Bradley’s Buzz: Sporting News says we’re No. 13! Yes!

Pretend you don't see the guy in the Panthers sweater. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

A nice image. Just pretend you don't see the guy wearing the Panthers sweater in the foreground. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Get the picture: We’re not as good as Philly or Phoenix, but we’re better than Cleveland. We’re not as good as Miami, but we’re better than Auburn, Ala., or Auburn, N.Y.

We are Atlanta, and we, according to Sporting News, are the 13th-best sports city in these United States. Thirteenth out of 399, I’ll have you know.

I confess: I don’t know that I could name 399 cities, let alone rate them. But SN has made the brave attempt. And here, for purposes of civic pride, is the top 13:

    1. Pittsburgh
    2. Philadelphia
    3. Boston
    4. Chicago + Evanston
    5. Los Angeles
    6. New York
    7. Phoenix + Tempe
    8. Miami
    9. Dallas-Fort Worth
    10. Detroit + Ann Arbor + Ypsilanti
    11. Houston
    12. Nashville
    13. Atlanta

We can, of course, quibble. We’re behind Nashville? With its two pro teams to our four? With its Vanderbilt to our Georgia Tech? But I’m too busy celebrating to carp. I’m so used to hearing the A-T-L described as the worst sports city in the world that anything suggesting otherwise is music to these tired old ears.

In a press release, SN’s chief of correspondents Bob Hille is quoted thusly: “Atlanta is a terrific sports town. On any given night fans can see big-time sports — the Braves,  Hawks and Thrashers — and then there’s great college football and basketball, too.”

OK, two quibbles. (Can’t help myself.) The Thrashers qualify as big-time sports, but the Falcons don’t? And we have great college basketball around here? (Tech is about to get good again, I’ll grant you, but it hasn’t been lately.)

Mostly, though, I feel affirmed. I’ve been making the Atlanta-is-not-a-crummy-sports-town argument for years now, and I’d begun to wonder if I was flying Han Solo on this. Now I know I’m not. I’ve found my Chewbacca.

156 comments Add your comment

wiley

October 7th, 2009
1:54 pm

If my Jackets could be a consistent basketball power, which they should be considering its an ACC school in the middle of a huge popular southern city, then ATL would be a top ten sports city. Our basketball program still frustrates me because I know how much potential it has….we get top tier talent and the NBA is full of former players….come on Jackets basketball…get with the program and step up like UNC and Duke did during the 80s and 90s.

mmgtfan

October 7th, 2009
1:54 pm

mmgtfan

October 7th, 2009
1:55 pm

Oh COME ON?!?!?! 0-2 today

wiley

October 7th, 2009
1:56 pm

wrong mmgtfan! woo!!! if your not first your last!

chemdawg

October 7th, 2009
1:56 pm

Where’s Denver? They’re rabid.

McD

October 7th, 2009
1:58 pm

Atlanta, where all teams are supported equally badly!

Mark Bradley

October 7th, 2009
1:58 pm

So close, MMGT. So close. Keep after it, though. Think how many chances Bill Cowher needed to win the Super Bowl.

Mark Bradley

October 7th, 2009
1:59 pm

Denver is 18th.

mmgtfan

October 7th, 2009
2:00 pm

Yep. I’ve made improvement though. Went from 3rd to 2nd. 3rd time is the charm

Coop

October 7th, 2009
2:01 pm

Best 1st not 1st discussion thread EVER!

OK, the thing the A-T-L needs more than anything is CHAMPIONSHIPS. One world series and that’s it. No superbowl rings, no NBA trophies, no Stanley Cups… sorry, I just choked myself there. Tech gets close with a final four once a decade, and UGA has played in some BCS games, but the real reason we get grief is we don’t close things out!

Chris

October 7th, 2009
2:05 pm

How is Atlanta – a place where playoff games go unnoticed, a place where everyone’s doing the Wave in the 6th inning, a place where a fan base gets divided over a long-departed quarterback, a place where no one supports the hockey team – even in the same league as New York, Boston, Philly, etc.?

I’ve lost respect for you on this one, Mark. Grow some balls and realistically look at this poll and your city.

wiley

October 7th, 2009
2:06 pm

Coop GT has four national titles in football recognized by the NCAA…one in 1990….and two more recognized by other polls. We need some pro sports titles, and the falcons are on a track to get it done with the new leadership. UGA doesnt play in atlanta though so they dont count and cant donate their one national football title recognized by the NCAA. I think GT will always have the potential to be a great college basketball program…we need the right coach and right assistants.

