April 13, 2008

Our National Nightmare Is Over

So clearly I am a good luck charm for the Nats. They are 2-0 at games I have been in attendance at, winning today in what became a nailbiter 5-4 over the Braves (and yes, I stayed the entire time). The Nats avoided the dreaded double-digit loss streak and have an off day tomorrow to regroup and refresh before a 9-game road trip through Shea, Dolphins Stadium, and Turner Field. Gotta cede Nationals Park to his Holiness. I won't be back at the park for another 12 games, so if they're on an 11-game losing streak, I can play streakbreaker again. Streakbreaker... I believe that was J-Red's mother's nickname back in college.

Anyway, a few thoughts on 'deez Nats and Nationals Park following today's game...

1) Regarding the catcher position... by the end of the season, Jesus Flores will be starting catcher with Lo Duca as backup, Jesus Flores, for those of you who don't follow the Nats closely, was a Rule 5 pickup last year who blossomed into a top prospect at the position. With the additions of Lo Duca and Estrada, the thinking was that Flores would get another full season in the minors to develop. Flores was demoted to Columbus to make room for Willy Mo Pena (an auspicious arrival today) but really this will help him move along so that he can play every day and play with the Nats' pitchers of tomorrow. Lo Duca's best offensive days are behind him now that he's off the HGH. He's not a very good defensive catcher as evidenced by his throw today to try to nail a base stealer that if not for Cristian Guzman's acrobatics, would have ended up in centerfield. Estrada is cool for wearing the high socks, but really is pretty much a waste of space. Flores will be running the show by August. And one more thing... while Brian Schneider was certainly not a slugger nor was he the best at throwing people out, he is truly missed in terms of calling a game from behind the plate and in terms of his ability to manage pitchers. Having him behind the plate was like having a second pitching coach.

2) Lastings Milledge will be a star. He had two baserunning "blunders" today. However, one of them was truly not his fault (getting picked off at first base after an infielder snagged a ball that was headed to the outfield on a beeline). The other, when he tried to take home on a ground ball to the infielder, was a blunder because he didn't run it correctly (take a few steps and then break once the infielder throws to first instead of waiting to move at all until the infielder throws) but was technically not a blunder because even though he was called out, replay confirms the ump blew the call. Bottom line is that Milledge is a threat on the basepaths. He's 23 years old. He can slap the ball around the alleys for true extra base hits and turn singles into doubles. He is an incredible upgrade in the field over Nook Logan. The Mets will really regret giving up Lastings.

3) Metro is more than up to the challenge of Nationals Park. Leaving at the end of the game today, I waited a total of two minutes for two trains. Zero minutes at Navy Yard (train on platform when I got down there), two minutes at Gallery Place to transfer to the Red Line. Metro police block traingoers from entering the stadium until the platform clears. Then, they allow traingoers into the station in anticipation of the next train arriving. 8-car trains are backed up and enter the station as soon as the train ahead of it leaves. All this means you move freely through the station and you're not getting bumped and jostled around. You deal with a little bit of a wait on Half Street to get into the station, but it's a pleasure once you're inside. Plus, the system was well aware that the vast majority of stadiumgoers would have to change trains to get to Montgomery County and Northern Virginia, and smartly (and unlike at RFK), the system now runs extra trains through the transfer points as well as through the stadium stop. If you're going to urge people to take Metro, make sure you're ready. And Metro, you're passing with flying colors.

