Crew owner on camp: 'Pretty good vibe here'

Attanasio addresses Wong, Turner, roster status and more after first full-squad workout

February 24th, 2021

PHOENIX -- It was the sort of thing Brewers owner Mark Attanasio loves to hear from someone like , a player coming off a decade of success with the storied St. Louis Cardinals. It has been invigorating, Wong suggested, to learn about the way the Brewers do business.

“I think you're going to have differences, especially coming from the Cardinals to Milwaukee, it's kind of two different ways of playing the game,” said Wong, who came to the Brewers on a two-year deal. “So, I'm excited to learn different ways of how these guys go about it compared to the Cardinals and start figuring out how I'm going to make it my own.”

Asked what he meant by different ways to play the game, Wong said, “You know, obviously the aggressive shifting. Analytics. Understanding how to play it a different way. I mean, the newer way. Coming from the Cardinals, we were old school and we did things a certain way. I'm excited to learn from these guys, see how they look at the game and how they're attacking the game and how that can work for me.”

Wong learned a little more about the Brewers by the end of Tuesday’s first full-squad workout, complete with manager Craig Counsell’s annual address to set a tone for the season -- he noted that the Brewers were one of six MLB teams to make the postseason each of the past three years -- and a few words from Attanasio.

The owner focused his comments on giving thanks to players and their families for adjusting to the protocols brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The Brewers got through last year’s shortened season without any positive tests for COVID-19 following intake testing, and they are aiming to keep it that way as the sport reverts to a 162-game schedule in 2021.

In an extended conversation with reporters after the meeting, Attanasio spoke about the Brewers’ pursuit of free-agent third baseman Justin Turner -- and Turner’s mutual interest -- updated the effort to gain approval to host fans for Opening Day and the rest of the regular season, and said he would continue to encourage players to get the vaccine when it is their time.

When he reported to camp Tuesday, “I wasn’t sure what I was going to find," Attanasio said. “But what surprised me is when I walked in and was here maybe 10 minutes and Craig came up to me, I said, ‘Hey Craig, there’s a pretty good vibe here.’ It felt way, way better than I thought it would.”

Here are some of the topics Attanasio addressed:

• The Brewers’ pursuit of Turner rose to the level of a direct chat between the player and Attanasio before Turner opted to remain in L.A. for a two-year, $34 million deal.

“Look, for very good reason. He’s had a wonderful career in Los Angeles,” Attanasio said. “I’m sure it was very emotional -- in a good way -- to stay and conclude his career there. I think that was always the place you thought he was going to land.

“But he did a huge amount of homework on us. Talked to not only a lot of folks in the organization -- players he knew and obviously ‘Couns’ and [president of baseball operations] David Stearns. He got familiar enough to David that he called him ‘Stearnsie,’ and I’m not sure anybody’s ever called David ‘Stearnsie.’ He also talked to guys like Trevor Hoffman and Mark Kotsay. He really did his due diligence. Same disciplined approach he brings to his at-bats he brought to this process. I thought we had a good at-bat with him.”

• Attanasio didn’t rule out additional signings but said, “We’re very happy with the group we have. Craig went through the list of six teams that made the playoffs the last three years -- the Astros, Indians, Yankees, Braves, Dodgers and us. So that’s pretty good company. We largely have last year’s group returning plus, to add Kolten Wong and, really, we’re adding Lorenzo Cain in center field, so we definitely made additions. David always looks to make the team better, so we’re always looking.”

• The Brewers have a walkthrough scheduled for Friday at American Family Field in Milwaukee with city health officials to discuss the team’s 350-page proposal to host up to 35 percent occupancy at the start of the regular season. Attanasio previously said the team would like an answer by March 1 so they have time to prepare.

• He addressed fan frustration in the wake of the Brewers’ television rights extension with Fox Sports Wisconsin, which does not air on several providers including YouTubeTV and Hulu.

“I’m committed to doing everything I can to deliver the content of our team to all of our fans, so I’ll look into that,” Attanasio said. “Nobody wants to hear an owner complain about challenges. We have so many wonderful things in our market. We’ve talked a lot about the live fan support, but we’re a single market. We’re bounded by Canada, Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota, so that in itself creates some challenges, and we’ll try to work through some of those things. I’d like to hear some of the challenges fans have faced and see if I can address them.”

Attanasio also was eager to hear more from Wong, whom he had yet to meet in person.

“One of the things we liked about Kolten Wong is that he’s a winner,” Attanasio said. “We’d love to emulate the Cardinals’ success, for sure. David and Craig from the get-go have tried to bring their sensibilities and their system here. I guess there’s ‘a way.’ Maybe when we have a world championship or something, we can call it the Brewers Way.”