Yesterday on “The Sports Reporters,” the great Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin discussed the sudden dropoff in attendance for games when Stephen Strasburg pitches. Only 21,695, which the Washington Post called “the smallest crowd to watch Strasburg pitch in the majors,” showed up at Nationals Park on Sunday for his latest appearance. This following a crowd of just 25,939 coming for his August 10 start against the Florida Marlins.
I blame management. Strasburg drew 40,043 to Nationals Park on a weekday night a month ago. That’s a huge turnout for a lousy team. But when Strasburg told coaches that he was having trouble getting loose before the game, he was scratched. And fans booed.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with yanking the young pitcher if he’s wounded. But Nats management, following baseball tradition where starts are really just scheduled and not guaranteed, didn’t take any steps to appease the boo-birds. No refunds, no free popcorn, no nothing.
Cheap Seats Daily insinuated that the team should have given disgruntled fans their money back or taken some step to mollify the masses. Baseball tradition doesn’t offer clues on how to deal with Strasburg. The team and its flagship TV network, MASN, had promoted Strasburg’s expected start for days before the Braves game like nothing in the history of baseball.
To my thinking, had the event been as aggressively billed as Stephen Strasburg Bobblehead Night, and fans expecting a bobblehead were told when they arrived that the dolls were unavailable, surely refunds would have been offered.
Both my readers hammered me for taking the refund position. But now, with two average crowds showing up for his last two starts, it seems pretty plain that that canceled start, and management’s failure to do anything nice for the new fans who’d jumped on the Strasburg bandwagon, had its consequences. At the very least, it’s killed off all prospecting among ticket buyers.
I hear vindication for my stance in the quieted turnstiles.