DawginLex

October 7th, 2009
2:08 pm

WHERE’S LEXINGTON?

We have UK football, er, um UK basketball and…………….

UK basketball……………………..

and the Lexington Legends(houston Astros)
an Arena league team(Horsemen)
a minor league basketball team(coming soon)

never mind

midnite

October 7th, 2009
2:14 pm

What might the Braves have done if they had a full house during the 15-2 run? We had like 15,000 and thats a s-t-r-e-t-c-h. Those 54,000 Twins fans made a huge difference last night. Of course the missed call on the HBP helped also.

Sautee Dawg

October 7th, 2009
2:16 pm

Nashville???

atlwolf

October 7th, 2009
2:18 pm

LMAO the way some of you people act, you would think commenting first qualifies you for a Nobel prize. Grow up, folks.

Coop

October 7th, 2009
2:21 pm

Wiley – I’m fully aware of the GT and UGA football titles (recognized, disputed, and shared). That said, having to go all the way back to 1990 for a shared national title is not impressive. As for UGA not being part of the A-T-L scene because it’s in Athens, that dog don’t hunt outside the south. The Cowboys don’t play in Dallas, the Giants don’t play in New York. To the rest of the world, Atlanta is the only city in Georgia, so the Dawgs are in the equation.

Ted Striker

October 7th, 2009
2:24 pm

Mark —

I assume Hille didn’t mention the Falcons in that section of the sentence — “on any given night” — because the Birds only have 8 regular season home games, mostly afternoon.

That said, he shoulda mentioned the Falcons in the latter part of the sentence or rephrased as “any given day.”

(Now if he’d said “on any given Sunday” and THEN omitted the Falcons — that’s a legitimate snub.)

Have always shared your view that Atlanta is a great sports town. The sheer variety as well as opportunities to see visiting teams/superstars is great, even if a particular club is struggling.

Bat Masterson

October 7th, 2009
2:25 pm

I know many that think you’re Chewbacca. Some are planning to come over from DOB’s blog, to ambush you, for jinxing the Braves. I’m not sure about Miami, or Houston, but what the hey, Yea!

The Big Maru

October 7th, 2009
2:31 pm

Atlanta is a pretty good sports town when you consider all of the opportunities that we have here to watch games.

College basketball was mentioned because the ACC plays here, not necessarily because Tech is good or bad right now. Also, we get a decent share of NCAA / SEC / ACC games.

As for ranking the fans that actually go to the games, that’s another story…

The Big Maru

October 7th, 2009
2:31 pm

NCAA / SEC / ACC tournament games

UGA_2001

October 7th, 2009
2:34 pm

Atlanta is vastly under-rated as a sports town due to the national media’s passive attitude towards college sports.

Atlanta is THE capital of college football and is not a bad college basketball town either.

What other city has hosted the Final Four, Super Bowl, and Olympics? And how many cities feature the CFB HOF, a second tier bowl game, a BCS conference championship game (every year), major conference college basketball tournaments, not to mention major neutral site CFB games?

Add in the four major pro sports teams and I don’t see how we are not in the top 5.

Not the friendliest place

October 7th, 2009
2:35 pm

Were the authors from Pa. or what??? In college athletics they are neither knowledgeable nor fanatical. In baseball….does anyone show up to watch the Pirates? Even Philly does not draw well considering the city is two or three times more populous than Atl. They are pretty good Hockey fans so I guess that category must carry a lot more weight???

itpdude

October 7th, 2009
2:38 pm

Atlanta is not a good sports town, but how can it be any good? We made sure MARTA did not easily serve old Fulton County Stadium, the Dome is too anti-septic for good ole football, the streets surrounding the venues are rife with panhandlers, parking is a nightmare, concessions are outrageous, and our baseball team is owned by some faceless corp for tax reasons. Add to that, Atlanta is and always has been a transient city.

What is there to support?

PMC

October 7th, 2009
2:41 pm

Not if Gary Stokan has anything to say about it!

garcia

October 7th, 2009
2:41 pm

Miami? Are they kidding? I live in South Florida. Miami fully supports the Dolphins. If the Marlins or Heat are not playoff/championship teams, then they play to nearly empty arenas. The same goes for the Hurricanes.

