Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio grew up in the Bronx and was a lifelong Yankees fan. Here’s what he had to say Tuesday about the passing of Yankees boss George Steinbrenner:
“George really picked the franchise up when it was down and took it to not only a new level but a level unprecedented in sports,” Attanasio said.
“The first time I was supposed to meet him was before I was a baseball owner. It was the Aaron Boone game, when the Yankees were playing the Red Sox in the playoffs, and I was supposed to go to his suite and meet him through some business contacts. But I think the Yankees went down, 5-0, in that game, and we got word that it wasn’t a good time for a first meeting. You have to admire his fervent desire to win. His passion to win was unbelievable, and his leadership from the top kind of infused the organization with that attitude and even the fans. As a fan, you loved that.”
Attanasio finally did meet Steinbrenner at the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. That was three and a half years after Attanasio was formally approved as the Brewers’ owner, and he inherited a Milwaukee franchise that had a payroll in the $27 million range in 2004 and hadn’t posted a winning record since 1992.
It wasn’t exactly the same as buying a storied Yankees franchise in the dumps, but perhaps there were some loose parallels.
“I think the owners, whether it’s expressly or not, measure themselves against [Steinbrenner],” Attanasio said. “We try to emulate that desire to win every year no matter what. For our market, I’m trying to make it to the playoffs every year. There was a time for our franchise where maybe some thought that .500 was good enough, but every time I thought about that, I thought of George Steinbrenner. That’s an ownership model that I try to emulate.”
I also asked Attanasio about the Brewers’ 40-49 first half record.
“Like the fans, I’m disappointed with where we sit right now,” Attanasio said. “I really didn’t expect to be nine games under .500 at this point. But I’m hopeful that we can close the gap. I’ve always felt that if you’re within five games of first place, you’re in it. We’re encouraged that we’re going to close the gap. That said, I’m disappointed with the way we started.”
He deferred a question about manager Ken Macha’s status to GM Doug Melvin.
“You have to ask Doug, but I don’t see Doug making a manager change,” Attanasio said. “But that’s a question for him.”