PHOENIX -- Unlike many of his rivals, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has seen his ticket sales increase this winter. In turn, Attanasio has allowed the Brewers payroll to increase, to the point where if Braden Looper and Eric Gagne make their incentives, the team could be spending close to $90 million.
But Attanasio said today that he's concerned, in part because of two factors outside the team's control.
First, he said, banks have tightened the league-wide line of credit that clubs can use to help cover losses. Second, because other teams haven't done as well as Milwaukee in ticket sales, Attanasio said he expects that revenue-sharing checks will be smaller in 2009 than they were in 2008.
"(With credit tightening), owners would have to support losses with equity checks from themselves and their investors, rather than just borrowing money," Attanasio said today, on a visit to the Brewers spring training camp. "We don't want to get in that situation. We have a very prudent amount of debt, but we want to keep it that way."
The Brewers began last season with a payroll just over $80 million, then allowed it to rise by trading for CC Sabathia at midseason. Attanasio said that in the Milwaukee market, a $90 million payroll is about the limit that the Brewers can afford.
"I'm a little nervous this year, but that will be my nervousness," he said.
Attanasio called for a salary cap after the Yankees signed Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira, and he renewed that call today. He hadn't yet heard that Red Sox owner John Henry echoed the call in a meeting with the media in Fort Myers.
"A number of owners privately supported (the call for a cap)," Attanasio said. "Not too many proved willing to stick their neck out publicly."
But is there really any chance at a cap, an idea that the player's union has always strongly opposed?
"You know, I'll tell you what," Attanasio said. "There's a lot of things that have come to pass that 18 months ago would have had no chance of happening."