I guess Miami gets bumped up because it hosts so many Super Bowls.

So much for rankings.

kmjs

October 7th, 2009
2:45 pm

As a homegrown Atlanta resident that has spent 4 years living in Miami, the sporting news ranking lost all credence with Miami coming in at #8. The Marlins play in front of 3K people and non of their other sporting teams regularly sell out – not the Heat, Dolphins, Panthers, UM – none of them. And don’t even get me started on the fans!

HoJo

October 7th, 2009
2:46 pm

Mark your column is exhibit A of why Atlanta sucks as a sportstown. Your elated that we’re 13th!!! Well, whoppedee-friggin-do. If the sportswriters around here had any stones to call out our franchises for their stupidity and ineptitude, we might generate a little passion and knowledge for our fan base. Call out all the Yankees who live here and won’t root for and support their adopted home team. Thats why Atlanta is a cruddy sports town—nobody wants to ruffle feathers and call a spade a spade, be it fan, manager or owner. Everyone wants to be nice. Thats what I notice about the city’s at the top of the list….they want results…not whats nice. Pittsburg, Philly, Boston, New York? Those places its win or get fired. Atlanta??? We like being the underdog, without expectations. To me underdog is just another word for loser.

woody

October 7th, 2009
2:46 pm

Pittburgh has PITT and Penn State just as big as Georgia and GA Tech.

You just dont think so cause you live down here.

Steelers and Pens always sellout.

If the Pirates didnt suck Pittsburgh would win this title every year.

They are the City Of Champions and they have the hardware to back it up.

city of champions

October 7th, 2009
2:48 pm

Glad to see Pittsburgh was ranked #1 – best sports fans in the world……nowhere else can you find that high level of pride and support (without being obnoxious or arrogant) than the Pittsburghers have for their beloved Steelers, Penguins, Pitt…..and even Pirates to an extent. Without its great fans, Pittsburgh would not be known and regarded as the City of Champions.

Blue Fender

October 7th, 2009
2:49 pm

And this is important because…?

ATLBornandBred

October 7th, 2009
2:50 pm

Great. Vanderbilt University, the Titans,and the Predators have better fans than ATL, that is just sad.

Required Name

October 7th, 2009
2:51 pm

Wow. Boston should be # 1. Celtics, Patriots, Bruins, Revolution, Terriers, etc. I could go on…

Go Pittsburgh Pirates!! Hip! Hip! *crickets*

Island Dawg

October 7th, 2009
2:52 pm

Woody, buy a map. Penn State is 150 miles from Pittsburgh.

And, 1968...

October 7th, 2009
2:56 pm

…(I know, I am late on this topic) that team of Super Sophomores (that you want to call redshirt freshmen LOL) in 1968 might just be the most underachieving Ohio State team of all time, after that sophomore year. They did indeed win the MNC for 1968, but then with everybody returning for 2 more years they lost to Michigan in 1969 and then in 1970 lost to Stanford (STANDFORD?!?!?!) in the Rose Bowl!

CanWeGetaGoodCoachPlease?

October 7th, 2009
2:56 pm

Paul Hewitt must go before Tech will do anything in basketball. No one in the ACC has consistently done less with more…

woody

October 7th, 2009
3:00 pm

I dont need a map. Georgia (located outside of Atlanta) is Atlanta’s main state school, Penn State is Pittsburghs.

Greg Norton

October 7th, 2009
3:02 pm

I highly doubt College Football and the pride generated by Southerners was taken into account when this list was made. If you were able to bottle up the buzz we in the South get on a Fall Saturday, and sold it to the Yankees on this list, THEN they might be considered great sports towns.

GT is in the heart of Atlanta. Even though I am biased, and cannot understand WHY IN THE WORLD people would get excited about GT football is beyond me, but people do. Athens is a crown jewell of the “Metro Atlanta” (I know thats pushing the boundries, but I consider Athens easily accessible to Atlantans) Area, with BY FAR the Greatest College Football atmosphere in the Nation. For other SEC faithfuls, we have Auburn, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and even Vanderbilt within a dedicated mornings drive to see your team play. For the ACC losers, Clemson is right over the state line just over an hour from Atlanta.

