Attanasio: A season with hints of progress
Owner disappointed in 2015 performance, optimistic in rebuilding plan
MILWAUKEE -- As the Brewers finish the first season of 90-plus losses during his ownership tenure, Mark Attanasio made the case Saturday that it's not been a lost season.
"The silver lining on the season is it became crystal clear to us as to where we were and what we needed to do," said Attanasio, standing outside the dugout after batting practice. "There could be no doubt. There was no hesitation. Certainly no second-guessing that it was time to move in a different direction. And I feel good that we started moving in another direction in early May.
"In that sense, we took a huge step back in April, and we started taking some steps forward after that."
After a 5-17 April, the Brewers hired Craig Counsell as manager in early May, launching a "reboot" that continued through a well-rated Draft in June, a series of prospect-hoarding trades in July and August and the hiring of 30-year-old David Stearns in September to be the ninth GM in franchise history.
On the eve of Sunday's season finale, Attanasio characterized the Brewers as entering a critical offseason with a good head start.
"Our fan base sees we've only won 68 games so far. I don't need to sugarcoat that," Attanasio said. "Obviously, this season was an extreme disappointment, but I think we've shown fans we're willing to take action. We could have kicked the can and looked to make these changes after the season, and we didn't."
Attanasio touched on other topics during a wide-ranging discussion before the penultimate game of the season:
On new GM Stearns:
"David is still very early in the game. He's still getting to meet all the people in the organization, so he's not anywhere near determining how we're going to position for next year.
"He seems to have gotten off to a fast start insofar as it appears from afar that he's developed a nice bond with Counsell. And I think he's done a good job with meeting face-to-face with everybody in our baseball ops group, or just about everybody. One of the things Doug Melvin told me is David is a good listener. Doug is very encouraged, because baseball is a humbling business, and I think that's a good way to start. …
"We're in the top of the first inning with David Stearns. I'm not even sure of that; if he's the starting pitcher, he's warming up. David, we'll see. He's earned the right to not only do this, but to form his own impressions. There's been a lot written about him being the youngest general manager in baseball. One of the benefits of that is he gets to grow and develop."
On when the Brewers will contend again:
"There's no way to know. Look, we're mindful that the Cubs had five years of 72 wins or less, and now it seems like it was no time at all. … I think it was five losing years like that, then a semi-OK year, and then this year. That becomes a seven-year process.
"I think more importantly, we have to look qualitatively at what we want to accomplish. I said it in another interview: In my thirst to compete, maybe we ended up 'in the middle' a little too often. But frankly, had we won last year, we wouldn't have felt that way, right? For 150 days, it felt like it was the right way to go last year."
On how involved he'll be this offseason:
"We want to step back and let [Stearns] form his own impressions, make his own decisions. As Doug said, he is there as a sounding board, and I am there obviously. From my standpoint, I'm more interested in seeing how he thinks. I think it will be crucial for him to make his own decisions. … I told him he gets to do what he wants. David has the authority. We really want him to do what he wants to do."
On Counsell's first five months as manager:
"I like everything that I've seen from Craig this season. Absolutely everything, from getting a read on our personnel, to getting guys to play the way we want them to play … to how he's interacted with the front office, which we knew he would do a good job of because he was a member of that front office for three years. He can see through both lenses."
On whether he'll address the team:
"I haven't decided on that yet. Frankly, there's so many new faces in there, I just walked through there and I didn't recognize many of our new players. That's certainly a new experience for me in 11 seasons. I'll maybe talk to Craig and see if it makes sense to wait until next year."
On his offseason message to fans:
"I think what we've always tried to do with our fans is be transparent about what we're doing," Attanasio said. "So when we have a direction, then I think we'll be good about communicating that. I don't know when that will come. Probably around the Winter Meetings, right? We'll have to have a plan going into the Winter Meetings. We won't want to tip our hand there, but we'll have a plan by then.
"We are mindful of where we're at, and we want to build a championship team here. If that takes a little longer -- when Craig signed on for the job, he made clear that was something he was prepared for. And when David signed on for the job, it was something he was prepared for.
"In fact, most of the questions I had from GM candidates was would I be patient enough to allow them to build something. And, at least for now, the answer is yes."