Brewers owner Mark Attanasio fielded questions from fans during an hour-long online chat Thursday. Attanasio, who was approved as the new owner Jan. 13, discussed his vision for the club, his business style and how he would like to enhance the fan experience at Miller Park.
Mark Attanasio: Welcome everyone. We're delighted to find as many ways to communicate with the fans as we can, and hopefully this is another tangible example of that. Let's get to the questions!Base_Ball_4: First of all, I would like to welcome you to the community and thank you for infusing the community with some excitement. Do you plan on giving input into the players that are brought in or will you will let Doug Melvin and Gord Ash handle things? Attanasio: I'm going to let Doug Melvin and Gord Ash handle things. My job is to encourage them to follow their instincts. bob1st: Mr. Attanasio, there is a rabid fan base in Milwaukee for a team that would just be competitive. One thing that always gets the fans out is a good deal. The 10 games for nine season ticket package was a great start. Attanasio: I would say thanks for the support. We're going to do as many things as we can at Miller Park that are fan-friendly. Also, the nine-game packs are ways that fans can, at a discount, see games that are otherwise premium-priced. Michael_Whiteside: What is your ownership style? Hands on (a la George Steinbrenner), or are you more hands off and willing to delegate to others (hopefully qualified) to do important jobs? Are you the kind of guy to insist that the GM sign a certain player? Attanasio: I'm more of a delegator in that my style is to encourage our executives and then measure their performance. To spend a lot of time with our baseball people and encourage them, as I described before, but still to make the decision theirs. All player decisions will be Doug's. For example, at the Winter Meetings, we got a call to trade Dan Kolb for Jose Capellan. There was universal support for that trade among the baseball people: Doug, Gord, Ned and all the scouts were in the room, all nodding that we should do that trade. I encouraged them to do the trade, notwithstanding the concern that it would look like we were cutting payroll. What we want to do is what's smartest from a baseball standpoint. While at those meetings, we had an opportunity to then trade for Carlos Lee. Carlos, at $8 million per year, would be the most expensive player the Brewers had ever acquired. And, by doing that trade we were exceeding our "budget." Because the baseball people were so excited about Carlos Lee and how he would fit in our lineup, I encouraged Doug to do the trade even though it exceeded that budget. Attanasio: By the way, we just got a report that Ben Sheets threw a scoreless inning in his first outing of the spring. I've met Ben several times, back to mid-January at the Brewers On Deck that we had to cancel because of the weather. I got a chance to meet Ben and Geoff Jenkins and some of the other players while we were deciding what to do. I would say I like Ben as much as all of the fans like him. Base_Ball_4: Thanks for helping the excitement that is building around the club grow even more. My question is, how often you plan on being in town for the regular season games? Along with that, did you move here, or are you managing from California? Attanasio: I am going to try to be there as often as I can, balancing the fun of being there with the requirements of running my business and having a family that lives in Los Angeles. I have two teenage sons that go to school in Los Angeles. Right now, I am managing the team from Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Arizona, where I have been to Spring Training three times now. By the way, I would encourage any of the fans who are thinking about it to go down there to Maryvale Baseball Park. It is really fun. holste42: Hi Mark, what sports did you follow in college? Attanasio: Same sports I follow now. Baseball, football, basketball, including at the college level. I played baseball in high school, and then the pitchers got the better of me. I was a shortstop, but the best player on the team was a shortstop so I ended up getting moved to center and right field. I did have a pretty good arm as a kid. Steven_Farr: The Brewers identity (uniforms, logos, etc.) feel somewhat second-rate. Any plans to freshen up the look? Attanasio: From a branding standpoint, we are looking to better focus the "Brewers" brand, so that we can not only have interest in Milwaukee, but regional interest, and we hope if we play well, national interest. "Brewers All Access," the behind-the-scenes TV series that you can get on the Internet, was the first step in that plan. And by the way, we are the first Major League team to allow that type of behind the scenes access. The rules