The Braves are in a playoff race, but does anybody care?

See? There were some folks in the house Monday night? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

See? Some folks were in the house Monday. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The announced crowd at Turner Field on Monday was 25,046. I’d guessed the actual attendance as 15,000 and thought I was being kind. But no matter the number, the image was clear.

Another big baseball game in the A-T-L.

Another unpacked house.

And here I’m supposed to get all righteously indignant and say something like, “It just goes to show what a lousy sports town this is. If this game had been in Boston or Chicago or New York, you couldn’t have gotten a ticket.”

But you know what? I’m not going to say anything like that. Because I don’t really care about the folks in Boston and Chicago and New York. (And anyway, I just came from a Patriots game in Foxborough, where Gillette Stadium was officially sold out but empty seats were apparent.) Besides, this time I feel no call for indignation, righteous or otherwise.

As I tried to note last night, this is a weird sort of stretch drive. It crept up on all of us, the Braves included. It wasn’t until last week that things got interesting, and when the Braves returned home only 2 1/2 games behind Colorado they were facing some powerful mitigating circumstances.

School’s in session. The economy’s adrift. Lots of locals are still bailing out basements after last week’s rain. And let’s be honest: The Braves haven’t been flavor the month for more than a months of Sundays. Lately we’d gotten in the habit of keeping one eye — one only — on the Braves and saving our real enthusiasm for the Falcons or the Dawgs or Tech or even the Hawks.

But now the Braves are in a race we never saw coming, and we’re only just catching on. I’d imagine the crowds will increase as the week unfolds, and if the Braves keep winning I’d expect 40,000 on Friday night and that many again on Saturday afternoon. And Sunday afternoon, if the game is meaningful, could well be sold out. (The Falcons are off this week, FYI.)

And I’ve long since stopped associating raw attendance numbers with depth of fan interest. We didn’t ever tune the Braves out; we just followed them a bit less closely. These hadn’t become the dark days of the ’80s, when, as the joke went, you could leave two Braves tickets on your windshield and come back and find four. Most of us will have no trouble finding our way to the ballpark this weekend. We’ve all been there before, many times.

And even if there were only 25,000 (or 15,000) on hand Monday, it wasn’t a bored corporate gathering. These were folks who knew what was going on and who’d come to see baseball. “The crowd was into it,” Bobby Cox said afterward, and it was. It didn’t feel like just another night at the ballyard. It felt like a night at the races.

And, on another Braves-related matter: Getting way ahead of ourselves, we wonder how the playoff rotation might look. Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz? Vazquez, Jurrjens, Hanson? And what happens to Derek Lowe?

310 comments Add your comment

todd

September 29th, 2009
10:10 am

I’ve decided not to watch any more games this year. Every time I get interested in this stupid team they let me down. If I start watching again they will lose again plain and simple. The only reason they are winning now anyway is that they were so far behind that they didn’t feel any pressure. Now that the games actually mean something they will blow it.

PMC

September 29th, 2009
10:10 am

I’ll be there Wednesday but I’ll be late because of work and traffic and family duties. One hopes in a city and or area of 5 Million+ that people will come out and buy seats and that the corporations would use them or give them away… but honestly Mark. It’s unimportant. Plenty of people will watch on TV and the folks that come will cheer. The only people it really matters too are Liberty Media… and they could care less about Atlanta. They’ll probably cut payroll next year too. This team is vastly more interesting now than they were when they had our attention in the dog days of summer. People just aren’t passionate about baseball here… that’s not really a crime.

[...] (And here’s a little something about Monday night’s attendance, or the lack of same.) [...]

Herschel Talker

September 29th, 2009
10:11 am

MB:

TWELFTH!!!

Yes, we care, but no one wants to go to the stadium during the week when it’s important for us to keep our jobs in this horrible recession. Let’s get some fans this weekend, but unlike New York, we don’t have 10 million people to spread over 60,000 seats on Tuesday night game at a stadium that is nowhere near our offices or homes.

The Lemmer

September 29th, 2009
10:16 am

It wasn’t that long ago that Atlanta, and the rest of the South for that matter, were tomahawk-chopping lunatics. It’s sad to see the lack of enthusiasm at the ballpark.

