Friday, August 15, 2014

No Nats fans, it's not your turn for an All Star Game (and why the O's should get 2016)

Washington, DC, my home for most of the last eleven years, is a strange place. Literally made up of land taken from two states, its suburbs are all in different states and sometimes feel like another world. The city itself consists of people from here and not from here, much of that divided along racial lines, with many people like myself moving here for the political or international aspect of the place. According to this study, only 37% of the population of DC were born here, and an additional 8% were born in neighboring Virginia or Maryland. That's not even half of the population of the city that comes from the area. Sixteen percent come from outside the United States, with a sizable percentage of those coming from Central America and East Africa.

All of this migration means that DC is a transient town. A great amount of transience makes it tough to build a consistent fanbase for a sports team. Of course, the football team has undying devotion, partly because their team was good while the baseball team was so very, very bad, and partly because they were the only game in town when baseball left. DC has lost three baseball teams in the past (1899, 1960, 1971). Those teams were mostly awful (#1924), but Harmon Killebrew and the Twins would go on to post 90+ wins in 1962 and 1963 in Minnesota before going to the World Series in 1965. They finished second in '66 and '67, then won the AL West in '69 and '70.

All Senators fans had to do was be patient, but they didn't go to games and missed out on all the winning. Attendance in the last year of the Griffith DC franchise was 743,404, dead last in baseball. In '59 it was 615,372. In '58 it was 475,288. Yes, 475,288. In '57: 457,079. '56: 431,647. '55: 425,238. Dead last, dead last, dead last.


While Washington is a different city today, attendance problems are still prevalent for a market of this size and wealth. The bandwagoners who joined the fanbase in 2012 (a significant percentage of Nats fandom, in my not-so-humble opinion) have caused an uptick in attendance, sending the team into the top ten in the National League for the last three years, with the greatest attendance having come in 2013 after the 2012 NL East title. Before that, they finished 14th of 16, 14th, 13th, 13th, 14th, 14th. The new team brought a 9th place finish in attendance in 2005, and some newness allowed for an 11th place finish the following year, but the attendance just hasn't been there consistently, despite DC having weathered much of the economic storm that affected attendance in other cities in recent years. The money has been here. The fans, not so much. If the Nats can garner some consistency in attendance, then we can consider holding the Mid-Summer Classic here.

But attendance is not the only factor that should be considered in awarding an All Star Game to a city. The length of time between ASGs for a team should and does weigh heavily in the decision. Look below at how long teams have waited for ASGs. (I am looking at teams in their current incarnations, not as franchises that moved to other cities. Teams in cities that had multiple teams are denoted with an additional letter. I've gone back to cover every current MLB team. It should be noted that Miami and Tampa Bay have never held an All Star Game.)

2015 CIN  Last ASG: 1988. Time elapsed: 27 years
2014 MIN Last ASG: 1985. Time elapsed: 29 years
2013 NYM Last ASG: 1964. Time elapsed: 48 years
2012 KCR Last ASG: 1973. Time elapsed: 39 years
2011 ARZ Last ASG: (never, but 13 years since establishment)
2010 LAA Last ASG: 1989. Time elapsed: 21 years
2009 STLC Last ASG: 1966. Time elapsed: 43 years
2008 NYY Last ASG: 1977. Time elapsed: 31 years
2007 SFG Last ASG: 1984. Time elapsed: 23 years
2006 PIT Last ASG: 1994. Time elapsed: 12 years
2005 DET Last ASG: 1971. Time elapsed: 34 years
2004 HOUA Last ASG: 1986. Time elapsed: 18 years
2003 CHW Last ASG: 1983. Time elapsed: 20 years
2002 MILB Last ASG: 1975. Time elapsed: 27 years
2001 SEAM Last ASG: 1979. Time elapsed: 22 years
2000 ATL Last ASG: 1972. Time elapsed: 28 years
1999 BOSX Last ASG: 1961. Time elapsed: 33 years
1998 COL Last ASG: (never, but 5 years since establishment)
1997 CLEI Last ASG: 1981. Time elapsed: 16 years
1996 PHIP Last ASG: 1976. Time elapsed: 20 years
1995 TEX Last ASG: (never, but 23 years since establishment)
1994 PIT Last ASG: 1974. Time elapsed: 20 years
1993 BAL Last ASG: 1958. Time elapsed: 35 years
1992 SDP Last ASG: 1978. Time elapsed: 16 years
1991 TOR Last ASG: (never, but 14 years since establishment)
1990 CHC Last ASG: 1962. Time elapsed: 28 years
1989 ANA Last ASG: 1967. Time elapsed: 22 years
1988 CIN Last ASG: 1970. Time elapsed: 18 years
1987 OAK Last ASG: (never, but 19 years since establishment)
1980 LAD Last ASG: 1959. Time elapsed: 21 years

Going back to 1994 when baseball realigned, simply because I need to go back to some time, teams are averaging 25 years between ASGs. Of course, there are wild outliers - 48 years for the Mets? But at least that gives us some picture of the wait time a team should have before getting an ASG.

