Surrounded by reporters in the entryway to the Miller Park press box Wednesday night, Milwaukee Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio took his first steps into uncharted territory following the suspension of Ryan Braun for violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement.
"There’s no road map, so the first road map is I was in town today and I was going to face everyone here and not back down or pretend I wasn’t here," Attanasio said. "You know, I like to look at things organically. I think … I very much feel like I’m part of the community, and this community trusted Ryan, so I understand how the community is reacting is negatively. Typically in the past the community has been more supportive, if anything the community has been more negative and it’s because the community had been trusting and has had that trust betrayed. And so, we’ll all feel it together when it’s working again."
In his first meeting with the media since Braun accepted his suspension Monday – a decision the owner called the 2011 Most Valuable Player’s baby steps toward redemption – Attanasio spoke for nearly 12 minutes on the subject.
Earlier in the day he had met face-to-face with Braun, who apologized yet again to the man who signed off on a five-year, $105 million extension in April, 2011.
"I’m sad," Attanasio said. "This is not what … when I thought about Milwaukee baseball this is not what I envisioned."
Braun was first connected with performance enhancing drugs when news of a positive drug test leaked out in December, 2011. He appealed that positive test and 50-game suspension and won in February of 2012. Less than a year after that victory, he was once again linked to PEDs when his name surfaced in documents at the Biogenesis lab in Florida.
Now, he will miss the rest of the 2013 season.
"There’s kind of a unique circumstance here," Attanasio said. "I don’t think there’s a road map for that. There was a year and a half between when this all started and now, so this is going to take time. I told Ryan that this is going to take time. This is something that no matter how open, honest, truthful, sincere he is in the next press conference or a meeting like this (with reporters) that is one step and it’s going to take time. The community will know.
"Everyone will know when, if he gets over that threshold, that he’s gotten over it, because the community will be in a position that they can embrace him again."
Attanasio said Braun could not divulge the specifics behind the "mistakes" he admitted to in his statement following the announcement of the suspension, due in large part to baseball’s ongoing investigation. He believes Braun wants to address this situation publicly, but he currently cannot due to that investigation.
And as for whether or not Braun will remain a Milwaukee Brewer, Attanasio said the following:
"He’s under contract with us. I know there’s a lot of commentary on that. Right now, the full expectation is to keep him. And the full expectation is that he’s going to do the right things, he’s going to say the right things and he’s going to put in a lot of hard work to get back into folk’s good graces and that’s going to take some time. It’s not like we’re going to be at Opening Day next year and we’re going to be through this. We are not going to be through this."
When asked how he can reconcile the fact that the face of the franchise is also a "baseball pariah," Attanasio distanced himself from both assertions.
"Well, you know, the media uses a lot of provocative terms and pariah is a provocative term," he said. "’Face of the franchise’ is a term, too. We never really use that term here. If you look at our media guide, we’ve got a lot of faces on the media guide this year and Ryan was number two in the MVP voting last year, so we’ve never really looked at him just that way. I’d rather not deal with specific terms like that.
"I’d rather deal with Ryan redeeming himself, what it’s going to take, how long it’s going to take, qualitatively what he needs to do and it’s something that he’s going to have to put a lot of effort in to."
Nine days ago, Attanasio took in Paul McCartney’s nearly three hour concert, calling it one of the greatest moments he had ever taken in at Miller Park.
"I never expected at that point that I’d be standing here today, but here we are," he said. "And I think we will work together to ride through the difficult times so we can enjoy some good times again. And there will be good times again."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.