of MLB provide that you need at least a year lead time before you make any changes in uniform and logo. So we are looking at the uniforms as part of the overall branding exercise, but fans won't see the results of that for at least a year. laurann: Why was Brewer radio baseball taken away from our AM station in Wisconsin Rapids WFHR. How can we get it back? Attanasio: I am not immediately familiar with the specifics of that circumstance, but I've heard from several fans, including at Spring Training, about their desire to hear the Brewers on radio or see the Brewers on TV, and their inability to do that because of the way our media contracts are structured or executed. It is something that we are going to talk to FOX and WTMJ about. That being said, I understand that with XM radio, which I understand is an extra charge for folks, fans can hear Brewers games all over the place. Audio and video of our games is also available on the Internet with a subscription. We want to try to do the best we can to deliver the Brewers to our fans without a fee, but I am also excited that new technology allows us to deliver games to our fans where they were previously unavailable. jason: Have you considered trading Wes Helms? He is a weight on the budget and I think we could use that money to sign another pitcher or decent hitter. Attanasio: Doug Melvin, Gord Ash and the baseball staff look into all those decisions. Right now, Wes Helms is working very hard and battling for the third base spot. I met him at Spring Training and he said he is 15 or 20 pounds lighter than he was last year. I know he is very committed to playing hard this year. Tom_Welsh: Mr A, great to have you aboard, and THANK YOU for rescuing our organization! Where do you envision the Brewers organization to be in five years as far as the product on the field goes? Attanasio: Thanks for the support. I'm giving us three years to field a fundamentally competitive team which stays competitive from that point going forward. I am very encouraged at the progress our younger players have demonstrated this year in Spring Training. Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Dave Krynzel, Jose Capellan are all demonstrating that they are Major League-ready. I know that Doug, Gord and Ned are very excited about that. Brian_Heggie: Mr. Attanasio, welcome to Milwaukee!! Is there any talk about lowering concessions? I would rather spend a couple extra dollars for a ticket rather than more for a beer and dog. Attanasio: We are looking at the overall concessions program. We are not just looking at price, we are also looking at value. For example, the concessionaire, who by the way, really works closely with us, wanted to reduce the size of your basic hot dog by a couple of ounces, and we said no. We are looking to provide kids meals at various places around the stadium. I am always open to specific suggestions that fans have about SportService. I want to make it very clear that we work closely with them. Base_Ball_4: What has been the best part of owning a team so far? Attanasio: Going to games and getting to walk on the field during batting practice in Arizona on a sunny, 70 degree day. There is nothing better than that. Brian_Heggie: Are you going to be committed to letting all this young talent we have grow old together? I guess my main concern is that as they get older (and better hopefully), we won't pay them, resulting in them leaving. Attanasio: I am committed to providing the community with a team that, once it starts winning, keeps winning. As a fan, we would love to keep as many players together as we can. Stepping back, and looking at baseball, that is becoming tougher and tougher to do. cnw8801: Has there been any progress on the contract extension talks with Ben? Attanasio: Doug has had a couple of short conversations with Ben's agent, Casey Close. Casey will be coming to Arizona later this month and I would expect that he and Doug would have more detailed conversations then, in person. Buster Olney at ESPN called Ben one of the Top 10 starters in baseball. I think that speaks for itself, that Ben is vitally important to our team. One more thing -- it's as important that Ben wants to play in Milwaukee. He likes being part of the community. He likes raising his son, Seaver, there. His wife likes it. That's kind of the prototype of the star player we are looking for. Speaking of young talent, J.J. Hardy just hit a two-run double to put the Brewers ahead. I didn't mention him earlier with our prospects because it is accepted that he is going to be the starting shortstop for this team. spencer_rockwell: Mr. Attanasio, what are your thoughts on manager Ned Yost and the job he has done with the Brew Crew the past couple of years? Is a contract extension on the horizon? Attanasio: Ned is under contract