Author Topic: Nats Market, Budget - past and future (Strasburg 2022 breakout)  (Read 212 times)

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Offline catocony

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Funny how the choice of keeping Rendon or Strasburg was a no-win scenario.
The point that the malcontent fans bring up constantly - that the Nats never pay the big bucks - is of course stupid.  From 2011 to right now, they've paid big contracts.  As bad as it is at the moment with Corbin and Strasburg jamming things up, the Nats have dodged a lot of bullets. 

Desmond turned down over $100 million, left and had a couple of good seasons, but that contract would have been a stinker.  Letting Zimmermann leave was a lucky break.  Rendon, probably too.  Harper is a tough one, as he has played well in Philly, but most of the other major free agents who left was for the better.  I don't think they were ever serious about signing Alfonso Soriano back in the day - the issue there was not trading him and instead letting him walk and getting a draft pick.  That pick turned out to be Zimmermann, so that worked out really well for a 1-year rental. 

I personally think that the Ryan Zimmerman deal was a bust, even though it was relatively cheap, because the Nats had a player for half a decade who really couldn't throw a baseball. 

[JCA Note - I broke this out of the Stras thread because it is a great discussion that deserves it's own thread.  Big issue going forward will be who to pay for and how much. Some of that depends on what the market can support.]

Online Natsinpwc

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #1: August 03, 2022, 11:12:11 PM »
The point that the malcontent fans bring up constantly - that the Nats never pay the big bucks - is of course stupid.  From 2011 to right now, they've paid big contracts.  As bad as it is at the moment with Corbin and Strasburg jamming things up, the Nats have dodged a lot of bullets. 

Desmond turned down over $100 million, left and had a couple of good seasons, but that contract would have been a stinker.  Letting Zimmermann leave was a lucky break.  Rendon, probably too.  Harper is a tough one, as he has played well in Philly, but most of the other major free agents who left was for the better.  I don't think they were ever serious about signing Alfonso Soriano back in the day - the issue there was not trading him and instead letting him walk and getting a draft pick.  That pick turned out to be Zimmermann, so that worked out really well for a 1-year rental. 

I personally think that the Ryan Zimmerman deal was a bust, even though it was relatively cheap, because the Nats had a player for half a decade who really couldn't throw a baseball.

Yes they did pay for several years. But they are headed to the bottom of the league in payroll now.  Ultimately you can let free agents go if you have replacements.  And they did not. They needed to sign a replacement for Rendon when he left but did not. And now the result of the worst team in the league. With an uncertain future. Of course the owners do not care because they are cashing in their chips. 

Offline catocony

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #2: August 03, 2022, 11:30:21 PM »
They were over $200 million until July of last year, and that doesn't include deferred Scherzer money.  Once the decision to rebuild was made last July, paying for high-end free agents was not much of a consideration.

Online Natsinpwc

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #3: August 03, 2022, 11:37:48 PM »
Not talking about high end free agents. Just some middle range ones to plug some holes when you have few prospects to do that.  The way it stands now they are on the way to being near the bottom of the league in payroll next year. They basically ate on the cusp of losing a whole generation of fans. Only fans of other teams will fill up the stadium on a few nights each year. The good news is short lines for food and the rest rooms. And cheap tickets on the secondary market. 

Offline catocony

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #4: August 03, 2022, 11:46:39 PM »
No one on this board has any idea what the payroll will be next year.  We know that $60 million will be tied up with Strasburg and Corbin, and the rest of the squad carried over from this year will be peanuts.  I was highly critical of the Stan Kasten plan 15 years ago because DC is a rich area and fans expect a decent product, and will pay for it.  I don't think the new owners should go out and blow $250 million, but I don't think it's going to be $100 million with $60 million effectively burned up.

Why they went with the Caribbean League No-Stars this season is still a riddle to me.  They all are 0 to negative WAR, they have zero attachment to the fan base, and the one decently large signing ($15 million for Cruz) was probably 50% higher than it should have been. 

