Attanasio proud of Brewers' impressive push

Owner calls 2017 season 'a unique ride' ahead of final games

September 27th, 2017
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio praised manager Craig Counsell and the front office for the club's surprise success in 2017. (AP)

MILWAUKEE -- To find a defeat as personally crushing as last Thursday's extra-innings loss to the Cubs, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio had to go all the way back to 's season-ending dud in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in 2011. And to find the last victory as "euphoric" as Saturday's double comeback against lights-out Cubs closer , Attanasio had to go back to Game 5 of the '11 NL Division Series, when 's walk-off single sent the Brewers past the D-backs while Miller Park shook with joy.

That's how much the Brewers' current postseason push means to their owner, who, like most everyone else, admits he did not see this happening so soon. But whether the Brewers catch the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card or fall short, Attanasio said he would walk away deeming 2017 a success. He said as much to manager Craig Counsell, general manager David Stearns, assistant GM Matt Arnold and members of the Brewers' coaching staff on Friday night after a second straight 10-inning loss to the Cubs.

"I just said how proud I was of the team and the guys and how hard we were playing," Attanasio said. "Because we haven't always played this hard when we have had to, and this club was. The way I got brought up by my mom and dad was to tell the truth, so if I didn't really feel that way, I could have just gone home and had a drink. But I really believed that there was nothing to feel bad about."

As Attanasio chatted in the Brewers' dugout on Wednesday afternoon, his team was still alive, two games behind the Rockies in the chase for the second NL Wild Card spot with five to play after Colorado crushed the Marlins.

But at the same time, 20 of Stearns' baseball operations assistants were preparing for all of the possible play-in and postseason scenarios ahead, according to Attanasio, and it was also possible to think about the future. The Brewers will enter the offseason with essentially a clean slate, since only and have contracts beyond this year, accounting for about $24 million of 2018 payroll. That figure will rise as arbitration-eligible players come to terms, but relative to other Major League teams, the Brewers have extreme payroll flexibility.

That means opportunity, if Stearns & Co. see it.

"We're in a fortunate position so we can maybe punch a little bit above our weight," Attanasio said. "We have limited contracts this year and no bad contracts."

Does that means he expects to throw some proverbial punches in the trade market or free agency?

"They have to do all their planning. Then they have to see what our needs are and what the opportunities are," Attanasio said of the front office. "These guys have been an opportunistic group; we've all seen that. If there's an opportunity, we won't be shy about seizing it. But it has to be an intelligent opportunity."

All of that will have to wait. There are still games to play.

"It's certainly been a unique ride," Attanasio said. "I was reflecting on other seasons that came down to the wire like this. In 2008, with six games to go we were one game [behind] the Mets for the Wild Card, and it worked out. In 2011, we clinched around now. In 2012, we actually got eliminated 'yesterday'. Then in 2014 -- I don't even want to remember how bad that was. That was in Pittsburgh and miserable when we got eliminated. We just completely faded.

"You know, it's been a great ride for a lot of reasons. It was not expected this season. Or if somebody did expect it, I'd like to know who it was. Maybe Craig Counsell might have expected it. Craig said, 'Don't put any limits on the team,' and then David adopted that way of speaking. That certainly worked here."