Nativebird

September 29th, 2009
10:18 am

RESIST the darkside Luke…they will not make it to the postseason. Stay home, watch the Falcons, pay attention to the Hawks and Thrashers, the DREAM if you must, but this band of posers will PULL YOU IN, only to once again, dissapoint. This team is doing what they do…tease you, fill you with hope, fill you with once again, “just maybe, just maybe”???
Then DASH your dreams, and vanquish all of your heart as they once again, reminding you of why they exist…to take YOUR hard earned entertainment dollar and put it in John Schuerholz pocket. (Then go play golf with it in October).
This is Lucy pulling back the football on Charlie Brown ONCE AGAIN in Atlanta!

coach joe

September 29th, 2009
10:18 am

I live in new orleans and I follow the Braves.I think that I am more excited about the Braves run than my four brothers that live in Atlanta..

Go Braves and Go LSU — tiger bait on saturday..

pj

September 29th, 2009
10:18 am

An even better question Mark… we probably won’t win it outright – but who would start for us in a 1 game tiebreaker against the Rockies?

Michael

September 29th, 2009
10:19 am

I think the extenuating circumstances that you alluded to have affected the crouds. Also, many fans probably gave up on the Braves months again when they were hovering aroudn .500 and now that the NFL is in full swing their attention has gone elsewhere.
We will not have a chance to set our rotation because we will be fighting until the last day. And it really doesn’t matter. We have 4 guys who could argue for that top spot.

soxman

September 29th, 2009
10:20 am

Why watch the same ol’ Bobby Cox show- get close and figure out a way to lose the important ones? Been doing that for over 20 years. Watching Cox manage is like having constipation.

MightyQuinn

September 29th, 2009
10:21 am

Somebody wrote after the All Star Break; The Braves keep teasin’, and I keep believin’. Truer words have never been spoken. One of the biggest problems with this is, though, they don’t control their own destiny. All they can do is keep winning and hope for help. It makes it a little more difficult to get excited. Pensive, wishful, hopeful, maybe. Sweep the Marlins (no small feat), Brewers eek out a win out of three, go into the weekend one game down with four to play, Turner Field will rock this weekend.

Paul H

September 29th, 2009
10:22 am

If the Braves don’t pull it off, and the odds still say they won’t, you can look back to losing 5 of 6 at home to the padres and reds a month ago.

fieldofdreams

September 29th, 2009
10:22 am

Embarrassing turnout. America is laughing at us….again. This team has huge heart that deserves more respect from it’s so-called “fans.” I’m in the Denver area now…..Rockies fans have jobs and kids who go to school, too, but Coors Field overflows with fans like a mug of suds. Fair-weather seems too kind a word to describe Braves “fans.”

toddh

September 29th, 2009
10:23 am

pretty funny the first commenter with the same name feels pretty much the same I do. I want to get enthused, and am gradually getting more excited, but over the last couple of months it’s felt like they just didn’t quite have enough. or they didn’t want it bad enough, but I almost hate to think that’s the case. like you said MB, it’s been a different kind of playoff push since they haven’t really seriously threatened for the lead since right now. still pulling for em, just hate to once again get excited then have them disappoint.

john

September 29th, 2009
10:25 am

eh, we need to quit making excuses. Last night was pathetic. I hope more show up to the stadium tonight. I wish I could go but I live over 500 miles away from Atlanta

steveh

September 29th, 2009
10:27 am

Atlanta is not a baseball town. It is a football town (like every other city in the south). As a baseball fan, I find it unfortunate, but that is the way it is. In ‘91, the entire southern region was captured by Braves Fever. It was a special time. It was never the same after that. Even toward the end of their magical run of division titles, the Braves were having trouble selling out playoff games. By this time of the year, most of the south has moved on to football and they no longer care about baseball. It is sad, but true.

Aunt Esther

September 29th, 2009
10:27 am

Atlanta has the weakest, worst fans in all of sports. I live over 120 miles away and STILL manage to make it to 5-10 Braves games a year. We always get made fun of on a national level for our weak attendance/fans.

Having said that, the Braves CORE base (the 15 to 20 K) who are ALWAYS at the Braves games are great. It’s just a shame the rest of the city cannot show up…or make noise when they do…EXAMPLE…I was at John Smoltz’s 3000 K game last year, on a weeknight…and the place was half-full. Well, Atlanta, the joke then was on you: Smoltz signed autographs for *everybody* after the game. :p

GO BRAVES!!!!!!!

Gabron Salome

September 29th, 2009
10:28 am

Its fun thats all I know and will be there on Friday. I’ve said from the start to be patient we would come around. I thought next year for sure, but w/ Hudson back and some timely hitting and Bobby letting his starters FINISH we’ll be choppin in October again.Enter your comments here

EW

September 29th, 2009
10:28 am

I care…im just scared to start watching again and jinx it.

gafan1

September 29th, 2009
10:29 am

Some of the people on this post repulse me. A true fan is a fan in good times and bad. We are 16 games over .500. It is good times. Ride the wave, enjoy this strech run. For the first time in a few years we are playing meaningful games in September. This is not a make the playoffs or bust scenario. The core of this team will be back next year and the things they learn this year will be valuable in the future. Please support your team. You never know when we will be this close to the playoffs again.