Online Natsinpwc

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #5: August 04, 2022, 12:05:21 AM »
The Lerners are not going to spend anything and chances are new owners will not be on board in time to spend on free agents. Think of 2023 like 2022 but without signing Cruz.  And no Bell and Soto.  That’s $40 million less right there.

Offline catocony

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #6: August 04, 2022, 01:48:23 AM »
The sale will probably be announced after the World Series, so plenty of time for the new ownership to approve whatever.  Once they handshake the buyout - which should be before the World Series - Rizzo will probably be given a rough budget to work with.  They won't go after Trea Turner types but they'll go after the Josh Bell types for sure.

Offline KnorrForYourMoney

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #7: August 04, 2022, 04:41:32 AM »
No one on this board has any idea what the payroll will be next year.  We know that $60 million will be tied up with Strasburg and Corbin, and the rest of the squad carried over from this year will be peanuts.  I was highly critical of the Stan Kasten plan 15 years ago because DC is a rich area and fans expect a decent product, and will pay for it.

People keep saying this here, but I'm doubtful at this point.  This team had an era of about 8 years where it became the premiere team in the NL East, and one of the top franchises in all of the big leagues.

During this time, attendance never even approached 3 million for a full season, and nothing about the size or devotion of this fanbase suggested that the Nats could ever hope to be a big market team.

Next time this team becomes competitive (whenever that is), the DC area is going to have to do a lot better at supporting them, or else these pipe dreams of a consistently high payroll are just that.

Offline Mattionals

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #8: August 04, 2022, 07:55:46 AM »
People keep saying this here, but I'm doubtful at this point.  This team had an era of about 8 years where it became the premiere team in the NL East, and one of the top franchises in all of the big leagues.

During this time, attendance never even approached 3 million for a full season, and nothing about the size or devotion of this fanbase suggested that the Nats could ever hope to be a big market team.

Next time this team becomes competitive (whenever that is), the DC area is going to have to do a lot better at supporting them, or else these pipe dreams of a consistently high payroll are just that.


I think the anats attendance over the last decade is right about where I expect. If you are saying that market size is equivalent to attendance, that puts the Nats squarely among other franchises like the Braves, the Mets, and the Padres.


The team is relatively young in the area and doesn't have a long time cult following like other franchises. I also don't think that it always comes down to payroll being equivalent to market size. I think that only holds true at the bottom of the scale.

Offline tomterp

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #9: August 04, 2022, 08:22:05 AM »
During this time, attendance never even approached 3 million for a full season, and nothing about the size or devotion of this fanbase suggested that the Nats could ever hope to be a big market team.

Next time this team becomes competitive (whenever that is), the DC area is going to have to do a lot better at supporting them, or else these pipe dreams of a consistently high payroll are just that.

The Nats aggressively increased prices (while simultaneously decreasing the value of rewards associated with being a season ticket holder) over this period of time so we were supporting strong increases in revenue over the time in that way.  $17 for a beer?

Offline mimontero88

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #10: August 04, 2022, 08:27:13 AM »
The point that the malcontent fans bring up constantly - that the Nats never pay the big bucks - is of course stupid.  From 2011 to right now, they've paid big contracts.  As bad as it is at the moment with Corbin and Strasburg jamming things up, the Nats have dodged a lot of bullets. 

Desmond turned down over $100 million, left and had a couple of good seasons, but that contract would have been a stinker.  Letting Zimmermann leave was a lucky break.  Rendon, probably too.  Harper is a tough one, as he has played well in Philly, but most of the other major free agents who left was for the better.  I don't think they were ever serious about signing Alfonso Soriano back in the day - the issue there was not trading him and instead letting him walk and getting a draft pick.  That pick turned out to be Zimmermann, so that worked out really well for a 1-year rental. 

