A few snippets from Jon Paul Morosi's interview with Brewers owner Mark Attanasio:
“The thing you have to remember is that we’ve had three million fans coming to this place two years in a row,” said Attanasio, in his sixth season with the team. “They’re looking for winners. Miller Park is really enjoyable, but they’re coming to see this team win. We have to be conscious of that.
“We think we have a very good team. Our intent isn’t to dismantle the team simply because we may not make the playoffs this year.”
Q: Trevor Hoffman is currently at 596 career saves, and it sounds like he will return to the closer’s role soon. How do you hope everything unfolds with him?
A: I’m a fan. Axford’s been phenomenal, but, as a fan, you’d like to see Trevor get to 600. The manager’s been looking at his game tape, looking at where his pitches are located, the angle of them, and it’s much closer to normal now. The last few outings have looked more like the real Trevor. But Axford’s 6-for-6 (in save opportunities).
Trevor’s the best. His demeanor has not changed at all in this. He’s the same great guy.
Q: Was it a gut-wrenching decision to release Suppan because of the money involved? (He signed a four-year, $42 million contract after the 2006 season.)
A: It was difficult because of the personal relationship I had with him -- and gut-wrenching because he’s the consummate professional. He’s a leader in the community. He gave a lot to charities here. His wife was a leader in the team wives’ group.
But I’m in the investment business. When you run a portfolio, you have to take your losses and move on.
Q: Do you think the payroll number will be the same in 2011 as it is now?
A: Roughly. I’m counting on the fans still coming out. It seems like they are. We have a great fan base that allows us to do that.
Q: Do you consider the Brewers a mid-market or small-market team?
A: We’re a mid-market team. We’re 18th in revenues and 18th in payroll this year. When I bought the team, we were 27th in revenues and 30th in payroll.
Boy, is that refreshing. The Brewers play in a tiny market, probably the smallest by population in the major leagues. To the north, cows. To the south, Cubs and White Sox. To the east, Lake Michigan. And to the west, the Twins. No excuses from the owner, though.
Drawing more than three million fans to Brewers games in consecutive seasons is a monumental achievement, and Attanasio deserves a great deal of the credit. When an organization loses, year after year after year no matter who's in the front office or the dugout, I'm always reminded of something a good friend once said: "A fish stinks from the head."
The Brewers might be losing this year. But they don't stink.
Meanwhile, regarding the burning issue of Hoffman's status, I wouldn't read too much into Attanasio's affections. He knows that Axford's the better pitcher, but he also knows that if the Brewers are out of contention in August or September, giving Hoffman his shot at 600 saves wouldn't be the worst thing in the world; in fact it would pretty neat if Hoffman finishes with exactly 600 saves, a number that will have some real resonance among the fans (at least until Mariano Rivera sets a new record in 2012).