COLLEGE SPORTS are King of the south! Atlanta is the most accessible city to the most schools in the South. And since most people realize after college that their state sucks, they move to the GREAT state of Georgia, specifically Atlanta, to get in on the opportunities our wonderful city offers!!

If others were priveledged to live here, and grasp the awesomeness that is the South, we would be #1, #2 and #3 on this list.

GO MARK BRADLEY!!!! Shoot a 3 pointer!!!

Jeff

October 7th, 2009
3:03 pm

not the friendliest, the Phillies don’t draw well? really, I guess they DIDN’T have over 50 sellouts this year during the regular season.

CraZyTRaDeMaN

October 7th, 2009
3:04 pm

Ill give them the Dolphins but the Heat fans are terrible, the Marlins have a total of 50 dedicated latino fans that show up for the games, even the U has had trouble in the past selling out!! Hell, is Miami even part of the U.S. anymore I thought it was a city in Cuba now.

Matt the Brave

October 7th, 2009
3:05 pm

Enter your comments here

Washington Fan

October 7th, 2009
3:06 pm

Ummm…yeah, ok homer- Atlanta on the list at all? LOL. I could have walked up and had Braves tickets if they made the playoffs the day of the game. How you dont have Washington on the list is a mystery- fine, the Redskins arent doing so well, guess who still has a waiting list for tickets? Have you even been to a Caps game? Add the Hoyas and the Wizards and D.C. is a much better sports town than half on your so-called list.

Coach Cool

October 7th, 2009
3:07 pm

Don’t leave out NASCAR and the PGA’s Tour Championship — just don’t mention losing the BellSouth Classic to ATL Lite, errr, Charlotte…

Required Name

October 7th, 2009
3:10 pm

I forgot to include the red sox to my previous comment. that’s sad. but, better proves my point.

Kelly Johnson Fan Club

October 7th, 2009
3:11 pm

Mark Bradley -

I read the Cox quote [stating the organization just can't give up on Kelly Johnson], too. And I said to myself, “Why can’t they give up on Kelly?”

Dear Mark Bradley,

Why can’t the Braves give up on Kelly Johnson? Because the organization isn’t short-sighted enough to give up on a player just because of frustration. Let me be clear, Kelly Johnson is a rather frustrating player. Though his range is above-average, he frequently makes errors–usually at inopportune and highly visible times. That’s frustrating. He’s also been an inexplicably streaky player. I don’t believe previous streaky-ness indicates future streaky-ness, I think it’s something that happens because of entropy, randomness, and luck, but it’s still frustrating.

Like I said though, his defensive deficiencies stem from his errors, not his range. With a little more work and experience, there’s no reason to think he’s incapable of eliminating (or minimizing) them from his game and becoming an above-average defensive 2B. And even if he doesn’t, he’s a close-to-average defender at 2B right now. His +/- totals at 2B:

2007 … 0
2008 … -1
2009 … -2

And then there’s his bat. The bat has shown potential to be, and has been in 2007 and 2008, an above-average one. In 2007 he hit .276/.375/.457/.831 (117 OPS+) with 16 HR, 10 3B, and 26 2B. He scored more runs (91) than he drove in (68). He walked 79(!) times and struck out 117. In 2008, he hit .287/.349/.446/.795 (108 OPS+) with 12 HR, 6 3B, and 39 2B. Again, he scored more runs (86) than he drove in (69). He walked 52 times and struck out 113.

This season, he’s hit .224/.303/.389/.692 (82 OPS+) with 8 HR, 3 3B, and 20 2B. The percent of the time he hits a home run is 2.3%. It was 2.0% in 2008 and 2.6% in 2007. His ability to hit home runs hasn’t changed at all. The percent of the time he records an extra-base hit in general is 9.0%. It was 9.3% in 2008 and 8.6% in 2007. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has actually improved from 2008 (2.17) to 1.69. His contact rate has improved (19.2% K% in 2007, 18.4% K% in 2008, 15.6% K% in 2009) and his walk rate is up from 2008 (8.5% BB%) to 9.3% BB%. He’s not popping it up on the infield as much as he did in 2007 and 2008 (12%), generating an infield fly ball only 11% of the time. So what’s changed that’s leading to his terrible results in 2009?