I personally think that the Ryan Zimmerman deal was a bust, even though it was relatively cheap, because the Nats had a player for half a decade who really couldn't throw a baseball. 
The Zimmerman deal was undeniably not good, and yet, I will never complain that they paid the only guy who had been here for all of it. Zim had done enough for this team that the idea that he wouldn't have been on the World Series ride would have been unthinkable to a lot of us that were there from the beginning.

Offline KnorrForYourMoney

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #11: August 04, 2022, 09:08:52 AM »
I think the anats attendance over the last decade is right about where I expect. If you are saying that market size is equivalent to attendance, that puts the Nats squarely among other franchises like the Braves, the Mets, and the Padres.

Not necessarily.  Attendance is one aspect/indication of market size, but there are a lot of facets.

Anyway, I accept the Braves comparison, but the Nats just had almost a full decade of success, whereas the Mets and Padres spent most of the 2010s in the dregs.  The Mets' little moment in the sun (2015-16) gave them an attendance figure in 2016 that the Nats could only dream of, so I don't think you can say the Nats and Mets are comparable in their ability to draw attendance.  I definitely wouldn't put them on equal footing in terms of overall market size.

Offline Mattionals

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #12: August 04, 2022, 09:25:04 AM »
Not necessarily.  Attendance is one aspect/indication of market size, but there are a lot of facets.

Anyway, I accept the Braves comparison, but the Nats just had almost a full decade of success, whereas the Mets and Padres spent most of the 2010s in the dregs.  The Mets' little moment in the sun (2015-16) gave them an attendance figure in 2016 that the Nats could only dream of, so I don't think you can say the Nats and Mets are comparable in their ability to draw attendance.  I definitely wouldn't put them on equal footing in terms of overall market size.


Overall market size? Nope, New York is New York, and even if you are the lowly second team that plays in Queens as opposed to the Hope Diamond that plays in the Bronx, you still play in a media market bigger than ANYWHERE else on the planet. I just used raw numbers from the last decade. And the more I look at the numbers, the more I feel you are right. At their peak, the Nats should have drawn closer to 3M and not hard capped out at 2.6M like they did. It puts us firmly in that group with teams like the Braves, Astros, Pirates, Orioles, Reds.


The Nats are firmly above perennial attendance dumpsters like Tampa Bay, Miami, Oakland, Kansas City, Arizona, and South Chicago. They are also firmly behind the big markets like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, North Chicago, and Los Angeles. Also, when you are in that middle tier, you should come out and support your freaking team. Toronto, Minnesota, and Milwaukee all do it, and they are in that same middle tier. Maybe it has something to do with the transient nature of DC, the love for the foosball team, and also the pricing whilst inside?




Online Natsinpwc

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #13: August 04, 2022, 09:27:56 AM »




The Nats are firmly above perennial attendance dumpsters …

Give us a couple more years.

Online Smithian

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #14: August 04, 2022, 09:33:24 AM »
The Nats aggressively increased prices (while simultaneously decreasing the value of rewards associated with being a season ticket holder) over this period of time so we were supporting strong increases in revenue over the time in that way.  $17 for a beer?
Nationals games are painfully expensive. The rankings before this season had it as the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, and then the Nationals. That's absurd.  This team doesn't have the long term fanbase or the market size to support that price. And team success fell apart past three seasons.

I get it, pro sports are expensive. But if there was some graph of ticket prices by franchise ranking them along success or history, the Nationals would be an extreme outlier.

They started running some promotions this season, but it was too late to matter. Attendance won't recover without winning, but the extreme ticket prices will weigh down any attendance boost that could be had from winning.

On the other hand, I would assume this franchise makes absurd money by even MLB standards when it comes to luxury seating and advertising.

Offline KnorrForYourMoney

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #15: August 04, 2022, 09:44:15 AM »

Overall market size? Nope, New York is New York, and even if you are the lowly second team that plays in Queens as opposed to the Hope Diamond that plays in the Bronx, you still play in a media market bigger than ANYWHERE else on the planet. I just used raw numbers from the last decade. And the more I look at the numbers, the more I feel you are right. At their peak, the Nats should have drawn closer to 3M and not hard capped out at 2.6M like they did. It puts us firmly in that group with teams like the Braves, Astros, Pirates, Orioles, Reds.


