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September 30, 2011
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN: Workout Day
Q. Doug, you've had a near-perfect off-season, season. Was there anything that happened that was wrong?
DOUG MELVIN: We have to win the World Series, that's what our goal is. So we have still got some steps to take. Some of the moves obviously worked out.
For teams to get to the position where we're in today, we've always talked about, you've got to be healthy, you've got to have guys having years that maybe you didn't expect them to have. And then you also usually count on players that you can go back to January and February, and there's always a player or two in your ballclub that you didn't even talk about back then. And we've got a few of those guys with Nyjer Morgan and K-Rod and Jerry Hairston.
So a lot of things have to fall right. But Ron, the coaching staff and players have all done their job to get us to this point, and all looking forward to continuing.
Q. I know you have read the stories about managers on the hot seat. Did you feel like you were on the hot seat when the team wasn't doing well?
DOUG MELVIN: Do I like reading that stuff?
Q. You always talk about it, at least.
DOUG MELVIN: No, the job -- these jobs are tough. It's the same thing as players. A player gets -- you're losing some games, your pitcher may not be pitching well or a hitter may not be hitting well. You have to just work hard at it and stay the course and believe in what you're doing, believe in your playing, believe in the people that you've surrounded yourself with.
So, no, I never really thought of it that way. But I know we started out one stretch 15 and 21 or something. That's what's great about the baseball season, as you can tell from this past whacky week, you have to play the whole year. You can't worry about it. It would be very unfair to managers, to general managers, to players, when maybe things aren't going well to make evaluations before the race is over.
Q. The attention is always on the trades that you made, be it for Zack or Shaun or Nyjer. But you've talked in the past about the moves you didn't make, and this year there were opportunities people thought you should be making. Can you talk about the moves that you did make or could have made ended up panning out?
DOUG MELVIN: I think in the off-season last year a lot of people thought that we were going to go in the off-season and our No. 1 goal was to trade Prince. I think that was brought out. And that wasn't our No. 1 goal. It was to try to put the best team we could together and try to get to postseason.
So I think that there was some speculation on moving Prince. And I think that was probably one of the best things we didn't do.
And I can't think of -- there's obviously some transactions or moves that we might have made during the season, I can't get into the specifics on them. But sometimes they are ones that don't work out and you're better off, after looking back now. You just analyze them. You sit down, analyze them. You make your trades.
As you know, when it gets to the trade deadline, I like to make the trades earlier, I don't like to get caught up in deadlines and react to somebody else making a trade.
Q. Doug, did you watch John Papelbon or Craig Kimbrel, I think they'll tell you it's not easy to lock down the last out. These two teams here have been really good at it. Arizona hasn't blown a lead after 8 innings and you've only blown one. Do you see the battle of the bullpens being a big thing in this series, and accordingly, you may need to score early if you want to win these games?
DOUG MELVIN: There's some similarities to these two teams. The bullpen, both teams have power. Both teams have good quality pitching. I think they've scored more runs than us with less hits, but they're an aggressive team. So there's a lot of similarities to their club and our club.
Q. Do you feel that this team is one of the most well- rounded, not just in the National League, but in baseball, and do you think the players share the same sense?
DOUG MELVIN: Our goal in off-season was to get the team well-balanced. You look at the 16 teams, we were 13th, 14th, whatever. Offensively in the past years we've been in the top five or six. So we just needed to bring better balance to performance and to our club. And we've done that. I think the players feel that.
Our team, they have a lot of confidence in each other. They trust each other. I think there's games where the starting pitchers weren't on the top of the game, the offense came back and scored runs. And there's been times where the pitchers kept the game real close. And you trust your bullpen. They really have a lot of confidence in each other, and they trust each other.
But that's what you have to do, you've got to trust each component of your ballclub. Our players are confident. There's some veteran guys there that have been here before. And then we have some players that are younger, but no longer young and experienced that were in the postseason in 2008. It's a little different feel this time than in 2008.