Pittsburgh Al

September 29th, 2009
10:32 am

The reason there is little enthusiasm at this point is that all of us drained it by giving up on them. The offense has been anemic more often than not, losing to really bad teams has happened on a regular basis and there have been too many very visible bad decisions that have cost games. Until today most of these blogs have been about how to rebuild this team and replace the manager and management. Mark & Jeff have been major contributors to the problem by constantly writing Brave obituaries in the AJC. Let’s face it….until going 15-2 they were a .500 team waiting until next year. I think there is still a wait and see attitude since any lose at this point will be hard to overcome. Can they really finish the season with a 13 game winning streak….a streak that they may never have had even in the winning years.

Wes

September 29th, 2009
10:32 am

Has anyone bothered to look at the ratings of Sport South? I bet they’re through the roof. Just because the Ted’s attendance figures are mediocre during this playoff push, does NOT mean people aren’t paying attention and cheering on their beloved Braves. On weekdays, it’s difficult to attend a game because of work, traffic, and other duties people are obligated to (not to mention the horrible location of the stadium, maybe Atlanta should’ve kept Pounce De Leon Park back in the 60’s and had the future Braves play there).

I, for one, will be attending Wednesday’s game, Friday’s game, and Sunday’s game (can’t wait for CCR!). I’ve been watching the Braves this ENTIRE season, win or lose. Attendance will get a boost for the weekend, just watch. GO BRAVES!!

Doug B

September 29th, 2009
10:32 am

GO TO THE GAME AND SUPPORT THE TEAM!!!

Brian

September 29th, 2009
10:33 am

soxman, how can you say Bobby is losing the “important ones”? You know every game for the last week has pretty much been an elimination game, and he’s won every one?

DC Bravesfan

September 29th, 2009
10:35 am

Come on, Mark…if they can’t sell out when we’re in the NLDS! When they had to play 5 road games becuase there were more Cubs fans in the stands in 2003? I still maintain, the reason why the Braves didn’t win more WS during the streak of 14, was NO HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE. GO TO THE FRICKING BALL PARK! IT’S THE PLAYOFFS!!!

pryguy

September 29th, 2009
10:35 am

Bradley,

Are you that ignorant to the fact that the Braves are VERY popular across the country? Do you realize people live MANY hours away from Atlanta to even consider attending a game? Living in Pennsylvania, it seems kind of difficult to make it. I think ALOT of people are stuck in the same spot. So to answer your question, YES alot of people care about this playoff push. Maybe not enough in the immediate area, but certainly around this country!!!

Poorjeff

September 29th, 2009
10:36 am

When Bobby is gone we’ll return, not until.

Charlie

September 29th, 2009
10:37 am

Still a Braves fan here. Funny how the national media paints Atlanta as the worst fan city in America when the Braves are still in the upper half of attendance of all baseball teams, not at the bottom. Got the stats from MLB just a few minutes ago. I have watched many away Braves games this year with few in the stands.

eric the elder

September 29th, 2009
10:38 am

Let’s see – - do I give my money to millionaire health insurance execs or to millonaire baseball players? Big business has never gone broke by overestimating the gullible mentality of the regular folks.

Besides, even if the Braves edge in, after being swept by the Reds, does anyone think they are competitive with teams that clinched their divisions long ago?

Dan

September 29th, 2009
10:38 am

I like to know the Braves are out there. It is nice to see that they are winning and I hope they make the playoffs. But go to a game? Not likely – I have a pegnant wife and a 2 year old. I only get so much time off – I stockpile it for college football. I have a feeling I am not alone in doing so.

Dr. Phil

September 29th, 2009
10:39 am

Atlanta fans will support a winning team in any sport. The magic of the early 90’s is gone, and there has been some lollygagging in recent years, but Bobby and this team are due credit for outstanding effort in the last few weeks. The talent is certainly there for next season.

Tami

September 29th, 2009
10:40 am

I’m getting kind of tired of defending “the Braves fan” out there. We all have a lot going on, and far too many demands on the few dollars we have left over in our paychecks every week or two. This is rent week for me (i.e., rent is due, payday is Thursday). I have NOT allowed my enthusiasm for the Braves to diminish one bit. And, I’m watching them every night that I’m home. If I’m not home and I can be near a radio, I’m listening in. Or, I’m checking the scoreboard on my cell phone. I’m VERY interested. But, I do have a life….

