Attanasio sums up ‘disappointing’ season

Asked to sum up his ninth season as the Brewers’ principal owner, Mark Attanasio settled on one word.

“Unfortunately, the first word that comes to mind is ‘disappointing.’ I think we all know the reasons for that,” Attanasio said Friday afternoon at Citi Field, where the Brewers are playing the final series of a season that began with a devastating series of injuries at first base and hit bottom when Ryan Braun was suspended in July.

“That said, it did end up somewhat encouraging” Attanasio said, “both in terms of our wins and most importantly in terms of how all the young guys have played, the ones who came up these last 2-3 months. It certainly is going to affect how we plan in the offseason. We did our full group staff meetings, and a lot of these guys are in the mix now, and I don’t know if you would have had any of them in the mix 3-4 months ago.”

He addressed all of his players on Thursday at the start of the series, an annual Attanasio tradition. It stuck Attanasio how many of the players in uniform now were not there on Opening Day, a reminder of the tumult that marked the Brewers’ season.

“Looking around, I don’t think in nine seasons we’ve ever had turnover like that,” Attanasio said.

Other topics covered by the owner on Thursday:

— Asked about offseason resources and whether he believes big acquisitions are needed, Attanasio said, “Well, we can never have enough pitching, so we’re always going to look at pitching. We’ve already been through the free agent list; there’s not a lot of obvious candidates. Other than that, for a team that still ranks pretty low in terms of won-loss record, we have a lot of positions already filled for next year, and, in fact, in some cases, overflow.

“The budget is fluid. It depends on opportunity, trades can come up and you can increase budget through trades, too. You don’t only do it through free agent signings.”

He prefers to adjust the budget to personnel instead of the personnel to budget.

“We learned that,” Attanasio said. “We had the one season where Doug [Melvin, his general manager], who always coins a phrase well, said we had four of a kind instead of an ace. And four of a kind was four threes, actually. Or four fours. Four fours wins in poker, not in baseball.”

— On the team’s better second-half performance:

“You’re always learning in the game. We probably over-weighted the season-end performance last year,” Attanasio said. “Now we’re going to look at [recent results], but also whether guys have done it before. The good news is that now Wily Peralta has pitched a lot of innings, which he hadn’t done before. So you would assume he would have a more consistent performance next year. We feel very good about Kyle [Lohse] and Yovani [Gallardo] and Wily, and we have a number of other candidates. Marco [Estrada] has done nicely here. Tyler [Thornburg] has done nicely here. But we need to see them do it. Marco has pretty much gone for 130 innings a year. To be a No. 4 pitcher, you have to be ready to go to 175 innings.”

— How does he see first base?

“Wide open,” Attanasio said. “Doug has made the point several times: First base is a quite difficult position to play well, more than meets the eye. There’s a lot of footwork involved, and if you’re not careful, you can get injured. All of the guys are very nervous about having Jonathan [Lucroy] down there.”

— What about second base, where Rickie Weeks will earn $11 million next season but Scooter Gennett has outplayed the veteran since Weeks’ season-ending hamstring injury?

“Look, it’s all about performance,” Attanasio said. “This team has never made its decisions based on size of contract. It has made decisions based on historical performance and consistency of performance, so generally players who have bigger contracts, they have bigger contracts for a reason. They performed over the years. We’re mindful that while Scooter Gennett has done extremely well, he’s had 200 Major League at-bats. We’re mindful that Major League pitchers are going to make adjustments to him, but every night, he’s out there making plays and getting key hits. He’s certainly caught everyone’s attention.”

— It was obvious before, but Attanasio went ahead and made it official: The Brewers will exercise Norichika Aoki’s $1,5 million option for 2014.

“Yeah, we will definitely pick up Nori’s contract,” Attanasio said. “Nori has been an outstanding teammate, outstanding member of the community. He’s always willing to help out, doing things in the community. And one of the toughest outs in the major leagues. That’s a matter of fact. He’s very tough to get out.

“Our general manager likes to say that things will be decided at the end of the season, but I think Nori could go 0-for the end of the season at this point and still get his contract.”

— On his role in Ryan Braun’s character rehabilitation:

“It’s really guidance,” Attanasio said. “I think it’s important for Ryan that he works through this himself. And, importantly, he is taking the responsibility of working through this himself. The idea, for example, of calling season-ticket holders was his idea. By the way, also, his idea and us not screening those calls or calling ahead and saying, ‘Ryan Braun is going to be calling.’ I think a few season ticket holders, when they got the call, thought it was a phony call.

“I would say so far, so good. It’ too early to make any judgments on where this is going. I think we all need to step back and see how this goes. He’s in the early innings.”

Will Braun address the media in person?

“That’s his call,” Attanasio said. “I don’t know what his thinking is on that. You were asking if I give him guidance. Ryan, as he’s doing things, he has passed them by me. But we don’t talk about, ‘Should I do this? Or should I do that?’ Because I do think it is important for him to work this out. There’s not an easy path here. There’s no silver-bullet solution. It’s a process. You have to work through the process.”

Asked whether Braun would attend the Brewers On Deck fan event in January, Attanasio said, “We haven’t talked about it. I was counting on having him at Brewers On Deck.”

— On a challenging season coming to an end:

“I have mixed emotions because I love baseball so much,” Attanasio said. “It’s very difficult to see the season come to an end, as difficult a season as it has been. It’s been pretty fun lately. I was at the ballpark a few times at the end of the season and it was a new experience to go to games that counted but didn’t count for us. But there was some of that tension and emotion in the air, and that was nice to feel again.”

“Every year I’m fortunate to say our fans are the best. You talk about coming out, thick and thin. They were tested with ‘thin’ of biblical proportions this year and have come through as they always have. It made me feel terrific about the team and the organization came forward. The whole organization from Doug Melvin, Rick Schlesinger and Bob Quinn, down to the folks who work concessions or help tickets. I had an employee meeting back in July, in the aftermath of Ryan’s suspension, before we had the voucher idea, and just the commitment in that room — we had 120 people in that room, fully committed to the organization and doing everything they could, and cared. I had folks asking questions because they cared. They’re on the front lines, representing the team in the community.

“This year, one of the really good feelings I had was about the strength of the organization.”


Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy

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