Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lerner on opener: 'Hopefully we can get it in'

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Bad weather prevented the Nationals from working out in front of fans today.
The Nationals hope to be able to play tomorrow's opener against the Braves as scheduled at 1:05 p.m., but principal owner Mark Lerner said the club won't hesitate to postpone until Friday afternoon if the forecast doesn't look good.

"Obviously, they're going to monitor it all night long," Lerner said this evening during a session with reporters at NatsFest. "If we know that it's going to be really bad, we'll cancel it early. If not -- and it could go either way -- we'll just keep on going and do the best we can."

Rain started falling this afternoon and forced the majority of NatsFest indoors or onto the concourse level at Nationals Park. Tomorrow's forecast has changed throughout the day. Earlier today, said there was an 80 percent chance of rain at first pitch. Now, the website puts the odds at only 10 percent to 20 percent until 4 p.m., at which point it climbs to 40 percent. Either way, temperatures are expected to be in the low-40s.

Lerner said the team would be willing to delay the start of the game if it looked like conditions would improve, but he said the forecast gets worse into the evening, so there's no chance of an evening start. If the game is postponed, it would be made up Friday afternoon, most likely at 1:05 p.m., when the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 50s.

"It's a tough position to be in," Lerner said. "A lot of people, since it's a weekday, they have one day off and they can't really come on Friday. So we really want to try to get it in if we can."

Lerner said only a handful of single seats are still available for the opener, making it nearly a sellout. He did not provide an exact figure for season tickets sold this season but suggested the number has declined some from last year's total (which was believed to be around 10,000).

"It's pretty much what we expected," he said. "It's along the lines of what it was last year at this time. But I think when we get W's in the win column, there will be plenty of people out here. That's when we deserve to be rewarded: When we get W's on a consistent basis."

Today's rain kept attendance down at NatsFest, but Lerner said the club will probably keep the event scheduled for the day before Opening Day next year after holding it in January the past two years.

"I like the idea of trying to do this on the day before," he said. "First of all, in the wintertime, you don't know who you're going to get. They're on vacations, or this or that comes up. But I think if we had good weather today, this would have been a good crowd. You get to see everybody. Also we were able to bring up Bryce [Harper] and Stephen [Strasburg], so everyone can see he's still alive and well.

"I think it would have been a great scene out there with batting practice if we could have pulled it off. So my guess is we'll try to do the same thing next year and see if we can get better weather next time around."

The Nationals packed up and left Viera, Fla., Tuesday amid questions about their future spring training plans. Lerner reiterated today that the club intends to relocate its spring headquarters to another site on Florida's Gulf Coast or in Arizona because of the remote location in Viera relative to other camps.

That eventual move, though, won't happen for at least two more years as the Nationals pay off the final construction bond payments they owe to Brevard County through 2013 and wait for a new facility to be built.

"We'll be in Viera at least through 2013, and we'll have to see if we select a new location what it's going to take to get a stadium built and the timeframe on that," Lerner said. "But certainly the next two years, we'll absolutely be in Viera. We couldn't move any sooner if we wanted to."

Lerner said it's unlikely another major-league club would want to relocate to Viera and share the facility with the Nationals, citing the overall decline of spring training on Florida's East Coast.

"I think the East Coast, it's unfortunate, but it's not what it was 15-20 years ago, where everybody kind of went that direction," he said. "I remember when I was growing up, I went to Pompano Beach to see the Senators. It's not like that any more."


Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Brilliant of Markie Mark to remember the Senators don't train in Pompano Beach any more.

This idiot really has been hit in the head in BP too many times.

Anonymous said...

Sunshine, you really are an a**hole, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

Just for fun, here's a list of ex-nats who seem to have made opening day rosters:

Joel Peralta RAYS
Corey Patterson BLUE JAYS
Austin Kearns INDIANS
Matt Capps TWINS
Josh Willingham A'S
Adam Kennedy MARINERS
Ryan Langerhans MARINERS
Brian Sanches MARLINS
Emilio Bonifacio MARLINS
Brian Schneider PHILLIES
Marlon Byrd CUBS
Alfonso Soriano CUBS
Bill Bray REDS
Wil Nieves BREWERS
Joel Hanrahan PIRATES
Scott Olsen PIRATES
Miguel Batista CARDINALS
Jamey Carroll DODGERS
Michael Restovich WHITE SOX
Nyjer Morgan BREWERS
Alberto Gonzalez PADRES
Willie Harris METS
Luis Ayala YANKEES

Here are non-roster invitees that I have not seen selected or sent down:

