Brewers' senior owner, Mark Attanasio, addressed the media on Tuesday during his first visit to the team's renewed spring training center. (Photo11: Roy Dabner / for the Sentinel Journal)
PHOENIX – Mark Attanasio had a first glimpse of Phoenix's recently refurbished American Family Fields, and could not believe his eyes, unlike the players and staff who came in front of him.
"The general manager, David Stearns, said I would not recognize him," said the main owner of Brewers Milwaukee Brewers. "I am really speechless. It's as if someone had just dropped it from space. "
As head of the property group that paid the majority of the $ 65 million bill – he provided this discounted figure – Attanasio feared that an ambitious project would not be completed in the nine and a half months allocated before the beginning of spring training. Instead, he congratulated project leader Tyler Barnes for making sure "everything works".
"I was sure we would get here and that there would be construction crews and tarps, closed areas," Attanasio said. "Instead, everything is ready to go.
"Importantly, our players are delighted with the result. Excited to be here. I've heard so many positive comments this morning. Up there, with the best of 60 million and more never spent. We probably have some players on which we could say it would be better than that, but that's about it. "
Attanasio proved that the construction did not drain all the money available in agreeing to talk with independent third-place player Mike Moustakas on an agreement guaranteeing him $ 10 million. This contract, which brings in $ 7 million this year with a $ 3 million buyout on a 2020 common option at $ 11 million for 2020, has pushed the payroll beyond $ 120 million, representing easily a record for the franchise.
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Last year, the Brewers started the season with a payroll of about $ 91 million.
"Our membership group is committed to providing the resources necessary to do the best job possible, competing in the field, providing the fans experience and developing our players," said Attanasio. "The money is kind of come at a time. It was not part of the plan.
"You can not sequence that. So I had to decide if we were going to sequence it or do it all at the same time. We did everything at once. "
The question was: do the Brewers have enough money in reserve to be aggressive at the trade deadline if the team is at the heart of the race and has needs, as it does? did last season en route to the Central Crown and an important playoff push to play 7 of the NLCS?
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"We have so many places filled now," said Attanasio. "It's more of a challenge than finding money for the season (additions). All the chips are all now. We will find money in mid-season when it is necessary. "
Regarding the expenses, Attanasio heard that his team was asking for a throwing ace. They did not do it after 2017 or after the thrilling season, but he did not seem too worried.
"Every year, we are the Rodney Dangerfield of the major league pitcher teams," he said. "No respect, and every year they played. I look forward to seeing what they can do this year as well."
As he does every spring before the team's first full practice, Attanasio delivered a speech to the players in a morning session. He said that the scenario was similar to that of the last years because, basically, why repair what has not been broken?
"For superstitious reasons, I kept it in line with what I've said for the last two years," he said. "We could not get everybody into our clubhouse before, so to have all the guys in the same room – we had to talk a little harder – and really being together was really special."
Attanasio was delighted to hear the message from manager Craig Counsell, whom he found very clear. Counsell told players that last year was great and all that, but it's a new year, they are coming together for the first time and the goal should be to go out and chart a new course for this group.
"Every year, spring training is a little different," said Attanasio. "This year, I would say that there is a lot of quiet confidence and assurance. Like every year, Craig sets the tone with the players. This year, the tone is to stay in the moment and focus on today as being the first day."
Attanasio never liked the Brewers race until the World Series match last fall; so he was asked if it was harder to turn the page and move on.
"Yes, that's it," he says. "But the more I thought about Craig's tone and the attention of the players, that's the right goal. We must look forward, not back.
"We have new players here. We have Yasmani (Grandal) here. We have "Moose" here all year long, which is really exciting. We almost brought back the whole group and added some pieces. "
Attanasio could not deny that it was the right time to be the owner of the Brewers. The team is very well placed on the field and away, doing well on the business side and winning games. The Brewers have a new naming rights sponsor for Miller Park in American Family Insurance, which has doubled the previous annual rate. They have an absolute jewel for a spring training center. They poured enough money into the payroll to bring back most of the '18 club members who captivated their powerful supporters.
"David's first day was September 21, 2015," said Attanasio. "What David has accomplished in this period is extraordinary. As he pointed out to me, he did it with a huge team of people around him. So, the credit is wide. What this team as a group has accomplished in the past three years is truly extraordinary.
"I always thought that everything was possible. As the owner, you can set a tone (but) you can only do a lot. You can provide resources, you can set a tone … I think everyone has their arms crossed and adopted it.
"As for the sweet spot, I think everything has been set up at the same time. I am very excited by what this team can do this year. "