Well, there are two things at play here. First of all, he’s not hit as many line drives in 2009 as he has in his career. Line Drives turn into hits a lot more frequently than ground balls or fly balls do. His career average LD% is 17%. That figure is down to 14%. Now, the ability to hit a line drive is a skill, but a 3% difference over 346 PA’s isn’t statistically significant. That is–the best explanation for this change is that nothing has fundamentally changed and random fluctuations are responsible for the difference in results. Still, this is enough to count for merely two or three points on his batting average. And, likewise, his OBP and SLG%. Considering the fact that his fundamental skills are largely unchanged, something else is obviously going on.

The answer is luck. Kelly Johnson has gotten extremely unlucky this season and it has nothing to do with his input. For instance, his BABIP–something he can’t control–is down from his career mark of .311 to .247. If a few more ground balls find holes (something that happens because of luck, not a hitter’s skill), a few more fly balls drop (same explanation) and a few more line-drives aren’t right at somebody, his results look a whole lot rosier. The difference between a .224 hitter and a .300 hitter is roughly one hit every three games. It’s very likely that Kelly Johnson has simply fallen on some hard luck.

In fact, when you plug in Kelly’s stats to this Component Batting Average Calculator (303 AB’s, 82% Contact Rate, 6.1% HR/FB, 52% FB%, and .247 BABIP), it predicts a .222 batting average–just two points off of his actual 2009 batting average–and 8 HR, as he’s hit. Adjust Kelly’s .247 BABIP to his career average of .311 and you’ve got yourself at a .273 hitter. The difference is just luck. .273/.352/.438/.790 is Kelly’s luck-adjusted line, and that’s assuming that all of the hits on balls in play he was “robbed of” turn out to be singles. That .790 OPS is 48 points higher than the league average 2B has produced in 2009. His .795 OPS was 51 points higher than the league average for 2B in 2008 and his .831 OPS was 72 points higher than the league average for 2B in 2007. No matter what which way you slice it, Kelly’s bat is going to play above-average at 2B with any luck at all.

So you’ve got a left-handed hitting middle infielder who plays average defense (and has the potential to play above-average defense), runs the bases well, posts excellent walk rates, shows some pop, and posts fairly good contact rates. And you have a hard time wondering why professional talent evaluators don’t want to give up on him? I think they’d be crazy to get rid of Kelly Johnson.

I don’t buy the “he’s not worth the money” argument either. Kelly Johnson’s 0.6 WAR this season make him only slightly less valuable than his contract ~$285,000 (something that has never happened in his MLB career, he’s always been significantly more valuable than his contract) and he’s been worth, on average over the last 4 years, $7.65 million. Kelly Johnson is an immensely valuable commodity, no matter how much your emotions of frustration deceive you.

One final point. After Kelly Johnson hit .214/.288/.359 in 263 PA’s through July 2 (he was placed on the DL shortly thereafter), he hit .261/.358/.493/.851 in 83 PA’s from July 23 (his return from the DL) to the end of the season. Things are trending upwards and Kelly has turned it around. Wherever he plays next year, he’s going to be a very good 2B. I just hope the Braves don’t look past the talent and into the frustration and end up non-tendering him. He’s too valuable and there’s too much talent and potential to let get away. Especially if his on-field production is going to net you more than you’re paying him. Which it, in all likelihood, will.

Sincerely,

-A Mark Bradley and Kelly Johnson Fan

Atl

October 7th, 2009
3:11 pm

ATL is the worst sports city of all major cities. Look who beat us out. Nashville, Detroit, and Houston.

NC Braves Fan

October 7th, 2009
3:12 pm

Pittsburgh? The Steelers are good and they love sports there, but all they have is a AA baseball team. :lol:

Name (required)

October 7th, 2009
3:12 pm

Kelly Johnson simply sucks. He had his moment, and his moment didnt treat him too well.

The End.

BRING BACK MARCUS GILES!!!!!!!

Hillbilly Deluxe

October 7th, 2009
3:13 pm

The Sporting News is still in business? Haven’t seen a copy in about 30 years. Oh well, on the topic of which town is the best sports town, I don’t even care.

Jeff

October 7th, 2009
3:13 pm

Mark, how many of these polls do you have to read and write about b/f you acknowledge that at best, Atlanta is an average sports city?