Nationals

Quick Links

Baker, Nats players hope for 'more boisterous and crazy' crowds

Baker, Nats players hope for 'more boisterous and crazy' crowds

At the helm of a first place team with the All-Star break just days away, manager Dusty Baker was asked on Wednesday for his impressions of Washington, D.C. and Nationals Park now that the first half of his first season in town is technically in the books. The skipper said the stadium is a "wonderful place to play." He also pointed out how unpredictable the weather can be and how that affects the games themselves.

Then, Baker went into the gameday experience and how Washington fans may be lagging behind their MLB counterparts in terms of crowd engagement and atmosphere. The Nationals rank in the top half of the league at 13th in baseball in average attendance at 31,063 fans per game. Baker, however, thinks a little more energy from those fans would do the team well.

"Some of the guys on the team wish our fans were a little more boisterous and crazy. A little bit like we see in different stadiums when we're on the road. We also realize that a lot of our fans are new Nationals fans. A whole bunch of them were Cubs and Mets [fans], wherever they come from. That's the dynamics of D.C., which you realize. But we're trying to win everybody to us. We need their energy, big time. Especially on days, there are some days when you don't have the energy. There's some days when you go to work and you don't feel it. You're trying to get it. Right? Some days you can just write a story like no problem, and then some days you're tearing up paper. 'I can't get this.' It's the same way for us," he explained.

"Like, you go to Chicago and 98 percent of them are Chicago Cubs fans. They're from Chicago. You go to New York. Most of the New York fans are from New York. On the other hand, you go to L.A. We used to say the same thing in L.A., like Dave Kingman hit three home runs off of us and he got a standing ovation because half of them in L.A. are from somewhere else. San Francisco fans are louder because probably 90 percent of them are from San Francisco. You go to White Sox fans, damn near 100 percent of them are from Chicago. It's just the different dynamics of the area and what makes up a lot of the population. You go to Cleveland, most of the fans from Cleveland are from Cleveland."

Baker acknowledged that the Nationals are a relatively new commodity in the region and in baseball. They have been around since 2005. The Cubs have been playing since 1874, the White Sox and Indians since 1901, the Mets have been in existence since 1962. The Giants have been in the Bay Area since 1958.

Even with D.C.'s transient population, there is no substitute for history and Baker knows that. He believes the best way to grow the Nats' fanbase in numbers but intensity is by starting young.

"You change it with the kids, I think. The kids can grow up, unless they're brainwashed by their parents. A lot of times they are. I was talking to somebody the other day and their dad wouldn't let them eat unless they were Yankees fans," he said.

"I think you start it with the kid. This franchise is only [11] years old. This is the third try here, correct? It starts with the kids. The kids actually bring their parents to the ballpark. The parents drive and they pay for the tickets, but I remember when I was a kid I begged my dad all the time to take me to the ballpark."

This, some may notice, comes on the heels of Wizards guard John Wall telling CSN Mid-Atlantic the fan atmosphere at Verizon Center may have played a role in Kevin Durant not considering the franchise during free agency. And other Nats players - most notably Bryce Harper - have noted a lack of engagement from fans in the past. What do those two teams have in common? They haven't won much of anything.

To be fair, these things haven't been said, or at least as often, by Redskins and Capitals players. In the Redskins' case, they have by far the most decorated history in town. It's no surprise that they dominate fan interest and discussion on television and radio shows. And for the Capitals, they have been the most consistently good team in town for years now. They also have in Alex Ovechkin, arguably the most transcendent athlete the city has enjoyed in decades, regardless of sport. 

No matter the sports town, fan interest and winning generally go hand-in-hand. Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia rank 19th, 20th and 22nd in MLB attendance, and no one accuses them of being bad sports towns. Even the White Sox and Indians, as Baker mentioned, both currently sit in the bottom five in MLB attendance, and the Indians are in first place.

Quick Links

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

Quick Links

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE