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Nationals Park is seeing its lowest fan attendance since 2011

The Washington Nationals’ disappointing start to the season has been reflected by the number of fans in seats for their home games.

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

One month into the Washington Nationals’ 2019 season, the results have been well short of preseason expectations.

Entering play Thursday, the Nats are 12-17 and 4.5 games back of the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East. Fans have apparently taken notice, as the team is drawing just 27,270 spectators per game — its lowest mark since averaging 24,256 in 2011.

Washington drew an average of 31,230 last season; it was the sixth-straight year the team garnered at 30,000+ fans per game. However, the Nats have exceeded last year’s average for just five of their 17 home games this season and are only 1-4 in those games.

The overall trend of declining stadium attendance has been a league-wide issue for the past two years. USA Today reported that MLB saw a four-percent decrease in fan attendance last season — its largest drop in 10 years. Commissioner Rob Manfred blamed poor weather for low March/April totals, but even with fewer rainouts and postponed games this year, the league has averaged about the same number of fans as it did in 2018.

Among the teams struggling the most this year are rebuilding clubs, including the Toronto Blue Jays (14-16), San Francisco Giants (13-18), Miami Marlins (9-21) and Kansas City Royals (11-20). Yet the Nationals don’t fall into the rebuild category. The team had an active offseason, signed more major-league free agent contracts than any other club and made clear its intentions to compete for its fifth NL East title in eight years.

Injuries have played a major role in the team’s slow start, but frustration with manager Davey Martinez has begun to mount as well. According to SB Nation’s FanPulse, Martinez’s approval rating among Nats fans fell to a season-low 30 percent on Wednesday. His in-game decisions have come into question on multiple occasions and the D.C. fanbase is anxious after the team opened the season with one of the largest payrolls in baseball.

Between the absences of Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner, the constant roller coaster that is the team’s bullpen and an inconsistent starting rotation, there are plenty of issues up and down the Nats’ roster. If the team continues to struggle and fan attendance doesn’t pick up, changes will be expected — either in the clubhouse or the manager’s office.