If I can squeeze it, I plan to be at Turner Field Saturday and maybe Sunday (or flip it). I’ll just have to see what I still have in the wallet after I pay rent this week. GO, BRAVES!

You know….they have a slightly more plausible chance at the NL East title, by the way. Has anyone noticed? Of course, the Wild Card could be more of a realistic goal. At any rate, the Braves are making the Rockies & the Phillies VERY nervous. And, no division winner/leader wants to face them in a short series either. I LOVE IT! :-)

Nativebird

September 29th, 2009
10:43 am

Combine Inability to win consistently, with a HC that is past retirement and is doing it “for fun” and “because he deserves it”, add a President who still calls division wins “a Championship”, with a dash of a GM without the funds to acquire AllStar talent, all topped off by a game day experience akin to a bad travel day getting to a dentist appointment, only to be berated by Nazi-like “Ushers” with a 3rd grade education, selling $7 beer; And it’s the fan’s fault?
Get Real. I’ve been to many MLB games at other ballparks from coast to coast, and Atlanta’s “product” is at or near the bottom. Just dont have the time or patience to put up with overpriced crap.

Braves_Guru_32

September 29th, 2009
10:44 am

There really is no excuse for this terrible attendance. Who says that the Braves fans are only in the metro area? I am from the most northern part of Georgia. Its a two hour drive to Turner Field for me and I have made it to at least one game per series this year at Turner Field, meaning I have seen every team that has came to the Ted this year (still came during the 0-5 run too, yes I was at the Padres and the Reds finale) and I work 8:00-4:00 too. Yes, I understand there are flood victims, but they do not account for the 35,000 empty seats last night. I’m not saying that I didn’t throw in the towel after the Red’s series and ESPICALLY after Cox pulled Hanson because NO, I didn’t predict this 15-2 run and no one else did either, but the Bravos have done it and now the pressure is on Colorado. So lets turn out to these last 6 games Braves fans and get loud and Chop. Fall is in the air and I can’t wait to be at the Ted tonight.
Could my clock go any slower? I feel like a kid waiting on Christmas!

I BELIEVE!!!

elviskl

September 29th, 2009
10:44 am

Keep this team entact completely -minus greg norton- for next year and we win 110 games…..,wren waited to long to trade francour and exile shafer to the minors…….but you never know, i was there last night and im going back tonite…….go ga tech to hell with the bullpups

Trey

September 29th, 2009
10:44 am

I miss the Braves and I can’t watch them since I am deployed. I would love to be able to go to a Braves game. Unlike most people from the south I can’t stand football, as it is a sport of mostly thugs and convicts. Baseball is the game of smart men. It would be nice to get a football championship from the Falcons, but I personally don’t like ‘em much.

sean

September 29th, 2009
10:46 am

I think there are a few things at play here with why people don’t show up. First is football season is in full swing now and people in Atlanta and the surrounding metro area are more concerned with the Falcons,Dawgs and Jackets at this time than they are with the Braves.Second after 14 years of making the playoffs and coming up empty every time but once i’m sure there is some doubt in peoples minds which then doesn’t create excitement for the team. 3rd i’d just like to ask where are all those people who attended the Boston and New York series? Surely not all of you Red Sox and Yankees fans were from out of state how about supporting the local team the rest of the year while your at it?

DC Bravesfan

September 29th, 2009
10:47 am

Lame lame lame excuses…I just paid $7.5 a beer for Nats/Braves Saturday!!! You can get a flask in…pay for nose bleed seats…find a baby sitter…

Chazs

September 29th, 2009
10:47 am

The crowd was small, but those of us there had fun. And what I saw was great!
Who would have expected loading the bases on straight walks in the first inning? So it pays to get there on-time.
Chipper’s HR, I don’t remember the last time I saw one off the right field pole that was so high. The small crowd let us actually hear it too!
Chipper’s catch he made on the foul ball. You don’t get that look watching on TV. Some may say it was routine, but the height and shear vertical nature of the Major League pop up was something to behold while being extremely dramatic against the night sky. This is men playing a “boy’s” game.
We may all think in the back of our minds the Braves might not make it. We may all be thinking of the games the Braves could have or should have won; yet this is FUN, an actual race.
So don’t come to the games; we will have fun with out you.

