After two homestands, the Braves find themselves lagging in two important categories – victories and home attendance. There just may be a connection.
Anyway, entering Tuesday’s game at Houston tied with Kansas City and San Francisco with the fewest victories in the majors (11), the Braves slow start has been something of a jolt. A reality check. A vivid reminder of the fact that you can’t see the future when it’s Bartolo Colon who is blocking the view.
But more than that, think how disappointed they must be in San Francisco and Kansas City – two cities where they have come to expect better lately. Sure do feel sorry for them.
It’s the attendance thing that has been even more jarring than the losing. After a couple initial sellouts, the Braves have settled into 12th in major league attendance. They were averaging a bit more than 30,000 (tickets sold), a good number considering that the team hasn’t averaged that high for a season since 2013. But not exactly the eye-popping boost you’d expect from the lure of a new ballpark.
The customer fall-off has been noticeable after those opening games. And for all of SunTrust Park’s wonders, empty seats there really don’t appear any more majestic than empty seats at Turner Field.
We’ll see how business picks up in the summer, when school is out and the curious from around the south make their pilgrimage to the new park. But it’s summer everywhere. And if the Braves, such a powerful regional brand, don’t climb up the attendance chart in the heat of the season, there will be some ‘splainin’ to do.
The newness of SunTrust Park is such a fleeting trait. And it is all the more ephemeral when the product on the field does not match the new décor. You put a lumpy, beat-up couch in a new home, no one is going to want to sit in it no matter how nice the crown molding is.
Actually, you may choose to see the attendance lag as something quite positive. I do.
The numbers, if they hold and the Braves continue to under-perform, would be something of a compliment to their fan base.
It would be an indication that we are not so readily blinded by the new setting, that the paying customer is a little more discerning than that. Maybe they actually expect some competitive baseball to go along with the fancy neighborhood.
Maybe we aren’t all just slightly more evolved Labrador retrievers, easily distracted by something shiny and strange.
And the absence of fans is a reminder to those who run the Braves that, for as much they may see themselves as a cutting-edge outfit, their core business remains baseball, not real estate.