Q. [Indiscernible] beyond fielding a highly successful team, what do you attribute that to?
MARK ATTANASIO: I think it starts with the fan base. And I think that, you know -- I think it's all about the fans, I really do. I think they've gotten behind -- frankly, last year, we had games in mid-September that were -- I think we were probably ten games out at that point. And kids were back to school and we had 35,000 people coming out to games.
Bob Uecker talks about Milwaukee is a baseball town. And it really is. So I think Doug and his staff have put a quality product on the field. Rick Schlesinger and his group have put a quality product, when you come to this ballpark, and things we were looking forward to in the playoffs, showcasing Miller Park and what a great fan experience it is here.
And by the way, folks, feel free to get some gear while you're here (laughter). So I think that all kind of comes together.
Q. Doug, this question is for you, when you acquired Nyjer, did you have any idea his personality would have the impact it has and take on a life of its own?
DOUG MELVIN: No, I really didn't. Our scouter recommended him, Leon Wurth, people that have seen Nyjer play, but I knew his aggressive style of play could be contagious, and we are an aggressive club. We do have players that play the game hard.
But, you know, the other things that come with Nyjer really did energize our ballclub a lot. He got off to a good start and played really well. I look at the physical skills. You do your homework, and try to find out if they're a good mix in the clubhouse. I felt confident. We did make some phone calls and find out that Nyjer just loves to play and loves to compete and he's about winning, and we've seen that.
Q. You've taken this team from what was essentially a small market club, and it still is maybe to some, but you literally moved it up a tier, given your ability to increase the fan experience and bump up the payroll. How much faith do you have to have in the guy next to you in order to write that first big check, especially?
MARK ATTANASIO: You have to have a lot of faith in your general manager, not only in his ability to pick players, but his ability in Doug, which we don't really talk about, because it's complicated to explain, he's got a terrific ability to manage the payroll. And usually it's me more pressing Doug, Can we have this, can we have that, rather than a general manager coming to me saying, Gee, I made this mistake, because I need more money. I don't think Doug has ever come to me and said, I need more money. He's always been able to work within whatever budget we have.
And that gives the ownership group a lot of confidence that we can support him when he says, Hey, I've got this idea. And it's really focused on baseball, and but it always makes sense with him, I think.
Q. You mentioned 2008, just comparing that team to this team, how much more confident do you feel about this 2011 team in the postseason?
DOUG MELVIN: Well, I think in 2008 C.C. was a big part of that. He really carried us in the month of September. But again this roster, I just think is more balanced. We went into 2008 Ben Sheets was hurt, too. We felt confident in '08 if we could have had Ben pitching, Yovani was coming back, and C.C., but it didn't work out that way and we had to use C.C. right up to the last game to win.
But this game, I just think the experience factor, some of the veterans that are in there, Mark is great, K-Rod, those kind of players, I think, have a major impact on our ballclub. I was confident with the 2008 team. I think when you go the second time with some of these players, I think there's just a little more at ease, what to expect. And I think they're ready for a good series.
They have a lot of respect for the Diamondbacks and what they've done, too. I just talked to Kevin Towers. A year ago he wasn't working. And it's great to see him back as a general manager, because he's talented. He's got a talented ballclub and talented coaching staff and manager, too. I'm looking forward to a real good series.
Q. Staying with 2008, your players have talked about what they've learned to prepare themselves for this time around. When you were making your moves in building this team, aside from upgrading the pitching, were there specific things you wanted to accomplish to get a team in the playoffs and that the players had to set themselves specific goals to get to the playoffs? Did you learn something in 2008 that maybe you did different this time?
DOUG MELVIN: I think the hiring of Ron Roenicke helped. Ron had been to postseason, he's an experienced baseball person, bringing in a coaching staff. I had a lot of confidence that Ron could come in and set the tone for those players of what it meant to get to postseason and set those goals of talking about going to a World Series, and just not talking about competing.
