Tagged: Mark Attanasio

Today’s Letter From the Principal Owner of the Brewers

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.

Go Brewers!





Mark Attanasio
Chairman and Principal Owner


Brewers On Deck 2015 – The Interviews

Here is a boatload of audio recorded on Sunday, January 25, 2015 at Brewers On Deck in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Right fielder Ryan Braun

Relief pitcher Jim Henderson

Manager Ron Roenicke

New Brewers first baseman Adam Lind

Starting pitcher Wily Peralta

Newest member of the starting rotation Jimmy Nelson

All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez

Second baseman Scooter Gennett

All-Star starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy

General Manager Doug Melvin met with the assembled media

EXCLUSIVE with 40-man pitcher Michael Blazek

Prinicpal Owner Mark Attanasio addressed the media

This is the full audio from one of the Main Stage events, a panel discussion (with fan questions!) featuring Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, Gord Ash, Adam Lind, Corey Knebel, and Luis Sardinas

A Letter From Chairman and Principal Owner Mark Attanasio

November 3, 2013

Dear Brewers Fans:

On behalf of everyone at the Brewers organization, from players and coaches to the front office staff, I want to thank you for your unwavering support this year. In spite of the disappointing season, you once again demonstrated why you make up the most loyal fan base in all of baseball. More than 2.5 million fans attended games at Miller Park in 2013–a number that gave us our seventh straight season of reaching that milestone, one that was not achieved by five of the teams participating in this year’s Postseason.

The 2013 season was a challenge for all of us, both on and off the field. As I stated when my ownership group purchased the Brewers in 2005, one of our primary objectives was to raise expectations for the entire club. In recent years, the team has played meaningful games late in the season, but this year we obviously fell short of that goal.

We started the spring with significant promise, with an intact lineup–one that had led the National League in runs scored in 2012–as well as a returning core of the pitching staff, fueled by the addition of free agent Kyle Lohse. However, this was not our year. We struggled through injuries, a difficult month of May, and then the disappointment of Ryan Braun’s suspension. Yet the team refused to quit. We welcomed an influx of young talent from our Minor League system and played our best baseball after the All Star Break by winning games at a .529 clip. Our starting pitchers recorded baseball’s fourth-best ERA over the final 81 games, and our offense featured key contributions from a mix of youth and veterans. While these are among the reasons we believe that 2014 holds promise, none of us is content to define success by second-half performance.

We are undergoing a thorough review of our baseball operations and will continue to incorporate new methods and strategies in evaluating and developing talent. There are many paths to improvement and success, and we plan vigorously to pursue all of them. We know we need to do better. At the same time, we believe that many of the pieces are already in place to field a competitive team in 2014. With the emergence of Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura as All Stars, the arrival of young players with high talent ceilings, and healthy seasons from key veterans, our returning offense shows real promise. The resurgent pitching staff was bolstered by a much-improved bullpen and a stable rotation. Finally, we were delighted to see Carlos Gomez become the Brewers’ first Gold Glove honoree since Robin Yount won the award in 1982.

Off the field, we continue to focus on delivering the best fan experience in all of baseball while working to give back to the community that has given so much to us. Among our achievements, we include a participation level of 100% of players in Brewers Community Foundation (BCF) outreach efforts. In 2013, BCF raised a total of $2.8 million, which benefited 200 not-for-profit organizations in the State of Wisconsin. Additionally, we distributed $10 food-and-beverage vouchers to all fans in August and offered many promotions throughout the year. We recognize that we have an ongoing obligation to provide you with an organization that always puts the fans first.

When I reread some of my letters to you from the end of prior seasons, the one constant promise I made was to deliver an organization that works daily to earn your respect. When we don’t meet our own or your expectations, we redouble our efforts. We are already hard at work preparing for exciting baseball at Miller Park throughout the 2014 season.

Go Brewers!


Mark Attanasio
Chairman and Principal Owner

Email Received From Mark Attanasio

This hit my email inbox minutes ago from Mark Attanasio…

July 30, 2013

Dear Brewers Fans:

This past week has been an admittedly difficult time for everyone who loves the Milwaukee Brewers, including our fans, our corporate and community partners, and employees.  We share your frustration and disappointment with the news of Ryan Braun’s suspension and the mistakes that Ryan has made. We want you to know that we take this matter very seriously.

