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.