Skeezix

September 29th, 2009
10:49 am

Mark: What a difference 2 and 1/2 weeks can make in baseball. This has been an awesome run and, yes, I care! This pitching staff has been amazing. J.J., Javy, and the two Tommie Guns are the best in the NL right now, hands down. We knew we had the pitching but now the offense has finally started to show some life and timely hitting. Chipper has awoken. It will be the most exciting time in years for Braves fans if they do run down the Rockies. Don’t forget the Phils are playing awful right now–but still 4 up and we only have 6 games left–…the NL East is unlikely, but still possible.

o-me

September 29th, 2009
10:50 am

Right on…..NATIVEBIRD……..you hit the nail on the head.

youngballcoach

September 29th, 2009
10:50 am

all the non-believers out there trying to convince us that the braves are done:
you remind me of teamates who would show up to the field and try to convince us all we were wasting our time before the game even began. Any time it got hard they would give up instead of pushing through it, ready to quit at any point. Instead of this give-up, “what can i get outta this?” mentality, let’s get out there and at least give it our best shot! If it doesn’t happen then we will be a little heart broken but atleast we will know we gave it everything we had and weren’t gonna give up before it started.
THE BRAVES NEED US NOW! IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, MAKE IT TO THE STADIUM

soxman

September 29th, 2009
10:50 am

We’ll talk Sunday, Brian (or before-). Cox is 63- 70 in postseason, 1-24 in winning a World Series (what a manager is hired for) . No other manager has ever, in the history of he game, been give so many chances with the same team while being such a loser.

oldmike

September 29th, 2009
10:50 am

Paul H- Throw out the sweep by the Reds that lost weekend as cause for missing the playoffs (if they do) I say this because they followed that with a sweep of the Cards on the road. So they went 3-3 in that segment. Probably what we would have hoped for anyway.
They need HELP, but there’s a (getting stronger) pulse. The pitching is carrying this team on this run. Javy, JJ and Hanson have been lights out and Huddy has stepped in and made us even stronger.
Still, no run, no way without the trade for LaRoche. I think he is the reason they have took off. Just so much more run production from that position and the continued production from Prado, Diaz and Yunel made the run happen.

AndyC

September 29th, 2009
10:51 am

Mark

Very thoughtful approach to the topic of Braves game attendance. I agree with you. It would be easy to make a snap judgement and say that the fans don’t support the team but like you said this came out of nowhere and this team has been a bit of a tease this year with long stretches of playing well and then playing poorly. If they don’t make it then this will be one of the biggest teases of all time.

The Lemmer

September 29th, 2009
10:52 am

I love how the Cox-haters still come out of the woodwork…

Dugout Bench

September 29th, 2009
10:53 am

Eric the elder-

Take your worthless anti-capitalist/anti-business butt and throw it off a cliff. The world will be a better place for it and thank you for finally doing something meaningful and productive in your life.

Thank you.

BlueEdwards

September 29th, 2009
10:54 am

Most people DONT CARE because they dont believe the Braves will finish the drill and overtake the Rockies to win the wild card. I mean, literally from the time the Braves had about 25 games left, the Braves had to win virtually all of their remainding games to even have a remote shot. The Braves have done that and if the Braves win out the last 6 to close out the season, assuming the Braves overtake the Rockies; the Braves will have had to win 23 out of their last 25 in order to get the job done. THAT IS A DIFFICULT TASK AND MOST PEOPLE DONT BELIEVE THE BRAVES WILL FINISH OFF THE ROCKIES; MYSELF INCLUDED, I AM A BIT SKEPTICAL. If it happens I will be proud of the Braves, heck Im proud of them for at least making it back into the wild card race. Most folks in the sports media wont acknowledge the Braves are in a penant race. In fact, it wasnt until the Braves pulled to within 2 1/2 games this past weekend that the Braves even got national exposure for being in a penant race. I watched ESPN and saw how excited Peter Gammons was about the Braves. Of course, Peter is a baseball purist and a heck of a talent; and he is just amazed at what the Braves are currently doing. John Kruk also had some wonderful thinkgs to say about the Braves. But before this past weekend, everybody kept saying the Braves are out of it and alot of the media outlets even today wont acknowledge the Braves greatness. In fact, even when the Braves overtake the Rockies and are given the wildcard berth, most people still wont say the Braves have a chance to win the world series. The Braves are the best team and baseball and they will be proving it to the world real soon the minute they get into the playoffs.

smitty

September 29th, 2009
10:54 am

The Atlanta fans are like the Nationals team…pathetic.

BubbaGump

September 29th, 2009
10:54 am

eric the elder

You need to change your name. You certainly don’t sound like an elder. You sound like an idiot.