The Nats are firmly above perennial attendance dumpsters like Tampa Bay, Miami, Oakland, Kansas City, Arizona, and South Chicago. They are also firmly behind the big markets like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, North Chicago, and Los Angeles. Also, when you are in that middle tier, you should come out and support your freaking team. Toronto, Minnesota, and Milwaukee all do it, and they are in that same middle tier. Maybe it has something to do with the transient nature of DC, the love for the foosball team, and also the pricing whilst inside?


The transient nature of DC is a big problem.  I don't see the love of the foosball team as a factor anymore.  I mistakenly believed that around 2006-12, but the Commandskins' fanbase has been rapidly shrinking in recent years and it hasn't done much for the Nats.

I think along with the transient city thing, the fact that there was no team in DC in the 70s/80s/90s did immeasurable damage to the passion for local baseball in this area.  Not only did part of two generations of fans get siphoned off to Bawlmer, but there are also a lot of lifelong (or near lifelong) area residents who chose other big-name teams (e.g. Yanks, Sox, Braves, Cubs) because there was no game in town.  And then you have people who just didn't care and prioritized everything but baseball (not just football, but college sports, the NBA, and the NHL).

Offline Mattionals

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #16: August 04, 2022, 09:45:06 AM »
Nationals games are painfully expensive. The rankings before this season had it as the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, and then the Nationals. That's absurd.  This team doesn't have the long term fanbase or the market size to support that price. And team success fell apart past three seasons.

I get it, pro sports are expensive. But if there was some graph of ticket prices by franchise ranking them along success or history, the Nationals would be an extreme outlier.

They started running some promotions this season, but it was too late to matter. Attendance won't recover without winning, but the extreme ticket prices will weigh down any attendance boost that could be had from winning.

On the other hand, I would assume this franchise makes absurd money by even MLB standards when it comes to luxury seating and advertising.


If that is the case, and I don't doubt that it is (you are a pretty honest dude), then new ownership has to adjust to the market.

Offline Five Banners

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #17: August 04, 2022, 10:23:17 AM »
The Lerners are not going to spend anything and chances are new owners will not be on board in time to spend on free agents.

Thinking that might be a feature, not a bug, of a new ownership plan given what has transpired

Online Natsinpwc

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #18: August 04, 2022, 10:31:12 AM »
Thinking that might be a feature, not a bug, of a new ownership plan given what has transpired
I’m just going to ignore that because I don’t want to believe.

Online Smithian

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If that is the case, and I don't doubt that it is (you are a pretty honest dude), then new ownership has to adjust to the market.
Can't find original article, but here is an article referencing it https://wgntv.com/news/wgn-news-now/chicago-cubs-games-at-wrigley-cost-the-most-in-mlb-report/

I'm not going to lament the price of pro sports. I will lament the Nationals pricing is out of step with market size, history, and success.

Certain factors will always make a Nationals ticket more expensive than it should be. But the current pricing will depress attendance whatever the on field results. Not sure they can "cut" prices, but they need to at least freeze them for a while.

Offline Five Banners

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #20: August 04, 2022, 11:37:18 AM »
People keep saying this here, but I'm doubtful at this point.  This team had an era of about 8 years where it became the premiere team in the NL East, and one of the top franchises in all of the big leagues.

During this time, attendance never even approached 3 million for a full season, and nothing about the size or devotion of this fanbase suggested that the Nats could ever hope to be a big market team.

Next time this team becomes competitive (whenever that is), the DC area is going to have to do a lot better at supporting them, or else these pipe dreams of a consistently high payroll are just that.