We recognize that Ryan has many steps ahead of him to regain your trust and respect.  This process will take time, and the road to redemption for Ryan will not be easy.  Our responsibility as an organization is to help Ryan appreciate the difficult task ahead of him and to assist in the healing process.  At the same time, during this frustrating season, we want to reaffirm what the Brewers stand for as an organization.  We believe everyone at the Brewers is accountable to each of you every day, and it is a team effort to meet that responsibility.  We have an obligation to ensure that our players give maximum effort at all times.  We also remain committed to providing you with the best experience at Miller Park.  And we appreciate the tremendous loyalty and support you continue to demonstrate to the team. We never take your passion and our strong relationship with you for granted.

Starting this week, we will be introducing a series of initiatives to reaffirm our commitment to you and all of our fans throughout Wisconsin.  We know that these initiatives are not a substitute for success on the field, and our primary mission remains to have a perennially competitive team.  As we have previously stated, no single player defines the Milwaukee Brewers, and the success or failure of our organization is not tied to the performance or behavior of any single player.  Within the clubhouse walls reside many talented players who will be the centerpieces of what we hope are the next great Milwaukee Brewers teams. This abiding belief is reflected on the cover of our 2013 Media Guide where six players are pictured.  We have always maintained that any success the team experiences on the field is not possible without our fans, and we ask you to continue to be a part of the success of our organization.

We deeply appreciate your loyalty, patience, and understanding.  On behalf of the entire Brewers organization, you have my pledge that we will overcome these current challenges, and we will reward the best fans in baseball with a team that truly represents our community.

Go Brewers!

Mark Attanasio
Chairman and Principal Owner


With Workouts Officially Underway, Hot Stove Officially Shut Off



Today at Brewers camp in Phoenix, Arizona, general manager Doug Melvin commented on the state of the roster as it stands today.

“We’re not looking at anybody else,” said Melvin.

Of course, Melvin is like any other GM worth his salt and will always answer the phone. However, when he said that they’re done shopping is important as well. Melvin was asked about the continued dot-connecting between the Brewers and free agent starting pitcher Kyle Lohse. Melvin stated that he hasn’t had any conversations with agent Scott Boras about Lohse but believes that Boras has contacted Brewers principle owner Mark Attanasio directly.

You stay classy, Scott Boras.

Regardless, it appears that Melvin, Ron Roenicke, and the powers the be are content to choose a 25-man roster from those players already under contract with the organization.

So, to the Hot Stove which helps keep us from freezing to death each and every November, December, and January…


An Open Letter From Mark Attanasio

In case you missed the announcement (and tweeting) yesterday of Mark Attanasio’s open letter to Brewers fans, or if you’re like me and you want it to be readily accessible and to make sure you have an archive of it, I’ve posted the letter in its entirety below.

Read, enjoy, and be thankful we have an owner like this:

November 4, 2012

Dear Brewers Fans:

On behalf of everyone at the Milwaukee Brewers, I want to thank you for your tremendous support this year. More than 2.8 million fans attended Brewers home games in 2012, which once again placed us among the top teams in the National League. For the sixth consecutive season, over 2.75 million came through the turnstiles to cheer on the team, making the Brewers one of just nine teams in all of baseball to achieve that consistent level of fan loyalty and passion. It is no wonder that we have the most wins in MLB at home — 106 — over the past two seasons.

While we experienced a number of highs and lows this season, I hope you are as proud as I am of the way our team overcame some significant injuries and fought for the National League Wild Card during the final weeks of the season. We pulled within 1.5 games of the final Wild Card in the playoff chase and played meaningful games through the final weekend — up to Game 159. Earlier in the summer, it didn’t look as if we would reach that point — and I am very encouraged by the tone that our end-of-season performance sets for next season. From August 20, the Brewers finished the season by going 29-13, tied for the best record in baseball with the Oakland A’s over this time frame. I love that both our fans and our players never gave up on this season.

