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Attanasio knows big payday looming for Brewers' ace Sabathia

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio laughed Thursday when asked if he's got $200 million in a suitcase for CC Sabathia.

"This is a high class problem, don't you think?" Attanasio asked rhetorically. "If anybody ever deserved a big contract, it's CC Sabathia, right?"

Attanasio's smile faded just a little when pressed on the reality of signing what may be the best midseason acquisition ever. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, acquired from Cleveland in July, is 9-0 with a 1.43 ERA in 11 starts with Milwaukee.

"[General manager] Doug Melvin has done a good job saying let's get through the season and then we'll go from there," Attanasio said. "CC obviously is going to deserve everything he gets. We'll evaluate after the season."

Still, the Los Angeles investment banker who bought the Brewers before the 2005 season knows a good deal when he sees one.

"The Sabathia investment feels pretty good right now. I think he's been a huge boost for the team, not only on the field but in the clubhouse," Attanasio said. "He's just really just a great guy. I think that goes with a lot of the veteran leadership we're looking for -- Jason Kendall, Mike Cameron, Jeff Suppan, Gabe Kapler, Craig Counsell, Ray Durham, hope I didn't miss anybody there."

That veteran leadership could help the Brewers reach the postseason for the first time since a 1982 run to the World Series. Milwaukee entered Thursday night's game with San Diego leading the NL wild-card race by a comfortable margin.

Last season, the Brewers slid badly down the stretch and finished 83-79, two games out of the postseason.

"You don't get 21 games above .500 without a good team," Attanasio said. "This year, it's really more pitching and defense."

Milwaukee significantly upgraded its pitching July 7, sending power hitter Matt LaPorta and three other prospects to the Indians for the 6-foot-7 Sabathia. Attanasio says the difference will be measured in innings to years.

"Don't forget, Matt LaPorta is going to be a great major league baseball player," Attanasio said. "You guys are going to be talking about him for years. We're trying to enjoy every inning we have with CC because the Indians are going to have years of Matt LaPorta."

Does the owner have any regrets about the move?

"No, no, no, no, no," he said. "From the moment this guy came to us. He was on the next plane, he was here the next day. ... Look at what message that sends to everybody."

The fans have responded, too, selling out the first 22 home games since Sabathia was acquired while passing the 3 million mark in tickets sold. Miller Park has averaged almost 38,000 per game, or nearly 90 percent capacity this season.

"Whether you're an airline or a hotel company or a baseball team, that kind of capacity is what you want to be running," Attanasio said.

One of the big reasons for the big crowds is Sabathia, who won his second straight NL pitcher of the month award this week. Ironically, the left-hander was one of the only players in the clubhouse not to speak out about his last start.

Sabathia threw a one-hitter in Milwaukee's 7-0 win at Pittsburgh on Sunday that most of his teammates thought was a no-hitter.

Andy LaRoche's soft grounder that Sabathia dropped in the fifth inning was ruled a hit and MLB's scoring review committee upheld scorer Bob Webb's ruling Wednesday. The decision kept Sabathia from retroactively receiving a no-hitter, which would have been the second in Brewers history.

"It's over," Sabathia said. "If I make the play, there's no debate. So, it's just one of those deals. My own fault, so there's nobody to blame but me. Hopefully I get in a position to try and do that again one day. We won the game, we got a sweep. That was the most important thing. I said that the first day."

And manager Ned Yost, who called the scoring rule a "joke" after the game, feigned ignorance on Thursday.

"What? What no-hitter? CC threw a one-hitter," he said. "It was dead with me about four days ago, whatever they decided."

But Yost can't ignore Sabathia, and he's running out of superlatives to categorize his ace's terrific pitching.

"If you haven't seen him it would be hard to believe," Yost said. "You couldn't make this stuff up in your wildest dreams, really."