You'll notice, of course, the extreme outlier - Pusburgh's mere 12 year wait. Pusburgh should have never been awarded the game. They were the worst team in baseball with no attendance and no good players. The only thing that franchise had going for it was that ballpark, which is among the best in baseball. I swear they got the game more because Ben Rapelesberger's Super Bowl Champ Pusburgh Steelers worked to get it there than any baseball-related reason. Ugh.

Nats fans use the "new stadium" excuse. Pusburgh, as I said, was awarded the ASG because of its stadium. It is a special stadium, a beautiful stadium. Nats Park is neither of those things. Nats Park looks like a corporate office from the outside. It has a view of parking garages in the outfield that it tries to hide with outdated banners. Shipping containers that look like dumpsters greet visitors as they walk towards the centerfield gate. While there are more places around the park than there used to be, the area is still under development. It's not a bad park. It's just not special, and it's not ready to host an All Star Game.

Dartboard Field hosted the 2014 ASG. Shitty Field hosted the 2013 ASG. Both were four years old. However, the Twins waited 29 years between ASGs, and the Mets, as mentioned above, waited 48 years. The Reds are hosting next year at their 12 year old "new" ballpark after waiting 27 years for the game to return to Cincinnati. Taint Louis's new park was 3 years old when they hosted in 2009, but they waited 43 years between ASGs. The Giant's "new" park was 7 years old, but they waited 23 years, and Detroit's park was 5 years old, but they waited 34 years. You see a pattern here?

The truth is, choosing the ASG has little to do with "new" parks, as 24 of the 30 ballparks in MLB have been built since 1992. They're ALL new.

Nats Park is in its seventh season. The Nats themselves are in their tenth. (Forget franchises - an All Star Game belongs to a city and the fanbase of the team that plays there. Forget that the corporate franchise last had an ASG in 1982.) Of the last four teams that have been added, two have never hosted. One waited 13 years to host. The Rockies waited five. The Rockies also had more three million people - nearly four - coming to the ballpark and had been first in attendance in the NL for five years running. Texas waited 23 years from establishment to host their only ASG. Toronto waited 14 years, Oakland waited 19 years.

The Nats shouldn't get an All Star Game for at least another seven or eight years. It's about fairness. There is nothing about the Nationals, their ballpark, or their fanbase that warrants special treatment. I know the politicos think they can have anything they want, but this is baseball. It belongs to our nation, not to the nation's capital.

So who should get the next few All Star Games?

The Orioles, who have waited 21 years, have seen increasing attendance thanks to a reemergence of success, have a great baseball history and tradition, and have one of the best ballparks in baseball are a good candidate, and they want the game to come to Baltimore. I vote they get the 2016 ASG.

The Dodgers should ask for it and get it upon demand. It's been 35 years since they've hosted the Mid-Summer Classic, and despite being one of the most storied franchises, they've only hosted it three times total, a mere once while in Brooklyn. Dodger Stadium, if you can believe it, is the third oldest park in baseball. I've never been there, but it looks pretty beautiful. Only thing is, the Dodgers don't seem to want the ASG. Of course, they did just go through the messy divorce. Maybe Magic will change things.

The Cubs should hold it again in the next five years. It's been 24 years, and Wrigley being Wrigley deserves all the attention it can get. The fanbase, for mystical reasons, is consistent, and the team looks to be pretty good in the next few years, making for an exciting setting. Plus it's Chicago, and even though the White Sox hosted in 2003, fifteen or sixteen years is too long to go without the ASG in such a baseball city.

Petco Park has never hosted an ASG, and its been 22 years since the Padres hosted. Although attendance is down and the team is, well, not that great, San Diego is a travel destination with a park worthy of baseball's greats. (I've never been to Petco, but I have been to Jack Murphy twice. In fact, I saw my first Reds game there at age one.)

Toronto! They've only hosted one ASG, and that was 23 years ago. The team has some great young players and with the O's running away with things, they could still get a Wild Card. This makes for some baseball excitement in the city, and Joey Votto's leg might be healed by the time the game would be played - say 2017 or 2018.

Philadelphia, the city of otherly love, has a ballpark that is a decade old but has never seen an ASG. Give it a few years and it will be time. Of course, the geriatric ward that is their team will be kaput, and they'll be rebuilding soon, but Phils phans are true fans and don't abandon their team when it's down.

The A's recently signed a deal to stay at the hideous Oakland Coliseum, but they can leave any time after 2017 with two year's notice. I doubt they'll pursue an ASG at the medusa of ballparks, but give them the game as soon as the new park opens. They've waited 27 years. They deserve it.

So there you have it. These teams should host an All Star Game before the Nats do. The true baseball fan will appreciate the fairness involved in one of America's great traditions.

Btw, I'm going to Cincy next year whether or not I have a ticket, just to be around the atmosphere. Truth be told, I'd probably enjoy it on a boat on the river almost as much as the actual game itself, as long as I can watch it on a mobile device!

*UPDATE* Someone said my argument has holes since there hasn't been an ASG in DC for 45 years. Well, there was no team for 32 years, so it's more like it's only been 12 years without an ASG, which would still make 7-8 years about right. When you lose two teams due to lack of interest, you don't get any slack.