Ronnie Belliard YANKEES NRI
Lastings Milledge WHITE SOX NRI
Victor Garate MARLINS NRI
Mike O'Connor METS NRI
Anderson Hernandez ASTROS NRI
Claudio Vargas ROCKIES NRI
Willy Tavares ROCKIES NRI

Here are guys who have been sent to the minors:

Nick Johnson INDIANS minors
Ryan Drese ORIOLES minors
Brendan Harris ORIOLES minors
Kip Wells DIAMONDBACKS minors
Felipe Lopez RAYS minors
Brian Bruney WHITE SOX minors
Steven Shell ROYALS minors
Zach Segovia BREWERS minors
Wily Mo Pena DIAMONDBACKS minors
Winston Abreu BLUE JAYS minors
Chad Cordero BLUE JAYS minors
Mike Hinckley BLUE JAYS minors
Wil Ledezma BLUE JAYS minors
Josh Bard MARINERS minors
Marco Estrada BREWERS minors
Justin Maxwell YANKEES minors

Guys I saw listed on triple AAA rosters:

Jorge Padilla NEW ORLEANS
Endy Chavez ROUND ROCK

Guys I haven't accounted for:

Cristian Guzman
Jose Guillen
Ryan Church
Jonathan Albaladejo
Jorge Sosa
Gary Majewski
Melvin Dorta
Billy Traber
Saul Rivera
Roy Corcoran
Chris Schroder
Levale Speigner
Jamie Burke
Daniel Cabrera
Jesse English

Released in spring training:

Josh Wilson
Jason Bergmann
Brandon Watson
Ramon Ortiz

N. Cognito said...

Well those are a nice start to the topic.

dryw said...

Great list, anon. I'm glad to see that Wil Nieves found a home (nice guy, even if I don't want him playing for MY team...) and that the Chief is still in the game. I hope Jesse English is having success somewhere, too--he gave us a couple of good appearances early last year, and I'd kind of like to see him do well somewhere. Anyway, thanks for the updates!

Anonymous said...

Yeah Mr. Lerner, it is soooooooo hard for teams to get players and vets to come to a fan fest in the winter. Let's pick a random club, say, the Cubs. They had a THREE day fest in January. And while we didn't see a confirmation list, here's who was listed as planning to attend:

Scheduled attendees for the 26th Cubs Convention

Jeff Baker
Ernie Banks
Darwin Barney
Glenn Beckert
Justin Berg
Mike Bielecki
Bob Brenly
Bill Buckner
Randy Bush
Marlon Byrd
Jose Cardenal
Chris Carpenter
Andrew Cashner
Starlin Castro
Casey Coleman
Tyler Colvin
Ivan DeJesus
Ryan Dempster*
Bobby Dernier
Blake DeWitt
Oneri Fleita
Matt Garza
Doug Glanville
Tom Gorzelanny
John Grabow
Jim Hendry
Koyie Hill
Pat Hughes
Randy Hundley
Jay Jackson
Rudy Jaramillo
Ferguson Jenkins
Len Kasper
Dave Keller
Crane Kenney
D.J. LeMahieu
Greg Maddux
Scott Maine
Carlos Marmol
Sean Marshall
Andy Masur
Gary Matthews, Sr.
Keith Moreland
Dave Otto
Mike Quade
Carlos Pena
Fernando Perez
Milt Pappas
Cory Provus
Aramis Ramirez
Laura Ricketts
Pete Ricketts
Todd Ricketts
Tom Ricketts
Mark Riggins
James Russell
Jeff Samardzija
Carlos Silva
Judd Sirott
Lee Smith
Geovany Soto
Tim Stoddard
Lester Strode
Steve Trout
Todd Walker
Randy Wells
Billy Williams
Tim Wilken
Kerry Wood
Carlos Zambrano

Yeah, hard to get athletes to a cold northern town in the middle of winter. Right.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Restovich is now unaccounted for (no longer on White Sox roster)

The biggest names who don't seem to be with anyone are Church, Guzman and Guillen.

masnstinks said...

I can't go on Friday!!!!!!NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Anonymous8 said...

The Cardinals do their Winter WarmUP and everyone showed up except Yadier Molina who was a "no show". Theirs is also in mid-January and 2 1/2 days of festivities.

Anonymous8 said...

Nationals Have Lowest Average Opening Day Ticket Prices

I saw this in the left margin on The Nats Blog and thought the chart was very encouraging as the Nats have dropped ticket prices significantly over the last 3 years.

