June 30, 2005
Just as I suspected! The number of empty seats I've seen at Nationals games (in person and on TV sports highlights) has seemed inconsistent with the announced attendance, but the actual discrepancy is even greater than I thought. "The Nationals sold an average of 32,019 tickets for their first 33 games, ... but the average number of people who attended those games was 24,679..." This glaring gap between reality and pretense is having serious consquences: Since "phantom fans" don't drive or eat or drink, the D.C. government is not earning as much money from parking and concessions sales as it was expecting. This, in turn, will put a pinch on financing construction of the new stadium. See Washington Post. Interestingly, the 7,000+ unused tickets per game is about the same as the average of people who actually attended Expos home games last year. As I wrote on April 22, the phenomenon of empty stadium seats is one of the pernicious distortions arising from the U.S. Tax Code, which permits all sorts of luxurious perks and other wasteful corporate spending to be written off as expenses for income tax purposes. Oh, oh! Sorry for injecting more politics into baseball...
Once again, the Nationals didn't waste any extra offensive power in their 3-2 win against the Pirates last night. Jose Guillen batted in the go-ahead run with a double in the eighth inning. The game was delayed by rain for over two hours, and apparently the grounds crew has learned how to get the tarp deployed much more quickly than in the farcical game I saw on April 30.
EVENING UPDATE: The Nationals completed their sweep of the Pirates this afternoon, 7-5. Finally getting good run support, Esteban Loaiza got his fourth win, and he hopes to even his record by the All Star break. Perhaps more significantly, Chad Cordero tied a major leage record by getting 15 saves in one month. After winning 20 games and losing only six in June, the Nationals have crossed the elite .600 threshhold for the first time, behind only the Cardinals and the truly phenomenal White Sox.
That's what David Pinto intends to call them from now on, and I may follow suit. As the "O.C." theme song plays on our tube (it's Jacqueline's favorite show), however, I still wonder if "O.C. Angels" might be more hip.