Going into Saturday afternoon, the Atlanta Braves had a 14-15 record – mediocre, but still good enough for third place in the N.L. East, 4 games behind the first-place New York Mets.
But it’s definitely not good enough for Braves fans to go to Turner Field. Average attendance is down 6,137 fans per game, on average, from a year ago. Through 16 home games, Atlanta’s attendance ranks 25th out of 30 teams in Major League Baseball.
There are a few easy explanations for this drop in turnout. One of the most obvious reasons is that this year’s team won’t be very good. Call it frontrunning, sure, but look around the majors. When teams are bad, their fans stop coming. That’s the case in Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and everywhere else.
But Braves fans already had the deck stacked against them. What you’ve heard is definitely true: it is next-to-impossible to get to Braves games at Turner Field. That isn’t a recent development, but why would anyone with a family strain to get to the ballpark to watch below-average baseball pre-Summer Break?
Here’s what’s funny about this year’s Braves team. They’re actually a more pleasing team to watch in nearly every facet of the game. They hustle more and strike out less. They can move baserunners around and play the game well.
They just don’t seem to win as much as the 2014 Braves, who were 19-15 on this date a year ago. Those Braves were maddening in their ways, but they ended up in the win column more frequently. So it was more justifiable to spend the money to see them play, I guess.
Finally, the 2014 Braves had an extra weekend home series under their belt through 16 home games, and according to AJC.com, that makes up for about half of the current deficit. So attendance numbers should get better soon.
And although it seems like I’ve made every excuse to not watch this year’s Braves play, it’s worth your while to spend some time at Turner Field this summer. Tickets will be cheap and it’s important to become acclimated with the young talent that’s growing up before our eyes. Watching them struggle now will make the future success even sweeter.
Also, you’ll have a chance to enjoy Turner Field before it’s reduced to rubble, or whatever else Georgia State University will want to do with it.
Photo: AP/Todd Kirkland