2005 - six years ago today - both the Nationals and Orioles were in first place in their respective divisions. I trust that helps you form an opinion.
There's been a palpable buzz at the ballpark this homestand that many fans tell me reminds them of 2005. The Nationals are 5-1 so far, with a shot at a really impressive run before they hit the road to play the White Sox and Angels. The Mariners are only a game behind the Rangers in the AL West, and will send Doug Fister, Erik Bedard and the impressive Michael Pineda to the mound against the Nats, who have never faced Fister or Pineda, but beat Bedard in 2008 behind starting pitcher Tyler Clippard. It's worth noting that,other than Clippard, no one else who played for the Nats that day is still with the big league club (Ronnie Belliard played third that day).
One other Mariner note: M's first base coach Mike Brumley is the son of the former Senators' catcher of the same name. I'm told he's bringing his dad to town on this road trip, so a "welcome home" banner or two might make a nice impression.