Brewers embrace owner's direct message

Attanasio delivered annual speech to players before first workout on Saturday

February 19th, 2017

PHOENIX -- The 2016 Cubs had "Try Not to Suck." Now the 2017 Brewers have "Don't Eff it Up."

That's what Brewers owner Mark Attanasio told players prior to Saturday's first full-squad workout at Maryvale Baseball Park, surprising everyone in the room by using the four-letter word not with malice, but with a smile on his face. Attanasio was urging players young and not-so-young to seize the opportunities afforded by a Brewers team entering its second full season of rebuilding.

"I loved the realness of it," said Joba Chamberlain, the veteran reliever vying for a job as a non-roster invitee. "That will to win was genuine, it was authentic, it was not forced. You could tell that he meant it. … It was, 'Hey, I'm fired up. Let's do this thing the right way.'"

• Brewers Spring Training: Schedule | Information | Tickets

"I don't think he could have put it any better," infielder Scooter Gennett said. "There's a lot of opportunity here for a lot of guys. And I'm one of those guys battling."

Was Gennett surprised when the phrase left Attanasio's mouth?

"A little bit, because he's often more quiet," Gennett said. "I haven't heard him say a lot of words like that. But he cares. He wanted to express to guys that this opportunity is real, and don't mess it up, because you might never have another opportunity like this."

"It was funny at first, and then everybody was like, 'OK, he means it,'" pitcher Chase Anderson said. "He's honest, and that's all you can ask for. I liked it. Everything he says is the truth. I respect that about him. There is opportunity this year for the guys in uniform to take that next step in the rebuilding process."

Attanasio has addressed the team prior to its first full-squad workout for 13 consecutive years and has made similar speeches at the end of most seasons. But he said this was the first time he ever cursed in front of players.

For emphasis, he asked first-base coach Carlos Subero to translate the four-word phrase to Spanish.

"It caught me by surprise," Subero said. "I went for the clean version of it: Don't mess it up. But they all understood. I think that was a great message and a great way to put it."

"It's the truth. He's not lying," pitcher said. "I think everybody was motivated after that. It was funny, and it was serious at the same time. I've never heard him say a word like that. It's the owner, man. You have to really respect that and go out and try to do it."

Even manager Craig Counsell was caught off guard.

"It was great," Counsell said. "It's funny, because right after, I told the room we've had some good conversations about being direct with our conversation. I said, 'Guys, that's a great example of direct communication.'"

Everybody laughed.

"That's raising the standards, I think. I'm a fan of that," Counsell said. "We're trying to keep it concise and clear and simple. I think it was productive for everybody to have simple marching orders going forward."