It seems they have gotten smart about the value of the product and also reading the economy. Nice to see as I just got another 20%+ increase in my Caps Season Tickets---sure, the Caps are a playoff team but 3 years in a row they have raised prices in a bad economy. I will show my appreciation to the Nats with attending more games.

Jim in MD said...

Cristian Guzman is a free agent. I read a couple of months ago that he is taking some time off to deal with family issues. He may attempt a comeback after the All-Star break.

Shawn Hill had a decent (0.00 ERA in 8 innings)spring in the Marlins camp. He was assigned to the minor league camp and will probably begin the season at AAA New Orleans.

natteringnabob said...

Just saw that Pete Orr was called up by the Phillies.

Andrew said...

Anon @8:27, interesting there is no Alfonso Soriano on the list, Nats Tom Gorzelanny is on that list and several owners of the Cubs (Ricketts) are on the list.

Your point is still well taken though as most of the team is on the list.

Pedro said...

It isn't so much that the Nats can't pull off a few basic winter promotional events. Clearly their staffing is probably pretty messy.

What gets me is that that Andy Feffer and Mark Lerner clearly believe their fans to be dolts.

How else can you explain Feffer selling a cheap Opening Day-Eve FanFest as "unique" and "exciting" and Lerner saying weather-be-damned, we'll do it again the same way next year because you can't get players for winter appearances.

Stop the b.s. Without Stan, it doesn't even sound laughable. Better to say we're putting all our efforts into building a contender and we hope you like what's on the field. We'll focus on the fan extras later. That would be honest. And if they dumped Clint, so much the better. Just stop with the soggy baloney.

Rob Dibble's Ghost said...

From a team press release:

"The Washington Nationals have partnered with world-renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) to bring Nationals fans a winning array of culinary offerings at the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk, the Nationals Park hot spot that hosts the popular Miller Lite Party Nights every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

"Upon opening in late spring of 2011, Nationals fans will enjoy a variety of delicious new menu offerings, including mouthwatering real pit barbecue from Blue Smoke, addictive Belgian-style fries and dipping sauces at Box Frites, authentic Mexican food and flavors at El Verano Taquería, and ShackBurgers, hot dogs and frozen custard from the popular Shake Shack. This multi-year agreement makes Nationals Park the third sports venue in the nation to offer USHG’s beloved cuisine, joining Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and New York Racing Association’s Saratoga Race Course."

I heard earlier today on WTOP the news about the Shake Shack - they are opening one in Dupont too. This is the space where Five Guys is vacating, but it sounds like this new area won't be open for another month or two.

Mr Donkey said...

Hope we're on tomorrow. I have seats to the game and a flight out to Chicago in the evening; cubs opening day at wrigley on Friday. To get two opening days would be awesome.

By the way, added another partial plan this year. With nats bucks, red carpet and single game discounts I can't believe how great even a single partial plan is in terms of value and benefits. Gonaa be a great summer down in 106.

Rob Dibble's Ghost said...

Since the cheap theme has been brought up again, perhaps this is a good opportunity to point out that postgame fireworks on Friday nights are now a thing of the past. Boo.

sjm308 said...

Not sure how long the Nats are going to keep up their Red Carpet Rewards but even the most negative fan can't complain about this program. Looks like I will get at least 12 more games with this program and I only have a 21 game plan. We also get 2 games in the Stars & Stripes Club and I plan to use those with $5 tickets. If my buddies and I pool our points we could also get seats down around home plate. Its a great plan and I can only think that when attendance starts to pick up it will be the first thing they drop.

Excited about tomorrow, just hope the rain holds off.

Go Nats!!

Anonymous8 said...

Pedro said...How else can you explain Feffer selling a cheap Opening Day-Eve FanFest as "unique" and "exciting"

It would be interesting to hear what Heffer would say was "unique" about this event.

"Exciting" is very subjective and probably was exciting to some but unfortunately this was pretty much like the others except the full roster particpated plus some of the top players like Stras, Wang and Harper.

I think the point of Anon above talking about the Cubs Winter event was to show that they get almost all the players + retired star players in the middle of a Chicago winter.

Anonymous said...

"Pedro said...How else can you explain Feffer selling a cheap Opening Day-Eve FanFest as "unique" and "exciting"

It would be interesting to hear what Heffer would say was "unique" about this event."

If the Nats are the only team doing their FanFest right before Opening Day, that by definition makes it unique. Just sayin'.

And had the weather been better, allowing batting practice and other on-field events, today's event would easily have been more exciting than those stale winter NatsFests ever were. How many times do you need to hear George F. Will talk anyway?

Mark'd said...

I was there with 2 of my kids. Nothing unique. A Feffer Failed Fest For Fans. Fuggetaboutit for next year. Bring back the Winter Fest!

