Last night, an announced crowd of 41,665 showed up to Citizen Bank Park to watch the listless Phillies put up a token effort against Atlanta, a 6-1 loss that put them 14 games out of a wild card spot. It was the smallest crowd of the year, and the first time since July 2009 the Phillies failed to sell out the ballpark.
Look, it happens. You win a World Series, you have a fabulous new ballpark, you become the second-biggest spending team in baseball, you loot the farm system to load up on big-name vets, and you're going to fill the stadium. And the Phillies, who have won the division five straight years, became the biggest ticket in town. But Baltimore and Cleveland will tell you that nothing lasts forever—it's a lost season in South Philadelphia, and all the Schmitters in the world aren't going to keep the turnstiles turning.
The news spurred Nationals broadcaster F.P. Santangelo, all too used to seeing Nationals Park become CBP South, to take a shot at the Phils:
"Their sellout streak ended tonight, apparently."
"They're going to have to take back their own ballpark."
Yes, yes, let's all laugh. But celebrating last night as the end of the line merely gives legitimacy to a streak that never was. The Phillies (along with the Red Sox) have been masters of massaging the numbers to technically qualify for an announced sellout, even on nights where hundreds to thousands of tickets remained unsold. How'd they do it?