As I take a moment to reflect on this year — where we started and what we are taking with us into 2013 — I see several statistics that are strong positives. We led the National League in three offensive categories: runs scored (776), home runs (202), and stolen bases (158) — a feat last accomplished 16 years ago by the Colorado Rockies. The home run total was the fifth time in Club history that the Crew hit more than 200 homers in a season, a record set in 2007 with 231. On the mound, our pitchers led both leagues with 1,402 strikeouts, falling just two short of an all-time MLB record. On an individual level, Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez were the most potent NL duo in terms of RBIs, totalling 217. Among rookies, Norichika Aoki led or was tied for the lead in many offensive categories, including hits, stolen bases as well as on-base, slugging, and OPS percentages. Yovani Gallardo was tied for second in the NL in Quality Starts, meaning that he pitched six or more innings while yielding three or fewer earned runs, with 25 (76 percent of his starts).

I am also excited by the performance of some of our new and younger talent, as well as by the performance of players we brought up who excelled at the Major League level. These young players assumed key roles during our resurgence, and they did extraordinarily well in pressure situations as we made our push for the Postseason. This is a credit to our Player Development and Scouting staffs under Doug Melvin’s leadership, and through their hard work, we have great reason to be optimistic about the future.

As we look forward to next season, I am also committed to building on the tremendous efforts the Brewers organization and players have made in the community — efforts that you, the fans, have been particularly instrumental in assisting. We specifically would like to thank you for your support of Brewers Community Foundation. With your help, we raised more than $3.2 million this year and provided significant in-kind donations for more than 1,200 area non-profit organizations that focus on health care, education, recreation, and basic needs services. In addition to what you provided, we are proud to say that every single uniformed Brewers player and executive of the Club’s front office staff contributed to Brewers Community Foundation in 2012.

The highlights from this season extended to events off the field as well. In August, we dedicated a new statue of fan-favorite and Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer Bob Uecker at the Home Plate Gate outside of Miller Park. His statue now stands among those for Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, and Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig that celebrate and honor legends of the Brewers franchise. Bob’s unique way of describing the joy of baseball has helped foster a strong bond for our Club in our community — a hometown guy who chose to stay in Milwaukee and share his passion for the game and life with us for more than forty years.

Over these past eight years, many exciting moments as a team were heard on the radio, viewed on Fox Sports Wisconsin or national telecasts, and witnessed at Miller Park. I know of no other place where the bond between a team and the community is stronger. For that, we have to continue to work hard to deliver on our pledges to you — to field a perennially competitive team that reaches the Postseason, where anything can happen; to deliver the best fan experience possible; to be an organization for which people want to work; and to be a leader in the community. We have had four winning seasons out of the past six, placing us among the most consistent winners in the National League, along with the Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, and Phillies. This year, your unwavering loyalty carried us through a rough patch to the end of a season that had the true excitement of a pennant race. As we gear up for Spring Training and next season, we are thrilled to know that come Opening Day, your enthusiasm will be there to greet us at Miller Park — and I know it will help lead us to another winning season both on and off the field.

Go Brewers!

Attanasio Signature

Mark Attanasio

Chairman and Principal Owner

Brewers Logo

Talk about a total team effort.  Your 2012 Milwaukee Brewers - batting 1.000 for our community.
Mark and Debbie Attanasio, along with Brewers Community Foundation, thank our 2012 team on and off the field, the Brewers Wives, and our fans for their contributions and commitment.
Brian Anderson
Norichika Aoki
John Axford
Jeff Bianchi
Joe Block
Ryan Braun
Craig Counsell
Marco Estrada
Eric Farris
Mike Fiers
Yovani Gallardo
Mat Gamel
Carlos Gomez
Alex Gonzalez
Taylor Green
Marcus Hanel
Corey Hart
Jim Henderson
Livan Hernandez
Garth Iorg
Travis Ishikawa
Brandon Kintzler
Rick Kranitz
Kameron Loe
Jonathan Lucroy
Martin Maldonado
Shaun Marcum
Doug Melvin
Nyjer Morgan
Jerry Narron
Johnny Narron
Davey Nelson
Manny Parra
Wily Peralta
Aramis Ramirez
Ron Roenicke
Francisco Rodriguez
Mark Rogers
Logan Schafer
Bill Schroeder
Ed Sedar
Jean Segura
John Shelby
Josh Stinson
Tyler Thornburg
Yorvit Torrealba
Lee Tunnell
Bob Uecker
Jose Veras
Rickie Weeks
BCF Logo