As things stand, the park looks like it is in the wrong place for anything but a roaring winner that shores up a base of season-ticket holders. The park is not easy to get to if you are a casual fan. Don’t forget the shuttles that used to come from the RFK Stadium lot. The line from the DC planners about having 30K-40K ‘just take the Metro’ seemed laughable on its face at the time, and looks to be bearing out that way currently.

Interestingly, the salt line / bullpen types seem just as prone to get together around the ballpark rather than in it, even when the Nats do run the occasional Groupon-style discount. Back when I was in their main age range, I’d want to go inside to the park anyway, but that’s not gonna be the case for many of the people who would rather go other places after and target what they’re spending. If the whole area is the event and the happening, the ballpark can become a nonessential part of the mix for people just looking to eat and socialize. As that’s the main population living near the ballpark that would be interested, it then falls to finding ways to getting the traditional fan out of their houses and out to the ballpark.

For a while (such as the decade or so before the development filled in), usual core patrons would find reasonable parking within the ballpark radius. Reasonable parking is just about done except for the ultimate diehards willing to hike, park at the fed options like McNair, or use all sorts of connections to get there. How many families, groups with people with limited mobility or just people who wanted an easy, casual night out are they going to attract regularly in such a scenario? For that matter, how many singles or couples looking for something to do will be inclined to regularly pay 40–50 bucks to park (at a place that might be an effort to get in and out of) that might cost more than their ticket? I think that even factors into the fans of the away team, as even those games don’t seem to be overflowing.

As far as Metro, the ballpark stop often seems to be overwhelmed for big crowds as it is. It’s not a Stadium-Armory type stop built to handle crowds, most have to transfer if they’re coming from where most of the fan base is reportedly located, and so forth. The question of how long Metro was going to stay open for long games or rain delayed games was already an issue. When the shutdown priorities emerged on Metro a few years ago, it seemed like all bets were off.

For many years, we lived in Virginia five blocks from a blue/yellow line stop, and used it to go into Washington. When that change occurred, it became largely pointless to me. People working in 2019 coming from the area being serviced by both of those lines were already having enough of an issue of their commute that adding a ballpark excursion onto that was not that appealing. Forget about it if you wanted to take the family; how many people after a ridiculous commute are going to want to head back into the city for a casual night out? The inconsistent reliability of Metro for games for much of the potential fanbase seems to be the cherry on top.

At least at Verizon/Capital One, you’ve got half the capacity, a station not requiring nearly the number of transfers, and the parking lot and road infrastructure that seem to have helped kept the parking prices from spiraling. I did a spot hero check for August 13 where there’s a concert at the Arena, and there are scores of options close to it, including $10 and $13 in garages two blocks away. Meanwhile, the average cost for a similarly distanced parking space at Nationals Park the same night looks like $40. (There’s one garage that’s $35, and a single personal $30 currently. Better act fast.)

Of course, the time to have really dialed into this was when the ballpark was being sited initially. When it was awarded to the DC side of the Potomac, it would have made sense to go with the RFK Stadium site for so many reasons. People were used to going there, the Metro line situation with two and now three main lines feeding into a station capable of handling large crowds, loads of parking that could be held to an affordable rate and made day-of-game decisions easy (“hey, I realize they’re in town, let’s go, I got a discounted tickets, it’s not supposed to rain much, etc.”), tailgating opportunities, and so forth.

(It needs to be remembered that the current site had no end of logistical issues including environmental concerns, but even as those mounted, where there’s a will, there’s often a way in such cases.)

I’ve posted similar issues and stories related to the factors working against the ballpark attendance doing anything but hovering in the low to mid capacity barring some major, targeted changes. If the team is going to garner robust support, they’re going to have to target what they can control or improve. With I-395 Express lanes headed into the city now as well as the updated road transportation heading up from The Wilson Bridge/295 corridor, there seems to be some potential there for future improvement.

