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Attanasio in awe of Brewers' rapid ascent

Owner credits Stearns, Counsell for Milwaukee's 'fulfilling' journey
October 4, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers owner Mark Attanasio did not expect it all to happen this fast. That is, 96 wins -- the most in the National League -- and the NL Central championship. Sure, there's so much still to accomplish. He doesn't waver on that. There's still a World Series trophy

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers owner Mark Attanasio did not expect it all to happen this fast. That is, 96 wins -- the most in the National League -- and the NL Central championship. Sure, there's so much still to accomplish. He doesn't waver on that. There's still a World Series trophy out there to be won. But the improvement has come so rapidly that he can't help but be amazed.
"I will say I did two smart things," Attanasio said Thursday afternoon. "I hired Craig Counsell as a manager, and I hired David Stearns as a general manager. Those were two pretty good moves. All the rest is their doing."
Attanasio is discounting his role. In 13 years, he has built a franchise that is one of the gold standards for every other. The Brewers again flirted with drawing 3 million fans to Miller Park while also having television ratings that are among the best in the game.
In short, these are the best of times with a team that will open a NL Division Series against the Rockies on Thursday.
"It's immensely fulfilling," Attanasio said. "My main challenge is to actually embrace it and enjoy it, because this morning I was speaking with my wife Debbie, and I said, 'Well, I think I'm two-thirds excitement, one-third anxiety.' And it's already moved to 50-50 anxiety and excitement as I got to the ballpark here."
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Apart from that, Attanasio understands the larger picture of how important the Brewers are to so many people. He knows that their success is embraced by fans statewide.
"The whole community really surrounds this team," Attanasio said. "It's part of the fabric of the Milwaukee summer, and we're delighted it's now going to be part of the fabric of the Milwaukee fall, Wisconsin fall."
Three years ago, when Attanasio hired Stearns from the Astros, Stearns envisioned a tough rebuilding project. He has refused a full-scale rebuild, but he simply thought there was too much work to do.
"If David and I were to announce here three years ago, [if] we said, 'Our goal is to have the most wins in the National League in three years,' we'd have had probably the same reaction I had when I said my goal was to win here," Attanasio said. "And so I think that David and Craig, they really get the credit for all of this."
The Brewers hadn't made the playoffs in 24 years when Attanasio purchased the team in 2005. By '08, they were back. Attanasio credits his original general manager, Doug Melvin, with teaching him much about running a Major League team as well as making deals that brought pitchers Corey Knebel, Zach Davies and Josh Hader to the Brewers.
And last offseason, Stearns -- and Attanasio -- added outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain in one busy day.
"To do them on the same day -- $150 million of commitments -- that was bold, especially when everyone thought we should be adding a starting pitcher or two or three," Attanasio said. "And so he's shown an ability to execute and manage at a very high level. Some guys are good at building teams, but not getting to winning. Some guys can manage winning teams. But he's shown the ability to do both. Having the most wins in the National League this year is an absolutely extraordinary accomplishment. Nobody would have said that."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.