Decision Day is Drawing Nigh for the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers

At the close of play today, Thursday, July 5th, the Milwaukee Brewers sit with a record of 38-44, 8.0 games behind the National League Central Divison-leading Pittsburgh Pirates.

It’s a far cry from where the Brewers were a year ago at this time, and at times it feels like this year’s incarnation will never accomplish anything.

While this may prove to be true in the end, at least as far as a playoff participation is concerned, there is still plenty of time left this year to simply enjoy the game of baseball if nothing else.

Then again, there is still a small window of opportunity in front of the Brewers. Between now and Monday, July 23rd is a stretch of 12 regular-season games (along with the MLB All-Star break) which will decide how busy general manager Doug Melvin’s phone will be and whether he’ll be making calls or receiving them.

This stretch is singularly key to the Brewers decision-makers because all 12 games are intradivisional along with the final nine of those games coming against the three teams in front of them in the Division.

The three games prior to the break are in Houston, against an Astros team that traded off one of its only offensive pieces. Those are extremely winnable games, especially given that Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke will be pitching in the series.

The nine games immediately following the break begin with six at Miller Park (a place where the Brewers seriously need to play more consistent baseball) against the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, and then three on the road in Cincinnati against the Reds.

The Brewers trail the Cardinals by 5.5 games, the Reds by 6.5 games and, as I mentioned earlier, the Pirates by 8.0 games. So, while the Brewers would be hard-pressed to overtake any of the teams during this stretch, even should they somehow go 12-0, one can see the importance here.

Should the Brewers continue to falter and lose, the front office will be left with little choice but to sell off valuable pieces to the highest bidders. As we discussed on the podcast recorded Thursday morning (which hopefully will be posted soon), those pieces should include Shaun Marcum, George Kottaras, Nyjer Morgan, Francisco Rodriguez, Cesar Izturis, and even Zack Greinke (assuming the team is as far away on a contract offer as it appears that they are). Furthermore, should a team approach the Brewers with an acceptable offer for any expendable member of the Brewers roster, that deal should be made.

Nobody in the locker room wants the team to sell. They enjoy this group and want to maintain it, if at all possible. That just simply can’t happen if they have no chance of winning though.

Now, some may say that after the injuries to Chris Narveson, Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez that the team never had a chance, but that’s beside the point.

The point being: if the team can gain some significant ground on the teams ahead of them in the Division, and they do so by showing some consistent play in all facets of the game, the front office would likely try to add to the roster and make a push.

Nobody is saying that this scenario doesn’t seem like a tremendous long shot, but as of today at least its a shot that’s available to take.

Bottom line: Pay attention, Brewer Nation. A decision will be made by Monday, July 23rd as to whether this team buys or sells before the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline. Trust me, either way there will be plenty of time to make one or more deals, regardless of the direction of the roster.

Also, either way, it’ll be an exciting time to pay attention to the team. Just make sure you haven’t checked out by then.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #7 Norichika Aoki

One week.

Seven days.

168 hours.

10,080 minutes.

604,800 seconds.

As of 3:10 P.M. (Central Daylight Time) today, those are the independent totals of those different time measurements which, when counted down to zero, take you to the scheduled time for the first pitch of the 2012 regular season for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Can you feel the anticipation? Has the excitement started to build for you yet? Have you come up with your sick day story for work (and have you made sure you haven’t used it before)?

Whatever this next week holds for you personally or professionally, the biggest thing is making sure that your plans for Opening Day itself are set.

When are you arriving to the stadium? Are you tailgating? Shuttling in from Bluemound or the surrounding area? Planning on going in for team introductions and to see Miss America Laura Kaeppeler throw out the first pitch?

