Friday, January 30, 2009

Attanasio Talks Finances

Thanks to John in Menasha for sending this Sporting News Q/A with the Brewer's owner.

After watching the Yankees spend nearly $424 million on three free agents this offseason, Attanasio made headlines by suggesting that Major League Baseball implement a salary cap. Among the Yankees' high-priced newcomers is CC Sabathia -- the ace who helped lead the Brewers to the playoffs in 2008 (Milwaukee's first postseason appearance in 26 years). Mark Kass of the Milwaukee Business Journal recently spoke with Attanasio about the cap, the poor economy and the Brewers' revival.

Q: Why did you suggest the idea of salary cap, and how would it help the Brewers compete against the larger-market teams?

A: It was right after the Yankee had signed Mark Teixeira, after signing CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. It just seemed to me to have one team signing three free agents at those high prices, as compared to what the other 29 teams were doing, there was something wrong with the competitive balance in the league. Competitive balance has been great in baseball for the last decade or so, and we have to keep it like that. I am concerned, especially in a bad economy like this, that you have a segmenting out of the haves and the have-nots. When the gap widens between the haves and the have-nots, it throws the competitive balance out of whack.

Q: Do you think there is a chance a cap will get implemented?

A: It wasn't so much that I am hung up on salary cap as I would like to see competitive balance. Whether it is a salary cap or making the luxury tax payments greater, whatever you have to do to keep the competitive balance. What I don't want to do is have people think we need a handout here in Milwaukee. We don't need a handout in Milwaukee, but we do need the playing field to be level.

Q: Are you getting much support from other team owners?

A: A lot of owners are telling me privately that they agree with me, but I don't see a lot of people speaking up on the issue. It's a free country and you can speak your mind. I really hope this is something that Major League Baseball deals with over the next couple of years. It is important to the future of the game.

Q: How has the economic downturn impacted the team's operations?

A: It has impacted our ability and our willingness to spend money ... because you are just not sure what is going to happen in this economy. Frankly, with everything (that) is going on in this economy, I am getting a little nervous with our payroll at $80 million to $85 million. We are going to try and walk that fine line of spending money responsibly, with an emphasis on the word "responsibly" and not on the word "spend."

Q: You have to be happy with the ways things have gone so far. You've sold a million tickets more quickly than any year in team history, and sponsorships are holding their own.

A: I think this is a city that really embraces the Brewers. We have a great fan base. As you know, I've always felt that. That was one of the reasons why I was interested in buying this team.


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