- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 1, 2005

Tony Tavares should be able to take a step back during this final weekend of the Washington Nationals’ inaugural season and enjoy the moment. He has earned it.

The Nationals president pulled off a minor miracle by relocating the Montreal Expos to the District with no time to plan or prepare and doing business in a town and a 44-year-old ballpark that had not had baseball since 1971.

With just weeks to sell tickets and sponsorships, set up a radio deal and then be handed the most ridiculous television contract in the history of professional sports, Tavares still managed to head an effort that will draw 2.7million fans to see a competitive Nationals team. It’s safe to say most fans would call it a successful season —given the restraints that were in place.

So Tavares, the former Angels president, should be able to appreciate what he and the organization accomplished this year, right?

Apparently not.

“I tend not to have too many pats on the back handed out when we still have so much work to do, and I include myself in that,” Tavares said. “I hold myself to the same standard that I hold my people to. That being said, we had some people do some wonderful jobs for us under some very difficult circumstances, and I am pleased with that. I just don’t want our folks sitting back on their laurels.”

Tavares discussed some of the issues that did come up this year at RFK and what the club might do about them, because the longer this ownership selection process drags on and Major League Baseball continues to own the team, the more decisions Tavares will have to make about the 2006 season.

• Tickets: “No-shows are a huge issue. We are going to try to address that in a resale policy in our ticketing agreement going forward. What we would be looking to do is to put our season-ticket holders in a position that if he is not using his tickets, this would give him an electronic secondary outlet to sell his tickets on. We would rather have people in the seats than not there at all. While that may impact our walk-up [sales], I would still think it would be in everybody’s best interests. It would certainly help the season-ticket holder who couldn’t use the seats on a specific night to be able to get some revenue back on them. I would never endorse anything that is scalping. On the system I am talking about putting in, you couldn’t put them in for over face value.”

• Game times: “I am looking at doing more day games during the week next season, because those have been well received. But generally speaking, people seem to like the 7:05p.m. starts. We haven’t had any complaints about that. And the 1:05 on Sundays doesn’t seem to bother them. We have heard from our fans that on getaway days, they want more afternoon games, especially when school is out.”

• Team play: “I am extremely unhappy with the way we played the second half. It was not enjoyable. I don’t like losing. From a team performance, I thought we had a shot at the playoffs, and not getting there is extremely disappointing.”

• Playing field: “The turf issue that has reared its head in recent weeks is a concern. If you look at the outfield, especially in this past homestand, I have seen cow pastures that look better than that. It is deplorable. That is a condition that must be corrected for next season.”

• Food service: “We have gotten some reports of poor service and poor food quality. That doesn’t cast a direct criticism on the food service vendor [Aramark]. It has been more of a situation where there are physical plant limitations to deal with — one elevator to be used by the entire facility to get food carts up and down, and a lot of temporary stands. And there is not great lighting on the concourses. Under ordinary circumstances, I would say to you that the food service at the stadium is completely unacceptable. But given the mitigating circumstances, I would give us a passing grade, but not by a wide margin. I think we can get a lot better there.”

• Television: “The TV situation is one of the biggest corrections that must take place during the offseason. You need broader distribution of MASN [cable outlet], without question. The thing to think about it here what we accomplished without broad distribution of our product on TV, which most teams really use to help sell tickets. That certainly impacts walk-ups and so on and so forth. We didn’t have an opportunity to reach out to a majority of our fans in the marketplace and promote to them. Limited amounts of people could see our broadcasts. Certainly that is an issue. We are real hopeful that MASN will get broader distribution. We know it is being worked on on a daily basis. The MASN people pretty much keep us in the loop on what they got going. We are real hopeful this situation will get corrected.”

• Radio: “The radio situation was not perfect. We were pleased with our partnership with Bonneville. They did an admirable job under difficult circumstances. But bouncing around on two stations is not my ideal circumstance. We would like to have one position on the dial consistently. We are going to work on that a little bit.”

And do you want to know what really drives Tavares crazy? Cleanliness.

“I’m just not satisfied with the cleanliness of the building,” he said. “We can be a lot better than we were.”

Tony, relax. Have a dog and a beer. Ignore the dirt, and enjoy the last weekend of the Washington Nationals’ first season. Consider this a pat on the back.

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