Or if you live too far away or weren’t able to acquire tickets… Are you tailgating at home? Having friends over? Playing some bean bag toss, ladder golf, or other game on your lawn?

Regardless of what it is, having a plan in place helps to make the day a success.

A man who doesn’t yet know what his plan will be in seven days is one of new imports to the ball club this year, and the man who will wear number 7 on his jersey:

Norichika Aoki.

At times, when discussing additions to a sports team, people will call the new players “imports” as I did above. Well, in the case of the 5’9”, 180 pound, left-handed hitting Nori Aoki, “import” is doubly true.

After spending the first eight years and 985 games of his professional career playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball League as a member of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and posting a career batting average of .329 along with 84 home runs, 385 RBI and 164 stolen bases, Aoki was posted to the Major Leagues.

Without attempting to explain the entire system, the Milwaukee Brewers posted the winning bid of $2.5 million which is paid to the Swallows if Aoki and the Brewers could agree to a contract to bring the former NPB batting champion, seven-time All-Star, six-time Golden Glove Award winner, and seven-time member of the Best Nine to the United States and MLB.

That winning big was announced on December 19, 2011 and the Brewers had a finite window in which to negotiate with Aoki. If they could come to terms, Aoki would join the Brewers for Spring Training. If not, the Brewers would keep their bid amount and Aoki would continue his career in Japan.

Aoki seemed to be willing and wanting to come to MLB, but at what cost on a total contract value became the question. This is a guy with major accolades over in NPB and multiple turns on the international Japanese team, including both of the World Baseball Classics which have been held to this point.

With all of those accolades, it was kind of a shock both that the Brewers won the negotiating rights and for how much they spent to do it. This seemed to indicate that the total contract cost wouldn’t be prohibitive for Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio’s budget.

Long story short (too late?), on January 17, 2012 the Brewers and Aoki agreed to a two-year contract with a team option for 2014, worth a total guaranteed amount of $2.5 million. It breaks down to $1 million in 2012, $1.25 million in 2013 and a buyout of the team option of $250k. On the high end, that figure can balloon all the way up to $8.1875 million if the club option is exercised and he hits all of the built-in incentives.

So why the seemingly low guaranteed dollar amount?

Part of it stems from Aoki’s age, but mostly from the fact that when NPB switched to a style of baseball which more closely mimicked an official MLB ball, Aoki had the worst numbers of his career. That was chalked up in the local media as him being stubborn about not being able to direct the ball wherever he wanted on the diamond quite as easily.

Aoki’s batting average in 2011 was a mere .292 with significantly decreased home runs, walks, and stolen bases over the previous five years.

What’s more, the Milwaukee Brewers don’t scout Japan with any kind of regularity and no scout in the organization had seen Aoki play in NPB in person. With the uncertainty regarding how his game would translate and the unfamiliarity between the parties, it seemed like a smallish contract was a wise move by the Brewers.

The terms were agreed to after Aoki worked out for the Brewers’ brass at their Maryvale facilities in Phoenix, Arizona and Aoki has been working toward a role on the team since. He has stated that the biggest change in Spring Training is that they worked a lot more often and longer sessions in Japan. He was having trouble getting acclimated to a lesser schedule.

That may have been a contributing factor in that Aoki began the Cactus League by going 5-for-30 (.167) with 1 triple, no home runs, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, and 0 SB through March 15. Manager Ron Roenicke then pulled Aoki aside for a chat about not worrying about impressing the team and that they just need Aoki to play his game, relax and realize that he’s got a job here.

Since then, Aoki has been on a blistering pace of 12-for-21 (.571) with 2 triples, 1 home run, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 3 SB, 2 K.

The other concern with Aoki was whether his throwing arm would be strong enough to handle center field, let alone right field. While he hasn’t been great in that regard, his arm has seemed accurate enough if sometimes lacking velocity. In other words, he’ll usually need to hit the cutoff man, but at least he’s able to.

All in all, the future appears bright enough that the chance Milwaukee took in importing Aoki should provide some benefits to reap.

