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Hochman: Empty seats at Cardinals game lead to questions

Hochman: Empty seats at Cardinals game lead to questions

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Plenty of empty seats at Busch Stadium

This view shows empty seats at Busch Stadium for the Monday, Sept. 24, 2018 game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Photo by Ben Frederickson. 

Did you see how many empty seats there were on Monday?

I was taken aback by the amount of empty seats — and even entire sections — at Busch Stadium. It's the last week of the season! Like, if there was ever a regular-season game to attend, it would be this, right? One of three against the team the Cards are currently set to play in the Wild Card Game? With a chance to overtake them and claim home-field advantage for that game?

Maybe another way of looking at it: What if I told you, on the day Mike Matheny got fired, that this would be the scenario in the final week of the season? And then I asked you: How many fans would you expect in attendance? You'd say a sellout, right?

The announced attendance was 36,508, this following a weekend of sellouts.

It was a Monday. School is back in session. And yes, it was a gloomy day in St. Louis — and there proved to be rain later in the night, as the Cards-Brewers game was delayed in the seventh.

Still, it was a weird image.

It's hard to lock down an exact reason for why the place wasn't packed. But there are surely suggestions to make.

For one, the home-viewing experience has never been better. I do get it. The technology enhances the home viewing in ways that make you feel like you're there — and, of course, gives you crisper and multiple views and angles of the game. And the Cardinals have a strong product on television. The Fox Sports Midwest pregame show and postgame shows are entertaining and informative. The stats are timely and in-depth. And they take the viewer into the manager's office, the clubhouse and the dugout for one-on-one interviews. And of course, Dan McLaughlin might be the most-underrated performer in St. Louis sports. He's brilliant on the broadcast, weaving the past with the present, and is able to balance a quartet of co-hosts. He's never rattled.

So yeah. Amazing technology. Your own home and food and beer, while treated to a broadcast experience worthy of the best fans in baseball?

As for the Cardinals franchise itself, as long as you're watching the game somehow, the club is cool with it. As long as you're consuming Cardinals, that's all that matters. They have these wildly lucrative television deals for a reason.

And yes, the lower bowl was filled at Busch on Monday — and most days. The good seats, if you will, are always claimed. It's the upper-deck seats where there were huge pockets on Monday, and other times during the summer.

The fans are making statements, I suppose. They're weighing the options of coming downtown or not. And, you hear this explanation every generation, but it remains true — it's pretty costly to come to a professional sporting event.

Wrangle the family into the car, drive downtown, face traffic — why is the 11th Street exit closed during a Cardinals homestand? — and then pay for parking, pay for food, pay for drinks and sit so far away from the action that you can't even identify the pitcher without looking at the scoreboard?

Another reason? As reported in the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday, crime stats released by the FBI show an increase from 2016-17 in St. Louis.  

And then there's also the “Braves” argument. For years, the Braves were so good that their fans just expected greatness and only showed up for major postseason play. Is that's what is happening here?

That argument can be debated, because where I'm coming from, I'd think that the fans would be yearning for meaningful baseball. Yearning to witness and be apart of thrilling September baseball, as a prelude to October baseball. It's like — these fans endured so much consternation the past two and a half seasons. And now, under manager Mike Shildt, the franchise is resuscitated. The team is playing entertaining baseball. This is a team you'd want to be a part of, a team with young flourishing players.

But that's the thing. Maybe the fans are emotionally invested — but just don't feel like making the drive downtown?

All this said, if the Cards have games here next week, the place will be packed.


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