It was exciting for my kids but not for me. I think the Winter Fest would be more exciting and more relaxed. The Hot Stove lunch is a top quality event that is a must.

Anonymous8 said...

Anon @ 10:49, you are missing some of the points made, so you can have Gregory instead of George Will in January or Tim Kirkjian or someone else. What is unique about that?

A Winter Fest like what the Cardinals, Cubs, Orioles, etc are doing is the standard for a good reason and I bet perferred by fans. Maybe Mark can do a Poll.

Rob Dibble's Ghost said...

I will agree with the other posters about the RCR being a great perk. I may actually buy a 21-game plan soon based on what I've seen on here regarding the benefits.

On another note, I don't doubt for a second that the "new" NatsFest is directly related to StanK's departure. Like him or not, he was very visible to the public and I think he was the driving force behind these types of events. Obviously, when he left, the team didn't do a good job of reassigning the duties that Stan always seemed to be the driving force behind (NatsFest, Hot Stove Luncheon, etc.). Even if the weather cooperated today, it's still a weekday - people have obligations like work and school. A winter event is much more likely to fuel interest in the team much earlier in the year. This time of year, most fans are already excited about Opening Day and NatsFest doesn't have the same appeal. Personally, I start to go into "baseball withdrawl" in December/January and NatsFest was a great cure for that. I hope they reconsider their future plans for this event.

Andrew said...

Rob Dibble's Ghost said... This time of year, most fans are already excited about Opening Day and NatsFest doesn't have the same appeal. Personally, I start to go into "baseball withdrawl" in December/January and NatsFest was a great cure for that. I hope they reconsider their future plans for this event.

Very well said. I could go for a Welcome Home Luncheon on a day like today as there are no lines and a relaxed atmosphere but for the reasons you stated not really interested in this format for a NatsFest.

+1 on January NatsFest

SonnyG10 said...

I much prefer to have the Winter Fest! This is when I'm starved for baseball action, not the day before opening day. The Hot Stove luncheon was great last year.

Rob Dibble's Ghost said...

Both Channel 4 and Channel 9 are calling for kind of a dreary and gloomy day tomorrow, but no real rain until later in the evening. Veronica Johnson on 4 even led off her 11:00 forecast by saying tomorrow looks "much better." It still doesn't look like ideal baseball weather, but it looks like we should have a game.

Go Nats!

Bill said...

Put a winner on the field and they can have the FanFest on Yom Kippur for all I care.

Anonymous said...

Put a winner on the field and they can have the FanFest on Yom Kippur for all I care.

Its not going to happen this year unless 2-3 pitchers suddenly become major league stoppers in AAA/AA this year and Riggleman/Rizzo would have to call them up and drop them into the Nats rotation replacing "a veteran". Its certainly possible but highly unlikely.

Section 223 said...

Only a billionaire would think taking two days off in the middle of the week is a good idea. I think they probably forgot about the fan fest until it was too late to have the event in winter, when folks need some solace and hope for spring. Mr. Lerner just isn't paying attention if he thinks poor attendance was due only because of the weather.

Play ball!

NatsJack in Florida said...

Sitting in OIA waiting to board a 7:30am flight. One can work up good sweat wearing thermal gear in Florida!

Andrew said...

NatsJack, are you coming by yourself?

natsfan1a said...

Safe travels, NatsJack.

Stew Magnuson said...

I went to the first two FanFests and they were well attended. Had a great time and it was something fun to do in the dead of winter. Zero chance I can attend one on a weekday. My boss has always been good about giving me time off for Opening Day, but two days in a row? No way. Nor would I feel right about doing that.

sm13 said...

I agree with Stew -- the winter fanfast is a much better option. It provides a needed boost during the dog days of the offseason. If other teams can get all their players to town, I think the Nats could do the same. Holding it March 30th was a cop out.

And, while I'm ranting, why is there no downtown team store or Nats kiosks in local malls? It's time for the Nats to join the major leages in promoting themselves and creating fan loyalty in this region!

natsfan1a said...

Agree re. timing of NatsFests. Have enjoyed attending weekend Winter NatsFests and caravans since they started (other than last year, when my husband was recuperating from surgery). Our "micro" plans tend to include only weekend games, as it's difficult for us to make it on weeknights. That is also true for NatsFest and other events. Also, it's been a nice break from the Winter doldrums (would be even nicer if it were held *indoors*). Was disappointed to hear that they'd likely do it the same way next year.

I also agree re. having more team store outlets (and VA 'burbs would be great).

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