December 17, 2015
Dear Brewers Fans:
During this holiday season, I want to extend my sincere thanks to you for sticking with us through a tough, challenging and--most aptly--disappointing season. You showed your loyalty by purchasing more than 2.5 million tickets to see baseball at Miller Park, which you've done every season over the past nine years. Only seven other MLB teams have reached this attendance milestone. And over those nine seasons, the Brewers have averaged more than 35,000 fans per home game, which is among the ten highest team averages in all of Major League Baseball.
The commitment you've demonstrated to the Brewers, I assure you, is equaled by my own commitment to doing better. Each of you deserves that. By doing better, I mean fielding a playoff-competitive team and one day bringing a world championship to Milwaukee. To move toward accomplishing this lofty goal, I believe we need to take a step back and build more intensively from within. Our new General Manager, David Stearns, has been spearheading this approach, which requires grinding things out, prospect by prospect and trade by trade. While we look forward to using his fresh vision to getting our baseball operations to where we want them to be, we are mindful that there is a lot of hard work to do, and we will not take any shortcuts or look for quick fixes.
Importantly, David has a great deal of flexibility to work with, as the team has just three long-term contracts remaining: Jonathan Lucroy (two years), Matt Garza (two years) and Ryan Braun (five years). As you probably know, David recruited Matt Arnold from the Tampa Bay Rays as his Assistant GM. At this month's Winter Meetings, he and Matt started to implement their strategy, which David has articulated thematically as acquiring, developing and retaining as much young talent as we can. We do not have a rigid timetable because we believe it is vital to build a proper foundation for sustained success. I am encouraged by the level of teamwork I've been seeing in baseball operations and, most significantly, between David and Matt.
Even before David joined our organization, our re-evaluation effort had begun. When the start of the 2015 season told us that the first 150 days of the 2014 season had been an illusion--one ultimately supplanted by the reality of the final month of that season--we made the difficult decision to change the team's manager. In early May, we hired Craig Counsell, already a valued special assistant to our GM, to a three-year contract. This allowed Craig five months to observe our players in the field and to start training them to play in the style that had brought him two World Series rings as a player.
With a focus on the future at the July 31 trade deadline, we exchanged veteran players who had less than two years remaining under their contracts for seven young players, four of whom saw action with the Brewers before the end of the season. A total of twelve rookies debuted this season--a club record. The performance of our lower-level Minor League affiliates provided more evidence that the talent of our prospects is improving. Our AA affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers, went to the Southern League Championship Series this year for the first time since 2007. Moreover, Baseball America named three Brewers among the publication's top five prospects in the Arizona Fall League.
Since the end of last season, we have traded for another seven young players, including three with Major League experience. Through all these trades, we have added fourteen prospects to our team, supplementing the players we selected in what was considered a rich 2015 draft. As reported on mlb.com, eleven of our top twenty prospects have been acquired in the past two years either through draft or trades. The restocking of the farm system has begun in earnest.
Finally, I would be remiss not to acknowledge Doug Melvin, who has transitioned from President of Baseball Operations and General Manager of the Brewers into a role as Senior Advisor. Doug's baseball acumen, work ethic and loyalty have been an asset to the team for thirteen seasons, and he remains a valuable resource to David and our baseball operations group.
So, as we approach 2016, I want to reiterate how much the entire Brewers organization appreciates the community's strong enthusiasm for the club. We are dedicated to building something special here in Milwaukee for you, the best fans in baseball. I thank you once again for your steadfast support.
Chairman and Principal Owner
There's quite a lot to parse here, but most importantly it presents an ownership that is willing to put a long-term plan in place to achieve future goals. With the NL Central looking extremely difficult to contend in for the foreseeable future, this is really the only plan the Brewers could implement. However, that isn't to diminish their efforts.
Furthermore, Attanasio shows he is -- at least publicly -- invested in letting newly-appointed general manager David Stearns and assistant general manager Matt Arnold implement this plan. Attanasio also acknowledges that Doug Melvin -- the ousted general manager -- will be staying on as a Senior Advisor.
While none of this is news, it's a good practice in transparency for an ownership that could use a bump in popularity.
What's most interesting however, is the fact that Attanasio acknowledges a rebuild publicly. This isn't exactly typical of ownership groups to admit. Attanasio writes "[t]o move toward accomplishing this lofty goal, I believe we need to take a step back and build more intensively from within."
Teams don't typically like admitting this publicly for the obvious reason that it means they are going to try to be bad in the immediate future. Not only is it not great to hear this from a fan perspective, but it's also not ideal for players like Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, and Matt Garza -- who are signed for multiple seasons still -- to know this.
Furthermore, while Stearns probably isn't targeting many elite free agents, by having Attanasio admit that the team is in a rebuild, he could have lost a lot of leverage on the free agent market. There could be much less incentive for Pedro Alvarez for instance to join the Brewers. Of course, a player like Alvarez could just want any way to rebuild some worth in hopes of getting a more lucrative deal elsewhere.
Time will tell if this rebuild pans out, but honestly, transparency like this shouldn't be frowned upon at least immediately. It's an intriguing letter from Attanasio, but actions will speak louder than words and Stearns seems to have a plan in place.