with us this year, with an option for next year. That's something that Doug will have some input on. pcklmn: First off, welcome to our community. I am very excited about what I have read and seen about you. I would love it if there was wireless Internet access at the ballpark. Being a stats geek, I would love to reference detailed stats while sitting in my seat. Attanasio: I actually have a young man who works for me, and all he wants to talk about is this topic. Wireless Internet is the wave of the future, and we are studying different ways we can enhance the fan experience at Miller Park. By the way, that young man is Anthony Yanatta. He has an MBA from MIT and he helped me put the deal to buy the ballclub together. uwsptke594: Would you support a league-wide salary cap for baseball, similar to the what the NFL has in place to keep smaller market teams in contention? Attanasio: That is a very difficult question in isolation. Obviously, I am going to support any movement in the collective bargaining agreement which affords smaller and mid-market teams a better ability to compete. But it is a complex negotiation with a lot of different constituencies. mbha: In regard to running a Major League Baseball team, are you looking at this season as a year of learning and evaluating, and then begin to actually implement further changes next year? Attanasio: I am trying to do both. As a matter of business style, I like to study whatever situation I am in and collect all of the facts. That being said, I understand the need to make decisions, sometimes with an incomplete set of facts. rs78: First of all, I appreciate the chance to listen to these early Spring Training games. If I may ask, what is your opinion/thoughts on the steroid policy in place and the government's current intervention? Attanasio: That is a tough question. I think it's great that we have a steroid policy in place. In fact, in my first and only owner's meeting, I was able to vote on that. I think that in order to evaluate the policy, we need to see how the policy works in action. mkmd3171: Mr. A, do you envision keeping Mr. Uecker for a long time? Attanasio: Mr. Uecker has a position with the Brewers for as long as he wants it. He is a delightful guy and I have truly enjoyed all the time I've gotten to spend with him. crazyforcappy: I want to thank you for the autograph last week. Do you like to interact with the fans a lot? Attanasio: I, in many regards, view myself as a fan, so I truly enjoy that. Judging by your name, I assume you are a Chris Capuano fan. There was a great picture of Chris on the cover of the Arizona Republic last week. He caught a lot of grief for that, since he was in his hot tub. bum_suave: The Buckethead program was a big success. Any plans for other unique fan experiences? Attanasio: My understanding is that all of those Buckethead promotions sold out. We are definitely looking at other things to do, like that. bravesfan_dddd: Who is your favorite baseball player and who is your favorite athlete? Attanasio: My favorite baseball player would be a Brewer, but that's like asking me to pick which one of my two sons is my favorite child! bobbyhughes: Thank you for purchasing our team. What made you interested in the Brewers as opposed to another organization? Attanasio: Several things. The potential for the team with the number of young stars in the minor leagues. The community of Milwaukee and its passion for baseball. And the fact that there was a state-of-the-art stadium in Miller Park, which was recently built. Also, the ability to take over a family tradition, as I was able to do from the Seligs, was very special for me and my family. theschultz: Any plans to run in the Sausage Races at Miller Park? Attanasio: I'm too slow. Maybe I can convince one of my kids to do it. cnw8801: If the team is in contention close to the trade deadline, is there now the flexibility to possibly make a trade to help the team out? Attanasio: We will have the flexibility to help the team out. But I want to emphasize that the decision will be driven by what Doug thinks is best for the baseball team. We are not going to do a trade simply for the sake of doing a trade, so we can say, 'Hey, we're doing a trade.' But if we can do something to help the team, we will have that flexibility. That is a high-class problem that I hope to face. Attanasio: Looks like our hour is up. I really appreciate all of the fan interest here, and in particular all of the fans who started their questions by welcoming me to Milwaukee. The warm welcome I received is a big part of my decision to go forward with this. I look forward to chatting again after the fans have had a chance to interact with some of our other executives. See you at the ballpark --- Go Brewers!
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.