Posted: 9:00 am Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Braves’ crowds reflect lack of confidence 

By Jeff Schultz

Dodgers at Braves

Braves’ attendance (see background) is down 2,305 from 2013. (Curtis Compton)

As the Braves begin to slide out of the playoff race — or at least show no sign of having interest in it — they also are sliding off the radar in Atlanta.

Crowds for the first two games of the weekend series against Washington last week drew over 30,000 but the Sunday night game saw only 18,191 in the stadium. I realize it was the night before the first day of school for many kids, but for a late-summer weekend series against the Nationals with first place on the line, the numbers were disappointing. It also was stunning that the Friday night game, which included the return of several alumni and Hall of Fame inductees Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, drew only 32,707 (17,000 short of capacity).

This isn’t about telling people how to spend their money. Fans need a reason to invest in a product and obviously the Braves aren’t providing that. There is a perception that the Braves either aren’t going to make the playoffs, or they won’t do anything of significance if they get there. When hope erodes, so does the likelihood of ticket burying.

The attention of many/most fans is about to slide over to football. Actually, a case could be made that fans have taken a wait-and-see approach with the Braves all season. Attendance is down (numbers below). I’ve received several theories from readers as to why this has happened, from the loss of two starting pitchers in spring training, to a general lack of confidence in this team and/or management, to anger over the team’s impending move to Cobb County.

The data: The Braves’ average home attendance is 29,160. That ranks only 17th in the majors and 10th in the National League. They’re down an average of 2,305 fans — or 7.3 percent — from last year’s average of 31,465. At the current level, the Braves would finish with their lowest average since 2004 (28,735), and their second-lowest average over a 24-year-span.

The Braves awoke this morning with a pedestrian record of 60-58. They’ve lost 10 of their last 12, 15 of 23 since the All-Star break and they’re actually closer to third-place Miami (two games) and fourth-place New York (3½) than the first-place Nationals (four) in the National League East.

College football is less than three weeks away, the NFL less than four weeks away. The Braves’ window to grab our attention is closing.

 Some recent ramblings (free links)
– MyAJC: Falcons showing humility, lack of comfort — and that’s good
– Blog: Braves being hurt by shortage of leaders
– MyAJC: Can ‘Power 5′ conferences handle this power?
– Blog: Who’s most to blame for Braves’ fall? (vote in poll)
– Blog: Roddy White lost Twitter ‘bet’ and paid off in a big way
– MyAJC: Paul George’s injury shows risk of NBA players in tournaments
– MyAJC: Paul Johnson needs to impress his new boss at Georgia Tech
– Blog: Dan Uggla rejects demotion and is out of a job again
– MyAJC: Pruitt winning over Georgia in ways Grantham didn’t
– MyAJC: We’ll find out how right or wrong Frank Wren is
– Blog: It’s trade deadline day…and it’s quiet here
– MyAJC: Braves hamstrung by finances at trade deadline
– Blog: Urban Meyer gets it wrong on Tim Tebow
– MyAJC: Braves’ best postseason hope is starting pitching
– MyAJC: Steven Jackson: ‘I kind of believed my own hype’
– Blog: Poll: Falcons open camp, what’s your playoff pick?
– MyAJC: Falcons open with more questions than buzz
152 comments
davesbrain
davesbrain

I rarely am moved to comment on the braves, but here goes:


The price of concessions is obscenely high.


Knowing that they are good for between 10-15 strikeouts a game makes them virtually unwatchable.


Frank Wren's days are probably numbered because, ironically, if he had had only Minnesota's or KC's payroll, he'd have had a better team on the field, because he wouldn't have been able to afford BJ or Dan U, incredibly disastrous signings.

Marmoset
Marmoset

when atl moves to marietta, will they cut the obscene prices for tickets, parking and beer?  if not, i may only go to a few games.