As for Aoki’s plans on April 6? We should know soon enough whether Corey Hart will be far enough along in his rehabilitation from meniscus surgery to start in right field on Opening Day. If Hart is a go, Aoki’s name will be announced near the beginning of player introductions (since they are done numerically if you’re not in the starting lineup).

If Hart can’t answer the bell, chances for Aoki look up. If a left-handed starter takes the mound for St. Louis, then it would behoove Roenicke to not start Nyjer Morgan if at all possible, though he still could. However if a right-handed pitcher starts Milwaukee will likely go with Aoki to start the ballgame over the right-handed hitting Carlos Gomez.

But whether he starts on April 6th or not, Aoki is here for at least this year and the next so he’ll get his share of starts at some point.

Bottom line for Aoki though seems to be making sure he stays within his game and what got him to the heights of NPB and subsequently across the Pacific. That will help win games.

And if he helps win games, the Brewers and their fans will be very happy indeed.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #13 Zack Greinke

We’re a lucky 13 days away from Opening Day 2012.

(First of all, Happy 30th Birthday, Corey Hart!)

Moreover, it’s the second-to-last weekend without regular season baseball for the next six months.

Please excuse me for a moment while I reread that sentence, smile and exhale contently.

Where were we?

Oh right…

Toward the end of the 2010 season, the writing seemed to be on the walls at Miller Park.

The Brewers were limping to a 77-85 record and a third-place finish in the National League Central.

Littering the roster were players the likes of Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Doug Davis, Jody Gerut, Chris Smith, Adam Stern, Joe Inglett (knuckleball notwithstanding), and other players that have at best moved on to a different team and at worst are now out of the game altogether. Wasting space on the bench along side them was manager Ken Macha too.

And arguably the team’s best player received a standing ovation in his final home game because fans realized that what made the most sense for the future was probably sending Prince Fielder to a different team in order to get some return for him before he would inevitably leave town after the 2011 season anyway.

In short, the system was no longer working in Cream City, though you could argue that perhaps it never had because no World Series title had come home. All offense and minimal pitching wasn’t getting the job done. It was time for a change.

That change came by way of two off-season trades to acquire starting pitching. One was already discussed five days ago when we previewed #18 Shaun Marcum.

The other shall be discussed now because he wears #13. His name is:

Zack Greinke.

It was nearing Christmas in 2010 and Brewers fans were happily examining Shaun Marcum’s career statistics and wondering how he would perform following Yovani Gallardo as the number two in the starting rotation.

Then, all of a sudden, an acquaintance of mine started tweeting one night about another trade that he had caught wind of.  If it went down, it would change the game in the NL Central. If it came off, it would turn the division on its ear.

Needless to say, it went down.

Doug Melvin sent four young, talented ballplayers to the Kansas City Royals as a return for one “shortstop” and one Donald Zackary Greinke.

A former Cy Young Award winner coming to Milwaukee? That reminded a lot of people of the 2008 acquisition of CC Sabathia. That led to a playoff appearance. That was a good thing.

We all know now that 2011 ended with a trip to the NLCS, but it didn’t quite start out so happily.

Pitchers and Catchers reported to Spring Training in 2011 to expectations and hope among fans. Fielder was not traded, Greinke and Marcum were on the mound, John Axford was ready to slam the door on nearly any game with a late and close lead…in short, optimism abounded.

Then news began trickling out about a pickup basketball game, a hard fall, and a cracked rib.

The newly-acquired ace was shelved. He wouldn’t be with the team on Opening Day. He wouldn’t make a start in the entire month of April or maybe more. How would the team survive?

Greinke’s first start was on May 4 in Atlanta against the Braves. Greinke lost that start, only going four innings and allowing five runs (four earned).

Well, then worry turned to panic for some.

The team was 13-17 after Greinke’s first start. The cries were roughly the same. They gave up too much for this injury-prone bum. This guy can’t pitch even though he is “healthy”. They’re paying him how much to pitch this poorly?

Greinke won four of his next five starts, but allowed 16 earned runs over 30 innings.

The sky was officially falling.

