Posted by Steve
Dear Mr. Attanasio,
Hello! It’s me, Steve. Good to talk to you again! I say “again,” because we actually met ten years ago. You had just purchased the Brewers a few months prior, and I was a wide-eyed intern in the Marketing Dept. at Miller Park. We almost walked into each other as I was coming out of the bathroom. You said excuse me and smiled. I also recall you requesting that you be formally referred to as “Principal Owner” instead of “Owner” so as not to diminish the minority owners. I thought that was pretty cool. Anyway, since we go way back, I am going to assume that you care to hear my 1600-word diatribe about how you should run your team. Sound good? Great!
First of all, and this should almost go without saying: Thank you! You bought the team I love, made a renewed commitment to the city of Milwaukee and winning baseball, increased payroll, and enabled the team to make two incredible playoff runs–something I wasn’t sure I’d ever even see. A $100 million payroll for a market like Milwaukee is as much as any Brewers fan could reasonably ask for.
Unfortunately, the quality of the team has diminished over the last few years. That stinks. We’d both love for the Brewers to be good; they just aren’t. It’s not because you haven’t tried–you’ve continued to spend in hopes of a winning product. It hasn’t worked out the last few seasons, and it really hasn’t worked out this season.
That brings me to purpose of this letter. A couple days ago during an FS Wisconsin broadcast of the Brewers-Mets game, you gave an in-game interview. While in the booth, you told Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder that fans shouldn’t expect that Francisco Rodriguez is a sure thing to be traded, because (paraphrasing) he really helps the other pitchers in the bullpen, and because fans need to see that the team is trying. With all due respect, this is a terrible reason to not trade Rodriguez or any other player this season.
The Brewers are going nowhere this season. Everyone has already accepted that fact. In fact, if nobody is traded, fans will get more frustrated that it seems like nothing is being done about the losing.
More importantly, this season is crucial to the long-term state of the franchise. The Brewers not only have the worst team in the NL Central, but they have the worst farm system. Oh, and the payroll is maxed out, Ryan Braun’s second extension hasn’t even kicked in yet, Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse are sunk costs, and Carlos Gomez is only under contract for one more season. Things are rough. But. You have the ability to help the Brewers greatly in the long term. Doing this is actually quite simple, as far as your role is concerned. All you need to do is leave the baseball decisions to your baseball ops department, specifically Doug Melvin.
That means don’t sign anyone, veto any trades, block players from being dealt, etc. Everyone should be on the table, so simply trust the people you’ve hired to do their job.
The Brewers have a number of players around for the short-term They are either not contributing positively (Lohse, Garza, Aramis Ramirez) or they won’t be under contract by the time the team has a chance to be good again (Lucroy, Gomez, K-Rod, Fiers, Lind, and many others). These players have diminished value to the Brewers, as they are doing little for a team that is 20+ games out of the division lead. They should be traded for young players or prospects that have a better chance of impacting the team long-term.
I have heard/read many of the following reasons to not deal particular players:
But K-Rod is good for our young pitchers!
I suppose this could be true. On the other hand, he is a veteran closer who some contending teams will covet and pay for. He’s also a dirtbag abuser, but that’s admittedly beside the point of this letter.
But Carlos Gomez is our best, most exciting player!
He is! He’s great! He’s also going to command well over $100 million dollars after next season. Do you want to have a combined $200+ million owed to two outfielders on the wrong side of 30?
But Jonathan Lucroy is a great player, a fan favorite, and is very affordable the next few seasons!
All true! Also, these are all reasons teams will covet him more, especially the cheap contract one. Teams will pay more in terms of prospects to get an inexpensive player rather than an expensive one. Also, the Brewers won’t be any good before Lucroy’s contract is up. Also, I know you remember how much people loved Lyle Overbay the first time around. Mr. Double! OOOOOOOOOO! Remember how people were angry when he was traded to make way for Prince Fielder? Point is, fans are fickle. They get over these things, and they choose new favorites. Maybe the fans will choose Orlando Arcia as their new favorite. Or Clint Coulter. Or some new stud prospect the Brewers acquire, maybe even in a Lucroy deal.
But Jean Segura is still young and under control for three years!
Yes! And this is a tougher one, because he seemed like a cornerstone for a while. However, shortstop is the strength of your organization. If you’re to believe scouts and publications, Orlando Arcia will be even better. He’ll probably be MLB ready within a year or so. Segura could be used to fill a different hole on the roster, like third base or first base or second base or catcher when Lucroy leaves or starting pitcher. See, you have a lot of needs!
But every team needs a bullpen! How can I trade guys like Jeremy Jeffress, Michael Blazek, Jonathan Broxton or Will Smith?
So, so easily. Like, video game easy. It does not matter who fills out the bullpen for the rest of the season. It does not matter. You could throw one of your sons out their to eat a few innings if Pan Am isn’t touring (btw, are they still a thing? Any day gigs at Summerfest again this year?). Bullpen guys will resurface. You might even find some guys from AAA or AA who are just as good as these other guys. Or not. But, for this year, it doesn’t matter. Going forward, relievers can be signed on the cheap. If they bring value now, trade ’em!
Mr. Attanasio, I know you’ve meddled in baseball affairs. Most people know that. Forfeiting a first round pick for Lohse? The Garza signing? Resisting selling in the past when it made almost as much sense as it does now? That was you. In fact, I have been re-thinking my previous post about moving on from Doug Melvin, because it’s impossible to tell which decisions the last few years have been his as opposed to yours. It truly doesn’t matter who the GM is if you are nixing deals or signing players on your own. However, all that will be forgiven if you just allow the team to rebuild.
Have you noticed all the incredible young players who have broken into the big leagues this year? Have you noticed half of them play for the Cubs? Wouldn’t it be swell if the Brewers had young players like that? Let’s make it happen! It might be easy to forget now since their future looks so bright, but the Cubs were atrocious for a few years! How many of their fans are complaining about that right now?
I understand your reluctance to formally rebuild, because many casual fans will stop attending games. But you know what? Screw ’em! If attendance is going to dip, there’s a real simple solution to ensure you still make a profit: slash the hell out of the payroll. There’s no need for a $100 million payroll when you aren’t trying to contend, or even for a $70 million payroll. That should more than offset the loss of revenue due to decreased attendance. If fans are smart (and many are), they will see that you have a plan in place. And people like me will enjoy the shorter lines for beer and the bathroom. In two or three years, when the next round of young guys are breaking through, those fair weather fans will come back. If they did in the mid-2000s after 15 years of terrible baseball, they will after just a few years this time around.
One last thing to ponder: Did you catch any of the Bucks this season? Fun team, huh? Sure, they’re a work in progress, but they had their best attendance in years, and they had a solid showing in the playoffs. Fans are more excited entering a season than they have been since 2002. And how did they get to this point? By enduring a horrific season that landed them the number 2 pick and Jabari Parker. Before that, the Bucks’ mantra under Herb Kohl was to never be terrible. Play hard, compete, and finish close enough to .500. Of course, that meant never properly rebuilding and having zero chance of competing for a championship. Does that sound familiar? Because right now, you’re dangerously close to the Bucks of the ’00s–and that’s not a good place to be.
The goal is to win the World Series, yes? If so, your only feasible option is to blow up this dumpster fire of a season and build for the future. And to do that, all you need to do is sit back, throw on a Pan Am album, enjoy an adult beverage, and let your front office do its job.