WilsonYork
WilsonYork

From 2009 to 2013, I attended about 140 Braves games. The day they announced the move, I cancelled my half-season tickets, and I have not been back since (nor will I). If the Braves choose to stand with all that Cobb County has been for 50+ years, then I don't stand with them. I have a number of acquaintances who have also chosen no longer to follow the team, for the same reasons. Anger over the move is definitely a factor.

LongT
LongT

Today's game recap: Bottom 9th, Dodgers up 6-4, men on 2nd and 3rd...BJ Upton walks up to the batters box. End of recap.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

So to recap: 1) The Braves have a lot money, but prefer you not know that; 2) the Braves’ owners really have a lot of money and are laughing hysterically after suckering a few Cobb County commissioners into thinking they needed public assistance; 3) the Braves don’t need Masahiro Tanaka because Gavin Floyd will be the missing link to a World Series. And he was on sale."


from a previous Schultz column in December


Enough said......YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR, LIBERTY!



Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Whooohoooo 5 to 1 already! I really think if they try hard enough, they can do a First-to-Worst this season.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Oh yeah. Game pace, which applies to all teams, even those fun and exciting to watch. The MLB really needs to address this issue. The apologists in the booth talk about it now and then, and say . . . well, if that is your worst problem, then you really don't have any. Really? If you are an exciting team with a chance at a great post season, fans are more likely to put up with it. But that is only a fraction of the teams.


Watching at home, it is tolerable because during the commercial breaks you can get up and go do something else. But at the games, there you sit, and TV commercials can add up to 20 to 30 minutes to a game these days. That is bad enough. 


New rules: 


Stop the batters from strolling around after each pitch. Back in the box in 15 seconds or less, or it's a strike. Pitchers will be reluctant to pitch to an empty batters box, and rightly so.  


Same 15 second rule for the pitchers if the batter is in the box as required.  No walking around the mound, fooling with the ball, looking at the stands, the clouds, etc. If that happens. Automatic ball. 


Batting gloves. A rule won't help now since it has become such a habit with so many batters. Something useless  to do while they stroll around between pitches, besides knock the dirt of their spikes. Oh wait. No spikes any more. All batting gloves used in the MLB should have certain manufacturing requirements - with elaborate button or other fastening systems which require some time, more than 15 seconds to unnecessarily loosen an already tight glove, and then tighten it back up again. One has to wonder how much time that little ritual adds to every game. 


Relievers. If you want your reliever to be warmed up. Make sure he does it in the bull pen. Because no more warm ups from the  pitchers mound allowed. Secondly, no more bringing the guy in from the bull pen. Bring him to the dug out if you think you are going to need him. Relievers can only enter the game from the dug out, or not at all. 


Others may also have good suggestions.  

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Watching the Braves is like watching grass grow and paint dry. No pop, no sizzle, no pzazz, no attitude, no comraderie, no team spirit, no leadership, etc. etc. etc.  Look what LA did last night against the great Kimbrel, who intimidates most of the batters he faces (and justifiably so) -- they almost won. And had they tied the game or gone a run up, they would have won it. In the bottom of the ninth, the fans would have been treated to some more paint drying or grass growing during the last three outs. 


Hope the Braves were watching. Also hoping they were watching how fast play who knows how to bunt can change things up really quickly in close games. The Dodgers have several fast runners who understand that and who have been compelled by management  to learn the art of bunting. Bunting is obviously and elective in the Braves organization, a course which no one except Tehran, has taken. As far as I know, he is the only successful bunter on the team. 


Of course, when you are a Brave, why bunt when you can stay up there at the plate longer and strike out with RISP? 

reckingball
reckingball

HBO is going to do a documentary about the Braves season this year.

The title is.....2014 Atlanta Braves:HARD TO WATCH.

reckingball
reckingball

Yeaaaa! The Braves won a game. It takes me back to the 70s and 80s.

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

When Wren is fired I will pay for a ticket !

GTBee
GTBee

Thus the move to Cobb Cty no?

