Saturday, August 25, 2007

Marketing at RFK

Awhile back, Barry Svrluga issued out a general query on the state of in-game marketing at RFK in the Nationals Journal blog. The peanut gallery's response was extensive and amusing. I thought I'd post my own views in this space rather than get buried way down in a Nats Journal comment piece (where an anonymous commenter took a swipe at SBF, saying "it is frustrating to me seeing my kid watch in disappointment as Screech walks right past him so that he can say hi to some blogger.") Heh, who can blame Screech for knowing who feathers his golden nest? Earth to Anonymous- it is us, the diehard, season-ticket holding bloggers that shell out all the cash at games. Anyway, someone has to pay all the dry cleaning bills to Screech's costume after your cotton candy and sno-cone-covered crumbsnatchers paint him blue each night.

I'm kidding, SBF assures me that Screech would never walk away from a child. And he would know, for he is, after all, Screech's Best Friend.

Anyway, here were Barry's questions, and my thoughts:

1. What do you think about the in-game entertainment at RFK Stadium? What would you keep? What would you tweak? What would you blow up?

Overall I think the in-game entertainment is pretty good. Then again, anyone who goes to the game with me is so grateful to be in my presence that all else doesn't matter...(nervous laughter). I like a bit of lighthearted fun but I don't want to see the ballpark turn into such a three-ring circus that it takes away from the game. On the whole I'd keep just about all of it, and perhaps tweak some of the corporate-sponsored games like Guess the PIN. I mean seriously, we're just encouraging kids to grow up to be hackers and perpetrate bank fraud by guessing PINs. That's messed up, man.

What would I blow up? Hell, what wouldn't I blow up! We have fireworks before the game, after a win, and on the off chance that a Nat hits a home run, but since that hardly ever happens we need to come up with other occasions for explosions. How about every time Cordero blows a save we take a large, gunpowder-filled, papier-mache object with the word "save" on it and fire that sucker off in the infield. The symbolism would be subtle, but fitting.

2. Screech?

Honestly, I think he's fine. The biggest rip on him is that he's childish and looks like a chicken. I think that's fine. He's there for the kids, and a real eagle would scare kids shitless with all the talons and razor-sharp beaks and endangeredness. Chickens, on the other hand, are already familiar to kids through children's books and mealtimes. In fact, to really hit home with kids, maybe the mascot should change to "Nugget," the Washington Nationals Chicken Nugget. He could wear a Nats hat and everything. Mmm.

3. The PA guy?

The problem isn't the PA guy, it's the deafening volume of all team-supplied noise at the park, especially before the first pitch. The PA guy is firing off an ear-splitting litany of unintelligible and useless information about not getting hit in the face with a bat or driving home drunk or whatever. It's hard to have a conversation with a person in the seat next to you whenever the speakers fire up.

4. The President's Race

The President Race is the best in-game thing at RFK. People really get into it and the Teddy-never-wins schtick is pure marketing genius. Running gags turn into tradition, which turns into something casual fans can relate to, which keeps them coming back. The President bobbleheads are going on e-Bay right now for about $50 a pop, and people are snapping them up. The real racers are so much better than the animation on the JumboTron, and the costumes are well-made and instantly recognizable. I love it.

5. "Stolen" Traditions

Much was made in the comments about how the Nats have "stolen" traditions from other parks like playing "Sweet Caroline" (Boston), having a character race (Milwaukee) and other minor things. I'm personally okay with it. Traditions can't be manufactured; they have to grow over time. I'd rather the team implement some sure-bet in-game fun rather than try again and again to come up with the "DC thing." Anything they brewed up would never be satisfactory to the fans, and we'd rip it relentlessly. Give it some time, I'm sure we'll come up with something unique. In the meantime, give the people what they like.

Those are my thoughts. What do you think?

