There are going to no shortage of ways everyone will look back at last night's festivities as a watershed moment in Nationals history, but here's perhaps the best evidence of how significant it was...
MASN broke its all-time record rating for a Nats game. Actually, that's not true. MASN absolutely obliterated its all-time record rating for a Nats game. According to the network, last night earned a 7.1 household rating, meaning more than 165,000 households in the Washington region had the station on.
That's about 700 percent higher than the average rating for a Nats game this season. The previous record high rating for a Nats game on MASN? 2.0 for a game against the Mets this May. There's no comparison.
Dan Steinberg over at the D.C. Sports Bog provided some more nice context, pointing out that only Capitals game on Comcast SportsNet ever got a higher rating than that (Game 7 against the Canadiens this year, which got an 8.1). The previous high for them was 5.8.
The Caps, of course, are the hottest team in town these days. And the Nats obviously aren't going to sustain those numbers. Tonight's game on MASN2 will surely be back down at the old levels, though perhaps there will be a slight uptick. The real test will be what the ratings are Sunday when Strasburg makes his next start in Cleveland. (And FYI: Jim Riggleman confirmed on the radio today that Strasburg will stay on a five-DAY rotation, not a five-GAME rotation until the All-Star break, which means he is scheduled to start at home on June 18 against the White Sox and again on June 23 against the Royals.)
But just in one amazing night, I think we witnessed how popular baseball can be in Washington, both in the ballpark and on TV. It will take sustained winning by the Nationals, a real pennant race and continued dominance from Strasburg to draw those kind of lofty ratings on a nightly basis.
But anyone who says there aren't baseball fans in this town don't know what they're talking about. And anyone who believes D.C. can't become a big-time baseball town doesn't understand how significant last night was.