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

It's easier to flip the channel onto something other than Fox SportsSouth than it is to drive home from downtown Atlanta!

satchel
satchel

who wants to watch this crap?   i'm a lifelong braves fan and a huge baseball fan in general, but i'm not a masochist, and you pretty much have to be a masochist to enjoy watching a team with bj upton (and uggla before him).  i think the braves would rather stubbornly play their bad signings than win.  

PeteMTL
PeteMTL

Went to one game this year on July 4. Was charged $40.00 for parking after I had entered the parking. There was no price on the  parking sign on the street... got screwed. Ain't going back. The city and the Braves are a perfect fit... a team with no ID !

scottarino
scottarino

I couldn't really care less about the Braves move from the south side. I don't care. But I am glad the fans are using their pocketbook to send a message to Braves ownership. Another mediocre product, another lost season, another season phoned in by the faceless Braves ownership. 

Bill72
Bill72

Speaking as someone who lives on the south side of the metro area, after the Braves gave us the finger with the move to Cobb County, screw 'em!  Lots of people down here feel the same.  Karma can be a b**ch can't it! 

LostGoat
LostGoat

wren and gonzalez will be looking for huge raises---if they don't get the cash, they'll be looking for jobs with big time teams for a lot more money!

jdcigar
jdcigar

The Braves have lost our confidence and worse than that they are just not entertaining.  It is painful to watch them at bat and now also in the field.  We also have no confidence that the organization will do anything to correct the situation.  I will be surprised if either Wren or Gonzalez are gone next year even though both should be gone.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

The 2014 Braves are like a discount suit bought at an outlet mall.  At first it looks good, but then you see that thread sticking out where the sleeve joins the shoulder pad.  So, you pull the thread out ... more and more ... until the whole sleeve falls off and the suit is worthless.


Uggla was a thread like that, and BJ is just doing the same on the other sleeve.  Pulling him out will not help.  The Braves have unraveled since they yanked Uggla out.  Got to get a new suit.  No fixin it.

cvan32802
cvan32802

You're getting warm, Jeff. The reason the crowds aren't there, and it will get worse before it gets better this season, is that fans have lost confidence in the team's future.   They see a team of overpaid underachievers, (i.e., Uggla/BJ), a manager who fails to motivate and get the maximum out of the rest of the team -- do you really think our team BAvg is because we don't have talent?   The Braves are moving to a new stadium that will be exciting maybe for a year if there are not fundamental changes, starting with a)  fire Wren b) fire Fredi, c) fire Scheurholz and d) bring in an entire new exciting approach ala Tampa Bay, Oakland - teams with half the payroll of the Braves but are still able to consistently field exciting competitive teams.  


And don't tell me the Braves are ok  and it's just the injuries, etc.   They collapse in 2011, squeaked into a one and done game in 2012 in Chipper's final year, and were non-competitive division winners last year since the Nats collapsed, leading to a non-competitive NLDS effort..   They are five down now and likely to be 8-10 out by the end of the month.   They have to be exemplary from here out to even have a shot at the one and done wild card game.   I would put a fork in this season and you, along with the rest of your AJC colleagues, should demand change across the board.   I realize the ownership views it as a tax writeoff, but if the losing front office and field management are getting it in their face instead of a bunch of apologetic reporting by O'Brien and Bradley we'll be treated to more of the same.


You are the most  intellectually honest reporter covering this team.  Set an example for O'Brien and Bradley.  Be like Walter Cronkite on Vietnam -- he got on the air and said "End the War" and things began to happen.   ..

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

I was watching a game on TV last weekend.  I recognized it.  It was baseball.  The pitchers were forced to throw strikes and the hitters smashed the ball.  The fielders gloved the ball and made the correct throws.  It was fun!  Where had that game gone?


It was the Little League World Series competitions.  


