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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: September 6, 5:41 PM ET
No. 34: Washington Nationals

By Doug Mittler
ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 78
Title track: 65
Ownership: 51
Coaching: 38
Players: 25
Fan relations: 53
Affordability: 40
Stadium experience: 70
Bang for the buck: 47

The Washington Nationals are polling better than any political candidate: Washington, 94th in our standings as recently as 2010, vaulted 44 spots to 34th in 2012. Nats fans recognize that owner Ted Lerner and GM Mike Rizzo have put together a potentially elite franchise, and Davey Johnson, who at 69 is MLB's oldest manager, is pushing the right buttons (45-point jump in coaching). Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are not only stars; a 50-point rise in the players category indicates they are likable as well. "We've got a dynamic, compelling team. Fans want to be a part of it," says Nats COO Andy Feffer. Nationals Park is becoming become a trendy destination for the politically connected, with attendance up 22.8 percent from last season. Merchandise sales at the park have jumped a massive 80 percent, according to Feffer, thanks to the remodeled clubhouse team store beyond the centerfield gate and expanded food offerings. The Nats offer a special dish inspired by the city of the visiting team. For example, the Coney Dog Platter is available when the Mets and Yankees are in town, while games against the Brewers feature the Beer Brat Platter. At any game, Nats fans can chow down on the Strasburger, which is 3 pounds of beef with all the fixings, a meal that feeds eight for $59. No word on whether it disappears from the menu late in the season.