The Philadelphia Phillies are reigning five-time National League East Champions. That streak will be broken sometime in mid- to late-September. Either the Washington Nationals, or the Atlanta Braves, will take the honors.
In consideration of geographical options and depending upon how the next few years could play out, how many Phillies fans are likely to join Nationals' nation?
We knew it was coming
Whenever a team relocates and then opens a new ballpark, the opportunity to eventually become good exists. Most baseball fans, if they are being honest, didn't expect the Nationals to come on so strong so soon. They also didn't see a sub-.500 season from a team (the Phillies) that had baseball's best record (102-60) last year.
We knew that the money Washington was investing in its club, combined with their young core, was going to produce results at some point. I had assumed that they might win between 85 and 90 games this season.
All hardcore fans have to hand it to Davey Johnson's squad for what they have accomplished so far. Plus, from a pure baseball standpoint, it's good for this newer market to have a winner.
Philadelphia's uncertain future
Since Larry Bowa was hired to become the Phillies' manager over a decade ago, fans have rightfully believed that the team was on the upswing. Defeating the Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series in 2008 allowed the 2009 Fall Classic loss to the New York Yankees to be bearable.
Everyone saw a troubling trend line deepening when the San Francisco Giants took the National League Pennant in 2010. Last October's loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series was sobering, but this season's bumpy adventure has been completely devastating.
Through all of it Phillies' fans have continued to pack Citizens Bank Park. Yes, announced sellouts don't mean that every seat has actually been filled. However, there's no doubt that this rebuilt base of support is still intact.
Conjecture allows one to believe that two, or more, losing seasons would need to be played before empty seats blossom like summer weeds. Thus, the teased question of this article cheekily asked how many Phillies' loyalists would rebuke their team and join the Nationals ascendancy?
Every real fan will never abandon the Phillies. Instead, the faithful anticipate the opportunity to face their newest rival during future seasons of equal strength.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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