Then I flipped over to a Braves game.  Yawn.  It was like doing a few Valiums.  It was like tuning in to watch the security cam at the minimum security insane asylum, where all the inmates are in a stupor and all the guards walk silently, not to arouse the inmates.  The Braves seem to lull their opponents into laying down and taking a nap together.  Let's dream we are playing baseball.

Gritsfalcon
Gritsfalcon

We were sold a bad bill of goods.  How great this  team was  supposed to be.  If they don't hit HR's they are no better than the Gwinnet Braves!  And when I stay home and watch TV, I get tired of chip and Joe's same, old, wornout excuses. And the same old one-liners.........Not to be ugly but fact is I put a lot of blame for this on F. Wren.  Is BJ Upton now avg at least 2 K's per game?  Gaddis can't be much further behind BJ.  Request, would someone in the dugout at least ACT like they care and/or frustrated or mad?  I mean, show some passion.

UnbiasedObserver
UnbiasedObserver

Many factors at work here...


Thru the nose ticket prices

Thru the nose Concession prices

Team that doesn't inspire much


Football season

sea8491
sea8491

Jeff, any interest in Liberty Media selling the Team soon? 


When will new ownership of the Braves Happen?


That is the only cure for this case mediocrity.



Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

The pessimist complains about the wind
The optimist expects it to change
The realist adjusts the sails

Braves are toast

 GO DAWGS!

OHaveMercy
OHaveMercy

Extremus gets it.  Nothing much to add except to point out the strike out numbers for this line up.  When these players were juicing and playing in band box parks the lack of productive outs could be overlooked.  They hit lots of "dingers".  Now that the juice is gone or at least harder to come by and the power numbers have collapsed this type of offensive player can't be justified certainly not at these price levels.  Watching the Brave's offense makes my eyes bleed. 

rgpat
rgpat

Watching the Braves is BORING. The equivalent to it is watching paint dry.

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

Age alone does not account for Uggla losing his skills as quickly as he did. When he was signed, the steroid era had just come to a close. For the sake of debate, allow me to suggest that an astute GM would be wary of signing possible ex-juicers to big contracts, knowing that performance could drop off dramatically. I could argue that the tell-tale signs were there with Uggla, given his unimpressive minor-league numbers and his Popeye-like physique. I am not saying that Wren should have known, just that he should at least have considered that possibility and been suspicious. 

Granted, we do not know with absolute certainty if Struggla ever used PEDs.  But I know what I think.

mar1049
mar1049

It just might help if the Braves would win games. Never understood why some think people are interested in a team losing games. 

joeintucker
joeintucker

LOL - You're going to blame the crowds? Really? LOL ....all on the players...

extremus
extremus

The reason heads haven't already rolled is because the Braves lack the human element in their ownership.  Liberty Media can care less about the team's performance, the fans, or the city of Atlanta; all they care about is the old bottom line.  If the Braves come to a point where they're no longer profitable, or worse are a liability (eyeing that new stadium and commitment to a young core who've had no one come forward to captain this team; chemistry is as vital as the numbers sometimes), they'll cut bait.  There's no passion in the Braves clubhouse because it reflects the lack of passion from the ownership to the front office to the manager.


And let's face it, these guys have had to put on a professional face everyday and avoid any negativity or throwing anyone under the bus all season long...and you KNOW by now they're sick and tired of pretending the Uggla/BJ Upton situations haven't existed or at the most are merely "struggles".  Hey, they're human, right?  This situation is TOXIC and it's allowed to continue, day in and day out.  There's no Chipper, McCann, Hudson, or other respected veteran who takes the lead in confronting problems.  Nobody is throwing chairs in the clubhouse or getting in anyone's face about doing their jobs (at least to public knowledge); their manager has the demeanor of a Titanic deckhand calmly dismissing what's overwhelmingly evident: this team is sinking fast and needs an OVERHAUL.  Wren completely screwed up with the two most disastrous contracts in MLB (let alone Braves) history and Freddi Gonzalez has lost the confidence of his players by writing BJ Upton at the top of the lineup for over two months; the damage is DONE, and it'll likely get worse before it gets better.