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I've started a new, non-sports blog called Fluorescent Sunshine. It's a place for me to do some different writing on my own- some humor, some opinion and some reflection. Check it out if you're so inclined.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Still Doesn't Add Up

[Update: 8/19 5:44 PDT] It seems that Manny Acta and I had the same thoughts on Nook Logan, but his solution to the logjam was not what I anticipated. Austin Kearns is being moved to center field, Church will stay in left, and Pena will start in right. Ah-some! This is a great outfield. And I see that Pena hit a hum-dinger today into the upper reaches of RFK. I'm really looking forward to next season with this outfield, the suddenly-emergent pitching staff, and what should be a solid infield with the return of Guzman and (possibly) Nick Johnson.

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[Original Post]

I had to laugh when I saw that the Nats had acquired outfielder Wily Mo Pena from the Red Sox. From the moment Jim Bowden took over the team the acquisition of Pena had the same air of perpetual inevitability as, say, the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Even before it happened, it was only a matter of time.

And hey, I'm happy to have Pena on our side. He was much ballyhooed in Cincinnati when he arrived as a member of the Reds, but his development was stunted by limited playing time. Pena was stuck in a logjam outfield of Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Austin Kearns. Pena saw some time when Griffey went down, but he never seemed to get enough innings under his belt to gain traction. Many Reds fans (myself included) were frustrated at Bowden's (the Reds' GM at the time) inability or unwillingness to make a trade to free up a regular spot for Pena. This logjam continued unabated until Bowden's successor, Jim O'Brien, moved Pena to the Red Sox for pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Kearns, of course, ended up a National.

So now Pena finds himself playing for Bowden once again, and once again Bowden seems to have created a logjam in the outfield. To be sure, Ryan Church, Nook Logan and Austin Kearns aren't the same as Ken Griffey, Adam Dunn and, er, Austin Kearns, but once again Pena finds himself in a situation where his playing time status is up in the air on any given night. Why does Bowden insist on creating this situation for Pena? Even the GM himself admits that: "Pena is not the guy you carry in a pennant race in the role he had there. [Boston] He has to play." I agree, he has to play, but he's 25 now and has yet to be given a starting spot on any team. Why not now, on this team, this season?

The Nats took a logical first step last night by designating the dreadful Ryan Langerhans for assignment. Nothing against Langerhans, but there is no reason why the Nats (or any team) should be carrying a guy with a sub-.200 batting average over 80+ games. Buh-bye, Ryan. I won't miss cringing when you come in to pinch hit.

But darn it if Bowden hasn't once again, for the third time in as many seasons, given Ryan Church short shrift. For reasons that don't make sense to me, Nook Logan keeps his starting job in center field while Church and Pena must platoon in left. Nook has improved of late but there is no question that his destiny in the majors is no better than a reserve player. Church and Pena, while they are nearing the upper bound of their "prospect" years, can still be reasonably expected to start for a major league team someday. I don't understand why Pena isn't given the starting nod in left and Church isn't moved to center. Logan, not Church, should be the odd man out in this outfield mix. Bring him off the bench to pinch hit, steal a base or round out a double switch, but why, oh why, would we sit either Pena or Church while Logan wet-noodles his way around the outfield?

Commenters will no doubt set me straight on all the defensive reasons why Logan should still be kept in the mix. That may be so, but it seems like Church and Pena have both been guys whose development has been hindered by constant platooning. Do the Nats really want to burn any more cycles on Nook Logan? Yes, Logan has valuable tools but they should be deployed situationally, not as a matter of course. I think an outfield of Pena, Church and Kearns has a lot of upside. Hopefully we'll get the chance to find out.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Booooooooooooo

Ack! I'm in San Francisco on business and saw the Bonds homer on TV from my hotel room. The game was hopelessly sold out so I did not attend. It's probably better that way, for I would have issued the most epic of my trademark ear-shattering boos. Alas, no one would have heard it through the cheers.

If a Nats fan boos in a forest of cheering Giants fans and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

Ah well, I feel bad for Mike Bacsik and by extension the Nats. I also feel bad for Hank Aaron, who delivered a pre-recorded congratulations message that reminded me of Gore's concession speech in 2000.

No one should have to lose his seat to a cheater, and I believe that Bonds cheated. It's a real shame.

Even the Giants TV announcers didn't go as ballistic as I expected. Anyone have a link to Charlie and Dave's call?

Quick reader poll- Is Bonds a giant douche or a turd sandwich? Cast your vote in the comments.