No one is watching the Nationals … still

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Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post notes
that viewership for the Nationals’ television broadcasts is up 56
percent so far this season, which sounds great until you realize that
increase basically amounts to 3,000 extra people watching each game.

According to Steinberg the Nationals are now averaging about 12,000
viewers per game, which is “easily the worst in the country” and “about
a third the television audience of every other U.S. franchise” save for
the A’s. For comparison, the Orioles are averaging 34,000 viewers per
game and the Yankees lead baseball at 320,000.

I’m absolutely shocked by an MLB team drawing only 9,000 or 12,000
television viewers per game, but apparently my perception of baseball’s
popularity within each market is simply way off base. In looking at Sports Business Journal‘s chart showing viewership numbers, nearly every team is significantly under what I’d have guessed.

Only the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, Phillies, Mariners, Tigers,
Dodgers, and my beloved Twins have an average TV audience over 100,000
people, and the Nationals and Orioles are among nine teams that average
fewer than 50,000 viewers per game.

Josh Harrison wants out of Pittsburgh

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In the wake of the Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole trades, Pirates infielder Josh Harrison released a statement to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic today in which he said he’d like to be traded if the Pirates are going to rebuild over the next couple of years.

Harrison said “If indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next, perhaps it would be better for all involved, that I also am traded,” He couched it all in is love of Pittsburgh and his desire to win in Pittsburgh, adding “I want what is best for the organization that gave me a chance to be a Big Leaguer,” but he said “I just lost two of my closest friends in the game. Cole and Cutch were not just friends, they were the best pitcher and best position player on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now, I am the most tenured member of the Pirates, I want to win, I want to contend, I want to win championships in 2018, 2019 and beyond.”

Harrison is under team control on a very team-friendly contract that has him signed through 2018 and with the Pirates holding pretty cheap team options for 2019 and 2020. He’ll make $10 million this year and if the Pirates want to keep him they’ll owe him $10.5 million in 2019 and $11.5 million in 2020, with $1 million and $500,000 buyouts, respectively. Harrison played second, third and in the outfield in 2017 and hit .272/.339/.432 with 16 homers and 12 stolen bases.

Part of Harrison’s statement included the phrase “baseball is a business.” That is correct, and when Harrison signed his deal he had to know that the Pirates could blow things up, trade him or anything else during its term. That’s simply a risk one runs when one agrees to a deal that buys out free agency years. At the same time, it can’t be at all fun to be part of a tear-down process the likes of which is now getting underway in Pittsburgh, and it’d be hard to say any of us would feel differently than Harrison does if we were in his shoes.

All of that said, Harrison may very well get his wish. Rosenthal writes that the Mets, Yankees, and Brewers are among the teams with reported interest in Harrison. There are probably way more who would make a good offer for him given his versatility and given how often recent World Series winners have featured a player with exactly that kind of versatility (think Ben Zobrist and Marwin Gonzalez).

My guess is that he’s either going to be dealt now or at the deadline this coming season.