4) I'll spend more in food at Nationals Park in this season than I did the previous three seasons combined at RFK. Alright, $5.50 for a souvenir soda is obscene. $7.50 for a 16-ounce domestic draft is crazy (even if it is in a pretty cool commemorative inaugural season plastic cup). But the offerings at the ballpark are great. With the owners of the Nationals being observant Jews, they have two kosher stands throughout the ballpark. Everyone knows kosher hot dogs are the best kind. My dad grabbed a potato knish and a kosher dog with sauerkraut from the kosher stand right outside our section. Total damage: $9.75. The kosher dog was $5 and well worth it. Add the kosher dog to the Hard Times chili nachos as "must haves" at the new stadium. As for all the hubbub over Five Guys and Ben's Chili Bowl, the line for Ben's Chili Bowl is still two innings long. Just take the train to U Street after the game. Or get a Ben's chili dog at any one of the concession stands inside the park. I've heard the Five Guys operation is finally getting to be a little bit quicker but really... Five Guys are everywhere... is it really that much of a novelty to get a Five Guys burger inside the ballpark? Come on.

5) The cheap seats at Nationals Park have the best views in the stadium. My dad and I have a share of season tickets in Section 314, Row C. For those of you keeping score at home, that's the third row of the upper deck, directly behind home plate, and about 30-40 feet directly below Carpenter and Sutton in the MASN television suite. The seats are unfortunately a little too high to be in foul ball territory. But at $20/seat, we have an unobstructed view of the entire field, good enough depth perception to never be one of those idiots who stands and screams on a rocket to deep second base, a dead-on view of the scoreboard, the ability to see the ball as it crosses the plate to be able to call at the very least inside and outside. The best is the truly Washington part of our seats. Looking up the left field line, the Capitol Dome looms right in front of us, just 14 blocks up the street. A quick comment on ticket price inflation, using the Orioles by default as an example... I was looking through an old Orioles program from 1995. In 1995, field box seats (between the bases, lowest level) were $20/ticket (2008 - $55). Upper reserve seats were $9 (2008 - $15). Bleacher seats were $5 (2008 - $15). Makes me wonder what tickets are going to run 13 years from now.

7 Responses:

big tuna said...

They are 2-0 at games I have been in attendance at

Wouldn't today make them 1-0-1?

Jeremy said...

There were winning when I left on Opening Night. So the one in the tie column isn't quite applicable.

J-Red said...

Judging by the mass of empty seats I saw on MASN, I bet Metro was totally up to it.

Jeremy said...

I do have to say this... my dad and I were commenting during the game. It's true the place was about 10K shy of a sellout. But we were commenting on how we always see empty seats on TV. And we were commenting on this as we were taking a stroll around the ballpark during the game, still able to watch the action on the field, but just taking in the sights of the ballpark and the different viewing points that offer perfect views of the game and the ability to sip a beer, see the game from a different angle, and see lots of the D.C. cityscape. My point is that I believe that unlike RFK when there was nothing to do but sit and watch, Nats Park is designed as a place to encourage fans to stroll during the game (and spend money), and I think a large number of the asses that own the blue seats that are empty on TV are in the ballpark, just not in their seats. That said, there are large swaths of seats at the ballpark that they are going to have to reprice for next year. The President's Club seats may have sold for their ridiculous amount of money, but pn a cold and dreary day, nobody sits in them. The seats underneath the scoreboard that because they are lower actually are $5 more than my ticket are all empty. Those have to be repriced in a bad way, especially because those empty sections are what show up on every deep fly ball to right and center.

J-Red said...

When they panned back I could see that the lower bowl was mostly full, probably 75% or so. Unfortunately, every time a fly ball is hit or they show the view from home plate looking out it looks like EVERY seat is empty. I understand the upper deck being empty, but they need to find a way to fill the seats that are going to be on television frequently.

Half of the Nats' battle is making people FEEL like it's the hot thing to do. When people who are on the fence tune in and see empty seats, they don't think it's something they need to check out either. If it really is a good stadium, find a way to get people to check it out now so they know it's a good place to spend an afternoon this summer.

Russell said...

The stadium looked mostly full to me, but there were some sections in the outfield that clearly had not been sold at all. I agree with J-Red that they need those sections to be off TV (in the upper deck down the lines is the usual choice). I was impressed that so many people were there after a rain delay, though I don't know how hard it rained.

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