The '90s Braves won consistently because they created a clubhouse atmosphere with certain expectations both on the field and off; if these young players get used to mediocrity (or just plain losing) for too long, THAT will be this team's identity for years to come.  The lack of passion is reflective of having to drag the dead weight of BJ Upton around; they're playing everyday with essentially two pitchers (it was three with Uggla) and they know it.  And they know Wren tied his own hands with those two fat contracts, so no help is coming.


Not this year, anyway.  And possibly not for a long time to come.  The fans know this, and thus it's reflected in the attendance and the (lack of) energy at Turner Field.  Which is ominous when you've announced plans for (and the associated costs with) a new stadium in a couple of years.  That money won't come from Liberty Media if it doesn't come from ticket sales.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

I so much want to go to Atlanta's version of Harlem (Turner Field) to watch this boring and mediocre team! I just can't seem to muster up the initiative.

I think the BJ/Uggla situation was just the final straw for me. I hope Thomas Dummytroff doesn't do the same thing to me with the Falcons that Wren did to me with the Braves - but I can tell you he's getting very close!

ToeMeetsLeather
ToeMeetsLeather

Grab fork, place in BJ's butt. Yea, the Braves are done.

Wilbo
Wilbo

"... they’re actually closer to third-place Miami (two games) and fourth-place New York (3½) than the first-place Nationals (four) in the National League East."


Okay, Markie Doodle, I know you read my replies to your columns. The least you could've done was credit ol' Wilbo with the observation that the Sad Sack Bravos were closer to 4th than 1st. Give credit where credit is due, young fella.

Marvel_Goose
Marvel_Goose

If they are ahead, I have no confidence that they will win: if behind, no confidence they will come back. Quit them in July in favor of doing something fun in my leisure time.

EricJoiner
EricJoiner

The Braves manager and GM are clowns.  You wonder why the crowds have no confidence?

bigdoggie1
bigdoggie1

20 times burned, 21 times shy! 8-15 since the All-Star break...nuff said!

satchel
satchel

@LongT and it was 6-4 because fredi put avilan in in the 9th inning for some reason.  but yeah…up comes BJ with the game on the line.   in the past, i'd have gotten angry, but the situation with bj and fredi has gotten so absurd, i actually found myself laughing.  we have the players to make the playoffs, but our management team  (wren and fredi et al)  is a bunch of dolts.  

GTBee
GTBee

I take a cab from my Midtown condo. 10 bucks.

MoneyP
MoneyP

@BooBooBear Seriously Dan Uggla being let go..cause the failure...please should have been let go

ComaToes
ComaToes

@BooBooBear True,  and besides that the LLWS has a much better instant replay system that only takes an average of 1.5 minutes.  It had been proven successful for 2-3 yrs. but BS (yep that Bud Selig) ignored it and instituted his own and of course it's like ObamaCare, all screwed up. Actually slows down the game so far, and they still get some calls wrong.  KISS  (keep it simple, stupid)

DawgNole
DawgNole

@mar1049

Actually, it needs to be MEANINGFUL (postseason) games--not just the regular-season crap from the past that the delusionals point to when trying to rationalize the team's decline.

LostGoat
LostGoat

@joeintucker the media, with comped tickets in a luxury press box, free meals, drinks and parking, like to blame fans for not paying all that money to watch a poorly designed and poorly run product. 

Wilbo
Wilbo

Oh, Mr. Shooltzee! My incredible and utmost apologies for confusing you w that other dude! Can you ever forgive me?

Marvel_Goose
Marvel_Goose

If Fredi managed in a clown suit , I might actually watch a game.

LongT
LongT

Satchel- I was actually thinking bring in Mike Minor to pinch hit. He has a better batting average than BJ. Why not?