"I just said how proud I was of the team and the guys and how hard we were playing," Attanasio said. "Because we haven't always played this hard when we have had to, and this club was. The way I got brought up by my mom and dad was to tell the truth, so if I didn't really feel that way, I could have just gone home and had a drink. But I really believed that there was nothing to feel bad about."
As Attanasio chatted in the Brewers' dugout on Wednesday afternoon, his team was still alive, two games behind the Rockies in the chase for the second NL Wild Card spot with five to play after Colorado crushed the Marlins.
But at the same time, 20 of Stearns' baseball operations assistants were preparing for all of the possible play-in and postseason scenarios ahead, according to Attanasio, and it was also possible to think about the future. The Brewers will enter the offseason with essentially a clean slate, since only Ryan Braun and Eric Thames have contracts beyond this year, accounting for about $24 million of 2018 payroll. That figure will rise as arbitration-eligible players come to terms, but relative to other Major League teams, the Brewers have extreme payroll flexibility.
That means opportunity, if Stearns & Co. see it.
"We're in a fortunate position so we can maybe punch a little bit above our weight," Attanasio said. "We have limited contracts this year and no bad contracts."
Does that means he expects to throw some proverbial punches in the trade market or free agency?
"They have to do all their planning. Then they have to see what our needs are and what the opportunities are," Attanasio said of the front office. "These guys have been an opportunistic group; we've all seen that. If there's an opportunity, we won't be shy about seizing it. But it has to be an intelligent opportunity."
All of that will have to wait. There are still games to play.
"It's certainly been a unique ride," Attanasio said. "I was reflecting on other seasons that came down to the wire like this. In 2008, with six games to go we were one game [behind] the Mets for the Wild Card, and it worked out. In 2011, we clinched around now. In 2012, we actually got eliminated 'yesterday'. Then in 2014 -- I don't even want to remember how bad that was. That was in Pittsburgh and miserable when we got eliminated. We just completely faded.
"You know, it's been a great ride for a lot of reasons. It was not expected this season. Or if somebody did expect it, I'd like to know who it was. Maybe Craig Counsell might have expected it. Craig said, 'Don't put any limits on the team,' and then David adopted that way of speaking. That certainly worked here."