A disappointing season on the field for the Phillies has led to a big drop in local television viewership for the team's games this year.
The Sports Business Journal's John Ourand and David Broughton published the magazine's annual survey of Major League Baseball's local TV ratings on Wednesday.
Ourand and Broughton's data was collected with about a week and a half left to go in the season.
As of that point, the Phillies had suffered the second-biggest decrease in ratings by percentage in Major League Baseball, falling 38.6 percent to a 5.61 average rating.
The team's average viewership had the biggest decrease by percentage in the majors, falling by 39.1 percent to 168,000 viewers per game.
Only the San Diego Padres had a bigger percentage drop in average audience size, falling 39.4 percent to 20,000 viewers per game. That is less than half of PETCO Park's capacity of 42,445.
(It's worth noting that the Padres' drop came mainly because of a carriage dispute which kept many Padres games off some local cable systems. The Phillies had no such problem.)
The Phillies' average local rating is still the seventh-highest in the the majors, and the fourth-highest in the National League. The team's average audience size is tied for the third-largest in the majors and is alone as the second-largest in the National League.
The six teams above the Phillies in terms of local ratings are the Detroit Tigers (9.13), the Cincinnati Reds (8.64), the St. Louis Cardinals (7.68), the Pittsburgh Pirates (6.52), the Boston Red Sox (6.43) and the Texas Rangers (5.88).
In the average viewership standings, the three teams above the Phillies are the New York Yankees (286,000), the New York Mets (173,000) and the Detroit Tigers (168,000).
All of these numbers come as the Phillies prepare to negotiate a new local television contract after this season. It will be interesting to see whether the decreases in ratings and viewers affect the amount of money the Phillies get in their next deal.
For what it's worth, the team that had the largest percentage increase in local ratings is the team that snatched the NL East crown from the Phillies. The Washington Nationals' ratings rose 74.0 percent to a 2.54 average.
It so happens that the Nationals are also going into a local TV contract negotiation after this season. The channel that broadcasts their games, MASN, is 87 percent owned by the Baltimore Orioles, with the Nationals owning the remaining stake.
The Orioles own the Nationals' TV rights because Bud Selig gave them to Baltimore owner Peter Angelos' as a condition for the Montréal Expos' move to D.C. Angelos spent years fighting bitterly to stop the nation's capital from getting a team of its own because he felt it would cut into the Orioles' fan base.
If the Nationals are able to get a better deal from Angelos, it surely won't make the Phillies' efforts to regain the division title any easier. All of the teams in the NL East are now flush with money, whether from stadiums, TV deals or both.
But that doesn't mean the Phillies' rivals have equally passionate fans. As long as Citizens Bank Park remains full (or close to it), Philadelphia will remain a place where top players want to play.
As for whether the Nationals' recent success will grow the team's still-nascent fan base, well... I think I'll leave that to others to judge.