March 2, 2007

Why are you a Nats fan?????

I was asked this the other day by somebody very pointedly, given that: (1) the Nats have the worst odds of all 30 MLB teams to win the World Series; (2) have exactly one proven starting pitcher on their roster, and; (3) that I grew up an O's fan (J-Red and I had a partial plan to the O's during college). Given that today is the Nat's first Spring Training game, and I have a share of a Nat's full season ticket package this year, I'll briefly give the reasons.

I grew up in Montgomery County. I consider myself both a proud Marylander, but also a Washingtonian. You can be both. When you grow up 6 miles from the D.C. line, it's pretty easy. My teams growing up were the Redskins, the Capitals, and the Wizards. By default, the Orioles were my baseball team because they were the only game in the state. When I moved to Baltimore for law school, it was like moving to a foreign city. That's not where I spent my time growing up. There is still something special to me about hopping on my city's overpriced subway system, taking the escalator upstairs, and being at a major league ballpark. If the Nats had been around when I was growing up, I think it's pretty safe to say that the O's would be my secondary team, as they are now. Look, I lived two blocks from Camden Yards my first two years of law school and lived six blocks from the stadium last year. I would routinely go to 15-20 games per year during that time. But my heart just isn't with the team anymore. Primarily because of reasons 2 and 3.

I think every year the O's do just enough to make their fans have a glimmer of hope to make their fans think they will be a better team. But this hope is dashed by the realization that the O's just can't compete with the Yankees and Red Sox. I mean, seriously, the greatest thing to ever happen to the Orioles was the Devil Rays joining the division. Guaranteed 11 extra wins every year, and without the Devil Rays, the O's would essentially be Kansas City. And sometimes it's not even due to the competition within the division. Remember 2005 when the O's were in first place and flying along and then the shit hit the fan with Palmeiro, Ponson, and everything else? It's like the team is permanently snakebitten.

The Nats on the other hand have no place to go but up. It's building from the ground up. It will make any game that I go to this year where the Nats win extra special. We've got a gorgeous new stadium opening up in 2008 which will generate the necessary revenue to spend money on free agents, a new ownership group coming in (see below), and we play in a division where we can actually be competitive without having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. Really, the NL East... anything can happen. Just look at 2005 when the Nats were in the Wild Card hunt until the second week of September.

Peter Angelos... Peter, Peter Angelos. There is so much that I dislike about this guy, but I think it speaks volumes that a thousand die hard Orioles fans went to a game last year, wore black armbands, and walked out en masse in protest of the current ownership. Angelos at this point has zero financial incentive to field a winning team. He has been guaranteed a purchase price by major league baseball for his team if and when he decides to sell. Why then would he go out and actually try to keep pace with the Yanks and Red Sox and sink a lot of money into a free agent? His return on the team is guaranteed. Any money that he spends is money lost. He ran off Jon Miller, the greatest announcer in baseball, because Miller had the audacity to make legitimate criticisms about the team. He shitcanned Davey Johnson, who was a fantastic manager, because Johnson wouldn't toe Angelos' line. All in all, he singlehandedly self-destructed a team that was fun to watch and competitive in the mid to late 90s. This team hasn't finished above .500 in what... 9 years now? It's just sad. One of the top three stadiums in the majors that sits largely vacant for most games unless the Yankees or Red Sox are in town, and then the stadium is full. Of 90% Yankees and Red Sox fans.

On the other hand, Nats ownership is excited to have the opportunity to own a team. They experienced such a competitive process to have this opportunity. RFK is decrepit, but they have made good faith efforts to make it a more enjoyable place to watch the game. They've been honest with the fan base that this is a year of rebuilding and .500 baseball is about the best we can hope for, but that this is a short-term sacrifice for long-term gains. They haven't made all great or popular decisions (not trading Soriano, shitcanning Frank Robinson). But their intentions are truly good. Unlike the man 25 miles to the north.
Anxiously awaiting J-Red's response to this post about why I'm a moron.

And to my fellow law clerks and others who dutifully have read this blog the past few days and who have asked, and to whom I have promised, some non-sports related posts. They are coming.

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