MILWAUKEE -- Mark Attanasio’s first season opener as Brewers owner was in 2005, when J.J. Hardy debuted as the Opening Day shortstop. No Brewers player had made his MLB debut as a member of the Opening Day lineup until this year, when Brice Turang started at second base.
The youngest Brewers have given the boss plenty to cheer so far.
“I found it interesting that in the postgame [Sunday], Jesse Winker talked about the energy that they bring,” Attanasio said Monday morning in a wide-ranging conversation that covered the Josh Hader trade, team finances and more. “It's infectious, right? I see that in a very different way in our money management business -- young investment professionals bring a lot of energy. Some of us are a little jaded and think we've seen it all. We're very hopeful. It was a good start, but it's a long season.”
Here’s more of what the Brewers’ principal owner had to say:
On competing in a small market:
“I’m mindful that in 2008 when we finally erased 26 years of being on the outside looking in at the playoffs, that Phillies team that reached the World Series, their payroll I think was something like $108 million. Ours was $92 million. As local media revenues have grown asymmetrically, now this year they’ve got like a $280 million payroll and we’re something like $130 [million]. It went from a $15 million difference to 10 times the difference. That’s just the reality. We have to work smarter, we have to develop players better and we have to ... Listen, Craig Counsell’s done a phenomenal job with these young men and even the veterans. We look at that as a challenge.
“As everybody knows here, I always want to compete. There was a lot of commentary last year about the Hader trade, which we all know. But what was missed in the commentary is we’re desperately trying to compete for a long period of time. So, we stumbled last season with that trade, but now we have William Contreras here. Things like that show the confidence I have in our baseball ops group to keep finding that next guy. It’s a challenge because everyone’s trying to do that. So far David Stearns and now Matt Arnold have executed that.”
“So, we're in the early innings for the financing. I’ve viewed this -- and there's a lot of examples in MLB where it hasn't worked out this way -- as somewhat of a model public-private partnership where both sides have really super-performed. We ended up with this phenomenal facility here. As we and the stadium district have continued to improve it, people say, 'Oh, we love the new ballpark.' Other stadiums of similar vintage, they're talking about needing brand-new ballparks, and here we just want to continue to maintain this. So, we'll see. It's early innings, and I guess there's a lot of baseball to be played.”
On his expectations for this year:
“I think last year in Spring Training I said I think this is the best roster we've ever had, and for the first 50 games, it was. But it's a marathon season. I'm encouraged by two things: The youthful energy, and there's more coming with Sal [Frelick] and Jackson [Chourio], and some of the young pitchers. We had more pitchers throwing over 95 miles an hour in Spring Training this year than we've ever had. Most of them are in the Minor Leagues, so they'll be coming. And I think some of the veterans have talked about this -- Brandon Woodruff now is the longest-tenured guy -- and they're looking at these two years as seminal. I think that's important. I think they have a lot of motivation. So, we've got a good confluence of things there.”