So scouting staff, player development, we provide the players and then we have an idea what we want, but your ideas don't work if you don't have people that you trust and people that you have in place to carry out the ideas. And Ron did a great job keeping an even keel with this team. And like Adam said, we started out poorly, with a losing record early on, he was the right guy to not panic, and had a coaching staff that didn't panic.
Every time I go in the coaching room, I'd hear the guys say, This is a good team, we have a good team and we're going to be okay. Hearing that made me feel good that there was still a lot of baseball left. So I think Ron and the coaching staff come into play with taking it to that level of where we're at now.
Q. Are you guys going to wait to tomorrow to announce your playoff roster? Are there tough decisions on it or is it pretty easy?
DOUG MELVIN: We're probably going to wait until tomorrow. We don't have any tough decisions, I don't think. You never know. We have until 10:00 tomorrow for the time, so you just wait until the players come in. You make sure somebody didn't fall out of bed and sprain their ankle or slam their finger in a car door. With trade deadlines, I'm always one to get out there early, but with the roster, I always wait to the end.
Q. Is the 25th one a tough call at all?
DOUG MELVIN: You could go either way on it.
Q. Can you take us into your world? To buy a baseball team, make all the right moves, to clinch a division, to be at home field for the first round. What's it been like for you the past week?
MARK ATTANASIO: Just backing up, one of the real benefits I had when I came is actually that Doug was here, he joined in '03 and I bought the team in '05.
One of the things I found when I was looking at the situation here is we had this diamond in the rough in Milwaukee. We had a terrific management group in place, both in baseball and on the business side. A marvelous facility, which we've since only added to. And we had a terrific group of players coming up and so are the guys in the game this weekend, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart were all in the farm system when I bought the team. Ryan Braun was our first draft choice, and I sat and I wanted to see how the process works. So I actually sat in the war room with Doug and his group and watched them deliberate. And pretty good choice there (laughter).
So, you know, fast-forward, I was saying this last night to someone, what you don't really know -- everyone comes in with a situation and thinks they're going to succeed. I was confident in my ability to succeed here. What I found out quickly was how difficult it was to succeed. If I knew how difficult it was, I might not have been so confident. But I think confidence helps.
I've learned a lot along the way. And Doug has made a lot of right moves. And one of the things I said in the interview earlier, he's not afraid to take risks. So he's made some moves that haven't worked out. But what strikes me is that he's willing to put himself on the line and take the risk and he's very convicted one way or another usually on a player. And I think that's helped us a lot.
Because we did have a lot of good fortune, all these pieces coming into place this year, but without the conviction and the risk-taking ability to consider those changes, you don't even get there. Michael Jordan, I think, said once, you know, you've got to be able to take the last shot. You can't make the last shot unless you're willing to take it. Something like that. Unless Doug is willing to put himself out there and make a number of these moves, we don't even get to think that way. So that's been my thoughts this week.
Q. How much of managing the payroll is not having to spend millions on a closer? As a fellow Canadian, do you take some special satisfaction in John?
DOUG MELVIN: John has done a great job. And as far as in Texas and we lost in '96 and Mike Henneman was our closer, but he wasn't the legitimate closer. So next year, I heard that, you can't win without having a quality closer, and you need to spend money. So we spent money on John.
I've gone both ways, of course. We're just fortunate that John Axford is at the early stages of his career and very talented in what he does. But closers are so important. Again, back to this last week, closers are so important to have.
I believe that -- I'm almost sure that any pitcher could close 30 games, you could put anybody out there, that could save 30 games. It's the last 15 to 18 saves that are the important ones. But I think anybody can play -- it's not that easy, but most pitchers could save 30 games.
As far as the payroll goes, it is all balancing it. Where is your money; in your offense, your pitching, your bullpen? It changes each year. Mark has been very good when we had to go get somebody. Like getting K-Rod, that cost us some money, we took on additional payroll in midseason. That was a huge move.
Again, we don't do that unless if he says, No, we don't need to. Axford hasn't blown any saves. Then he steps up and we were able to add him. But it changes each year, where you're spending your money. It depends on the development of your young players, who's coming next.
