Attendance numbers were weak on Tuesday night, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

As you can see from the tweet above, Chipper Jones called Atlanta Braves fans out for not showing up to Tuesday's game against Colorado. Despite holding a 76-60 record and a tight grip on the NL's first wild-card spot, only 16,686 fans made it out to Turner Field.

Given the Braves' 6-0 loss to the Rockies, those who stayed home probably felt OK with their decision. And they can also take comfort that they had plenty of company on their couch with the low attendance numbers posted around the league. While there were a few notable exceptions — San Francisco and Los Angeles both drew over 40,000, St. Louis attracted its usual strong crowd with over 34,000 — most of the games involving contending teams featured figures more in line with a wet night in late April than a down-the-stretch contest in early September.

Here are the numbers from the 11 games that featured a contender as the home team:

Arizona at San Francisco — 41,238
San Diego at Los Angeles — 40,619
New York at St. Louis — 34,108
Cleveland at Detroit — 27,729
Philadelphia at Cincinnati — 17,806
New York at Tampa Bay — 17,652
Chicago at Washington — 17,648
Colorado at Atlanta — 16,686
Minnesota at Chicago — 15,698
Houston at Pittsburgh — 12,785
Los Angeles at Oakland — 11,688

It's here where we're supposed to point out the usual litany of explanations. Tuesday was the night after a holiday, it was a school night and it's really nice to watch a pennant race from your couch while also being able to track the other action from your laptop or smartphone. As CSN's Mark Zuckerman points out, season ticket bases in all of the cities in question are less than robust and it's going to take more than one run to build those up. What's also worth noting is that a lot of fans may have already spent their ballpark budgets by attending games over the summer. If you can only afford to go to one or two games per year, are you going to attend the fireworks night on a summer weekend or the run-of-the-mill no-promotional item game on a random night in September? People are looking for the biggest bang for their buck.

Truth be told, we're never going to see a September filled with packed houses each night from some markets. Two years ago, we took a look at Cincinnati's attendance history and found that not even the Reds' past World Series champions drew well in September. There's no way it's going to be better in the year 2012 or in the future as people have thousands of more ways to fill their time as well as an at-home viewing experience that's hard to top. (Lest we forget, baseball's new wave of prosperity is being fueled by huge television contracts that are driven by excellent ratings.)

Indeed, I'm guessing the ever-improving home-viewing experience means that attendance totals are going to get worse in these markets before they ever get better. And while it makes for a less exciting broadcast to watch a pennant race game that features plenty of empty seats in the backdrop (as well as the absence of voices screaming and cheering for key moments), you certainly don't have room to complain — at least not if you're among the thousands unwilling to attend what has essentially become a live studio taping of a popular sports television show in many markets.

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