Metro has looked like such a quagmire that I’m not even gonna speculate on that improving anytime soon, but it would seem to be worth it for stakeholders to work on that end of it as well. Perhaps another dedicated garage or two that could serve both the baseball team in the soccer team on the other side of South Capitol might be smart to explore. I know if I knew that they had such a lot that wasn’t a nightmare to get in and out of and had a somewhat reasonable rate, I likely would’ve been inclined to go to more games this year rather than let the logistics make it easier for me to go or see if others wanted to go with me. 

Offline HalfSmokes

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The transient nature of DC is a big problem.  I don't see the love of the foosball team as a factor anymore.  I mistakenly believed that around 2006-12, but the Commandskins' fanbase has been rapidly shrinking in recent years and it hasn't done much for the Nats.

I think along with the transient city thing, the fact that there was no team in DC in the 70s/80s/90s did immeasurable damage to the passion for local baseball in this area.  Not only did part of two generations of fans get siphoned off to Bawlmer, but there are also a lot of lifelong (or near lifelong) area residents who chose other big-name teams (e.g. Yanks, Sox, Braves, Cubs) because there was no game in town.  And then you have people who just didn't care and prioritized everything but baseball (not just football, but college sports, the NBA, and the NHL).

Is DC more transient than NYC or SF? Most major cities are transient now, especially if you're looking at the population that is buying suites and club level seats (i.e. the people teams want coming to games).

Offline Five Banners

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #22: August 04, 2022, 11:43:25 AM »
Nationals games are painfully expensive. The rankings before this season had it as the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, and then the Nationals. That's absurd.  This team doesn't have the long term fanbase or the market size to support that price. And team success fell apart past three seasons.

I get it, pro sports are expensive. But if there was some graph of ticket prices by franchise ranking them along success or history, the Nationals would be an extreme outlier.

They started running some promotions this season, but it was too late to matter. Attendance won't recover without winning, but the extreme ticket prices will weigh down any attendance boost that could be had from winning.

On the other hand, I would assume this franchise makes absurd money by even MLB standards when it comes to luxury seating and advertising.

I’ve been looking at games this year where the team prices were bad enough, but the StubHub prices with the fees seemed absolutely absurd. People have had a couple years to do different stuff and change the pattern of just going to big events; keeping the prices at these levels does not appear to be sustainable.

Offline Five Banners

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Re: Re: Strasburg 2022
« Reply #23: August 04, 2022, 11:50:09 AM »

I think along with the transient city thing, the fact that there was no team in DC in the 70s/80s/90s did immeasurable damage to the passion for local baseball in this area.  Not only did part of two generations of fans get siphoned off to Bawlmer, but there are also a lot of lifelong (or near lifelong) area residents who chose other big-name teams (e.g. Yanks, Sox, Braves, Cubs) because there was no game in town.  And then you have people who just didn't care and prioritized everything but baseball (not just football, but college sports, the NBA, and the NHL).

Yep, this is why they had to get things right, especially the little things. Watching Kasten, Feffer, etc, do their thing on the marketing side did not seem like they were getting all the little things right.

Then, after the shutdown and leading into this season, we saw them actually raise prices to the point where multiple long term season ticket holders indicated they either felt they ought to actually give up their tickets or downsize because of that. With the Soto debacle as the capper, how could somebody erase the level of progress the team had as far as inroads into solidifying a fanbase any better if they tried?

Offline HalfSmokes

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Yep, this is why they had to get things right, especially the little things. Watching Kasten, Feffer, etc, do their thing on the marketing side did not seem like they were getting all the little things right.

Then, after the shutdown and leading into this season, we saw them actually raise prices to the point where multiple long term season ticket holders indicated they either felt they ought to actually give up their tickets or downsize because of that. With the Soto debacle as the capper, how could somebody erase the level of progress the team had as far as inroads into solidifying a fanbase any better if they tried?

Everything about pricing was ham handed and geared for short term gain. Knowing that the Lerners are selling, that makes sense, but it was a terrible way to go about building a fanbase.