We've had some good, young players on the offensive side of things that produced real early in their careers. And they were doing it for $450,000 and now we know what their dollars are. So we get a lot of help. We go through it.
It is a business in that respect, trying to balance the roster. But we're proud of what we've done with the ballclub and that this year, with the payroll. And everybody -- just spending money doesn't mean you're going to win, obviously.
Q. Mark, you touched on the number of fans that have come out. Have you ever been in a situation that has so much passion and so much excitement for a team? Have you ever found something like that comparable?
MARK ATTANASIO: That's a very good point. Our fans -- I remember early on in my tenure, I don't remember if it was '05 or '06, we lose in a game like 10 to 1 or something, I think it might have been inner League against the Twins or something. I looked back on the seats and everybody was still there. And I thought, Wow. That's not what you see in most cities and most sports. That's not just baseball. Usually if the game is over, people start drifting out.
And the other night when we clinched, I've never seen anything -- we had something like that in '08 when we beat the Cubs. But I think there was a few Cubs fans in the building that night who did leave. But the other night, I think we had 44,000 people. I think everybody stayed. And not only stayed to the end watching the game, they stayed through the players' celebration. The players then were out. They were still in the parking lots. Our stores were open all night that night.
I wouldn't say unrivaled, but our fans' passion is tangible.
Q. You mentioned earlier about Kevin Towers, specifically on the field, what do you admire with Arizona's ballclub, and how do they matchup against your team?
DOUG MELVIN: They're a very aggressive ballclub. I think they take the characteristics of their manager, Kirk Gibson, who has done a great job. They have a lot of veteran coaches over there in Eric Young, Matt Williams, and Alan Trammell. Guys with big-league careers. They're a solid baseball group.
And Kevin has always been aggressive as a general manager. So I don't think anybody picked them to win that division this year. So they're a pretty good story. But beyond the story, they're very talented. I do see some similarities with the ball clubs. Like I said, they have the top of their rotation they've got some pretty good pitching in Kennedy and Hudson, you know, the same way that we do with our starting pitching. They're back into the bullpen, they have some guys hitting the ball out of the ballpark.
It's a pretty good matchup for us. And we're looking forward to it. But they're an aggressive ballclub.
Q. Mark, I guess you guys are announcing later today the ticket increase for next year. Could you talk about in this market with your kind of smallish media revenue how important ticket revenue is to this team and especially to draw 3 million, and to be at the payroll level, even with the 3 million how hard it is to meet your payroll?
MARK ATTANASIO: All revenue is important that we get in. Ticket revenue for our club, and it's probably even true for the mid-market teams, because we are -- the only way we are defined as small market, as far as I'm concerned, is with media revenue.
But we do have the smallest demographic in Major League Baseball in terms of media as measured. So we have to really strike a balance. And that balance is continuing to be fan friendly. I think every year we are considered one of the best fan experiences in baseball, and one of the most affordable experiences in baseball.
And we look at that number. And so there are all different ways of looking at that number. That number is going to go from $25 all in for tickets and concessions, parking or whatever, to $26 now. And we don't want to -- I look around the ballpark and I see a lot of kids there. And we don't want to price families out of the ballpark. Those are our future fans.
And me and my family are looking forward to staying with this team for a long time. I care a lot about what the attendance is going to be ten years from now, not just what it's going to be next year or the revenues are going to be next year.
But we have to balance. That is our key revenue component and everybody is enjoying being in the playoffs. But it does cost money. So we're trying to strike a balance. We're trying to raise prices more close to the field than far away from the field so we don't price -- you want to be able to have a family of four come out to the ballpark and enjoy the game. We also run all kinds of specials and things and packages to make sure that people can get in the ballclub. What's the cheapest seat you can get?
Q. You can get a Uecker seat for a dollar?
MARK ATTANASIO: There are other ballparks you can get a dollar seat, but you can't get a Uecker seat.
So we try to balance all that. Rick Schlesinger and I met the other day for two hours on this. Section by section, price by price, trying to make sure that it's fair and works for everyone.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports