MILWAUKEE -- Three months after he bought the Brewers in 2004, Mark Attanasio approved a trade that brought Carlos Lee to Milwaukee. As Attanasio said Sunday, "We went right at it."
Year after year, Attanasio kept going at it. Now, he and the Brewers are in the midst of a big step in a different direction, which made Sunday's "Brewers On Deck" event at Milwaukee's downtown convention center so different from years past. Since the same event one year earlier, the franchise has a new general manager, a new field manager and so many new players that Attanasio found himself reminiscing on Sunday about his first fanfest, when he was the new guy making the rounds.
"I don't want sugarcoat things for fans," said Attanasio, who participated in a Q&A session as part of the daylong event. "I thought I was pretty direct in the letter I wrote in December. I've told [GM] David [Stearns] and [assistant GM] Matt [Arnold] that I'm patient. We've seen in Chicago and Houston it took five years. We're hopeful we can do it quicker, but it will be what it will be. …
"I want them to not look season to season and at the calendar, but I want them to look at what we need to do to get back to the playoffs. If that takes a few years, it takes a few years."
That plea for patience permeated this year's On Deck event, which featured the usual array of panel discussions, game shows, autograph sessions and all things baseball. Relievers Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress drew a big crowd with a lip sync battle, Ryan Braun made news when he said he's behind schedule in his rehab from back surgery, and Matt Garza spoke with urgency about bouncing back from a bad season. But the day was mostly an opportunity for Brewers fans to meet the new guys, of which there were plenty.
On April 4 against the Giants, the Brewers will have a new Opening Day first baseman, shortstop, third baseman, center fielder and starting pitcher. They have a new Opening Day manager in Craig Counsell, and a different GM in Stearns, who has orchestrated eight trades, and counting, since taking over in October.
"We have such a knowledgeable fan base, a fan base that looks around baseball and understands how some of these other really successful organizations have been built," Stearns said. "That's what they want -- they want us to be in the same place, where we can compete consistently year in and year out. And so as along we we're all shooting toward that goal, I think everyone's going to stay on board."
Said Braun: "I look forward to it. In a unique way, I think this is a special challenge for all of us. We're not breaking up a juggernaut team that has gone to the postseason each of the last five years or something. It is not like we're breaking up a team that had a tremendous amount of success."
That outlook stood in contrast to that of catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who cited family commitments in missing Sunday's event but publicly expressed disappointment about the Brewers' decision to shift into a multiyear rebuilding process. Braun said he'd spoken to Lucroy in the wake of those comments, and "made it clear to him that's not how we are going to handle the situation."
If Lucroy is not traded before then, Attanasio said he would wait until Spring Training to have a similar discussion.
"Jonathan is like me. He wants to win," Attanasio said. "He works hard. He's one of our hardest-working guys. He and I have the same mindset on this. That said, at this moment, it looks like he will be back. As an owner, I'm delighted he will be playing for us this year."
Attanasio conceded it will be difficult to stay patient if losses pile up.
"This is a new experience," Attanasio said. "I'm embracing the experience. Sure it is hard. It was very hard my first year, when we traded Lyle Overbay. That was one player. Now it is a number of guys I've enjoyed watching here. But I'm looking forward to see who is going to step up and close games for us this year. I'm trying to approach it from that perspective."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.