By Steve Ginsburg
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The woeful Washington Nationals are striking out with fans weary of watching the club slog through another season as the worst team in baseball.
Not even a new, $611-million stadium with stunning panoramic views of the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument is enough to lure spectators in great numbers.
"Fans nowadays, with the economy being tough and prices where they are, you've got to really deliver on your product," Nationals President Stan Kasten told Reuters.
"The product on the field is not where we want it. Fans get that. Even if they appreciate your long-term vision, a lot of fans say: 'Okay, when it gets here, we'll come back'.
"This will be an enormous marquee franchise once we do our job on the field."
Washington ranks last in pitching and fielding and that adds up to a cozy spot in the basement of the National League's East Division with the majors' worst record at 46-88.
"We just didn't execute this year," said Nationals All Star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. "You have to play defense and pitch and we didn't do that in the first half.
"You just can't give the other team extra outs. At least we've gotten better since the All-Star break."
The Nationals have indeed improved since the July 14 All-Star game but remain the team opponents love to see when hoping to break a losing streak.
Washington has made some solid moves recently, most notably signing the top pick in the 2009 draft, right-hander Stephen Strasburg, to a $15.1-million deal.
The contract for the 21-year-old easily tops the previous record for the number one selection, the $10.5 million given to Mark Prior by the Chicago Cubs in 2001.
Although Strasburg will not pitch for the Nationals until next season, he already has his own locker. Washington slugger Adam Dunn appreciated the move to sign the San Diego State pitcher but was not ready to anoint him as the savior of the franchise.
"College and pro ball are two different things," he said. "There are a lot of guys that dominated in college. He's got to come up here and do what he's capable of doing."
Manager Jim Riggleman, who stepped in after Manny Acta was fired in July, knows the current club does not have a lot of talent but likes their effort.
"The final score or where you are in the standings ultimately determines whether you were successful or not in most people's eyes," he said.
"But for a manager, if you feel like the players are motivated, they're prepared and they're playing hard, it's a success in itself. Considering where our players have been in the standings all year they've done a remarkable job."
Washington had been without a major league team for 34 years when the Nationals arrived amid great fanfare in 2005 from Montreal.
However, less than two years after moving into a new state-of-the-art stadium, the Nationals have baseball's fifth-worst attendance at just over 23,000 a game.
Zimmerman is not surprised the honeymoon did not last long.
"If I was a fan, I'd want to watch a team that wins," he said.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)