For the second straight year, Brewers chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger sat down with MLB.com for President's Day to discuss the state of the franchise and where it goes from here. Here are some highlights of that conversation:
MLB.com: As "commander in chief" of the business side of the Brewers, how would you finish this sentence: The state of the franchise is ____?
Rick Schlesinger: I would say it is on a great track. We have done, obviously, a major overhaul on the baseball operations side, with a new general manager, a new staff. We've made a fair number of transactions, both when Doug Melvin was overseeing things, and now with David Stearns bringing new players in. I think it is a very transformative time and an exciting era that we are in the beginning stages of. It's going to be a new era for Brewers baseball.
MLB.com: How much communication is there between David on the baseball side and you on the business side?
Schlesinger: Well, I'd like to tell you I give him advice on all the trades and they're all brilliant comments, but it doesn't work that way. David and I talk, but we don't talk every day. I like to keep David aware of what we're trying to do in the business community, and he's been great in terms of introducing himself to our sponsors, our fans and to the media. He's been juggling a lot of balls. But I try to keep away. He's the first one here and the last to leave every day, so I don't think he needs somebody on the business side giving him advice.
MLB.com: What do you know about how your fans feel about this rebuilding process?
Schlesinger: The great thing about our fans is they're not shy. They give us their opinions all the time. We do a lot of fan surveying, both of our own customers … and casual fans who maybe come to one or two games, or don't come at all, but listen to Bob Uecker on the radio or watch on TV. I think we have a fair amount of data on what our fans are telling us, and we also have objective measurements. How are ticket sales doing? How are hits on our website? What are our TV and radio ratings?
The general consensus of the fans is they understand that what we were doing in the past wasn't working, and we needed to do something different. I think there is also a broad consensus that building from within is the way it works. That's how the Royals won the World Series last year. They did not go out and spend tons of money on free agents; they built from within, they made some astute trades and some great acquisitions. That's the model for us. I think the fans in this marketplace buy into it.
There are some fans who say, 'I want to win now, and if you're not going to win now, I won't pay attention.' The vast majority of our fans, though, are sticking with us.
MLB.com: But isn't that easier to say now, when you're at the front end of rebuilding and making trades for prospects that excite the fans? Two, three years from now, if you're still in this building process, and you're finishing fourth and fifth, do you worry that people will run out of patience?
Schlesinger: That's a great question, and you do worry about the fatigue factor. You worry about overpromising on young prospects and not having the prospects develop. One thing David always says is, 'The likelihood is most prospects aren't going to become Hall of Fame baseball players. The way to deal with that is to acquire as many great young prospects as you can, knowing that there is, frankly, a high rate of failure. … But absolutely, if we're talking about rebuilding, at some point our fans are going to say, 'We've heard enough about rebuilding. We want to see the results of the labor.' I'm confident David and his staff have us pointed in the right direction.
MLB.com: You released a television ad on Super Bowl Sunday that got a lot of attention. Can you tell us how that ad was produced, and what you thought of the result?
Schlesinger: Teddy Werner oversees all of our marketing efforts, and it was his concept to do a spot that focuses on Craig Counsell. Teddy had a specific vision for the spot, and it was really to tap into [the idea that] Craig is us. He might be the manager, and he has two World Series rings, but he's really The Everyman. … I think he is someone our fans can relate to, so Teddy's idea was to create a spot that brings out the best in Craig: his approachability, his passion, his Milwaukee roots. And do it in a way that tells a story. Greg Marshall, who produced the spot, did a great job in telling a story. That's hard to do in a minute and 38 seconds, but they hit it out of the park.
It's obviously not the only piece we're going to use, but we decided to launch it now, and it's gotten a lot of buzz, which is great. We'll have others that focus on the players as we have footage of the season. We're not going to shy away from focusing on the players.