“Maybe we can trade him.” “What a bum!” “Cy Yuck!”

It’s like it was “Jump to Conclusions Mat” night at Miller Park.

The only thing keeping the critics somewhat at bay was that by the end of May the team was 30-25 overall. In fact, from the first game Greinke pitched through the end of the season, the team played 33 games over .500 baseball.

Something about getting that piece back in the rotation calmed this team down. It helped Marcum, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson all perform better by way of bumping them to lesser opponents. It helped challenge Gallardo to be at his best each and every time out.

Greinke made everybody around him better. That’s an incredibly difficult thing to do in a sport like baseball. You are so self-reliant at times in this particular team game. Every at-bat is a one-on-one battle until wood hits leather, and even then there’s usually something that prevents a defender from being involved. Foul balls into the stands, home runs, come-backers…there’s a lot of aspects of the individual battle inside of the team sport.

But somehow Greinke had that effect.

He had an 11-0 record at Miller Park in 15 starts. His peripherals were solid despite some of the traditional stats not looking as good.

There is a statistic called xFIP which stands for expected fielding-independent pitching. To put it crudely, it measures what a pitcher’s ERA would be if the defense wasn’t a factor. Greinke’s was a 2.56 which was the best mark in baseball. (Gallardo, for the record, was tenth in all of baseball with a 3.19 xFIP.)

Greinke finished the season with a 16-6 record, 3.83 ERA, having allowed 161 hits and 45 walks (1.20 WHIP), 82 runs (73 earned), an opponents’ batting average of .245 and recording 201 strikeouts…in just 171.2 innings pitched over 28 starts. Yeah, 201 strikeouts after missing an entire month of starts.

Greinke wasn’t very good on the road, and he struggled in the playoffs, but those things (and perhaps the looming visage of free agency on the horizon) have made Greinke hungry though. He has spent Spring Training 2012 healthy which has allowed him to find a delivery which increases his control without sacrificing velocity. He’s also working on a new pitch.

A guy who struck out 201 and only walked 45 feels that he’ll have better command in 2012. He’s also put a cut fastball in his repertoire for the new season. In his most recent start of this writing, Greinke threw 76 pitches, over twenty of which were cutters. The results speak for themselves: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R,  0 BB, 9 K.

Do you think he’s ready for the season to begin? So does Ron Roenicke.

There has been talk this spring about a possible contract extension between Greinke and the Brewers. I, myself, reported on initial contact to that end happening last December during the Winter Meetings.

If the 2012 Cactus League is any indication, it would certainly behoove the Brewers to lock Greinke up sooner rather than later. If he has a season that lives up to his 2011 peripherals while having the traditional stats more in line with his ace persona…it could cost the Brewers a pretty penny to retain his services.

Working in Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio’s favor is that Greinke has praised them both in the media throughout the tenure of his employment in Milwaukee. He is allowed to scratch his itches, like attending a college baseball game to scout a player, for example. Milwaukee understands his social anxiety and allows Greinke to excuse himself from long meetings to take a quick mental break before getting back to work.

The environment has been wonderful for Greinke, and we fans are a big part of that. He loves playing in front of us and the support we show him is paramount in the Brewers’ attempts to retain his services.

In short, one more time, this relationship has been wonderful to this point and could very likely be wonderful for a few more years at least if a deal can be struck.

Greinke is working without an agent, though news came out today that he’s been consulting with Ryan Braun on some pitching comps as far as contracts that have been signed. No telling if anything will come of it, but at least for now it appears to be all positive.

For the Milwaukee Brewers to continue competing in the window which they’ve opened for themselves, quality pitching is a must. And when that quality is of such a high level and is already in town…

Well, it just goes to show you how important these negotiations are…assuming the sides are even actively talking at this point.

Short-term, however, and as a matter of opinion, 2012 is looking like an amazing opportunity for the Milwaukee Brewers to not only repeat at NL Central Champions, but also to possibly advance at least one more step into the World Series.

Once you’re in, anything can happen.

And should Greinke decides to stay in a Brewers uniform beyond 2012, anything might be possible over the length of that deal.

In short, as fans we should be so lucky.