Craig Counsell

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Craig John Counsell

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Biographical Information[edit]

Infielder Craig Counsell is the son of former minor league outfielder John Counsell. A veteran of sixteen big league seasons, Craig became the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2015.

Playing Career[edit]

Originally property of the Colorado Rockies, Craig was known for his unusual and extreme batting stance. He would stand at the plate on his toes, with the bat pulled as far up and back as humanly possible, high above his head, and would start his swing from this bizarre position. It worked for him, as he played 16 seasons, until the age of 40, even though he played only 3 major league games by the age of 25. In 1,624 games, he hit .255/.342/.344 while scoring 647 runs.

Craig is also well-known for his postseason performances. Following a 2-for-5 performance in the 1997 NLDS for the Florida Marlins, he gained regular at bats in the NLCS and World Series. Counsell first tied the deciding Game 7 of the World Series with a sacrifice fly off Jose Mesa of the Cleveland Indians in the 9th, then scored the winning run on Edgar Renteria's single off Charles Nagy to give the Fish their first world championship. Four years later, Craig was the starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 Fall Classic, when they upset the New York Yankees in seven games. Counsell was on base when Luis Gonzalez rapped his walk-off single against Mariano Rivera, putting Craig in exclusive company by being on base twice in a World Series walk-off. In fact, the walk-off hits by Edgar and Luis are the last two in Series history. Craig did not hit particularly well in either World Series, going 4-for-22 (.182) in 1997 and 2 for 24 (.083) in 2001. He was a beast in the NLCS both years, hitting .429 and .381 respectively and being named MVP of the 2001 NLCS.

Counsell's .990 fielding percentage at second ranked first in the National League in 2005. In his final season, 2011, playing for the Brewers, he went through an 0-for -5 slump in July and early August. At the time, it was considered to be one at bat shy of Bill Bergen's MLB record for futility set with the Brooklyn Superbas in 1909. Counsell's streak brought new attention to Bergen's, and on August 12th, SABR researcher Joe Dittmar announced Bergen's streak had in fact been of 44 at bats, meaning Counsell had tied the all-time record for futility. He did not keep that dubious honor for long, as the Los Angeles Dodgers' Eugenio Velez had a hitless season which extended his fruitless streak of at bats to 46 over two years, although Counsell still held the single season record. He played his last game in the 2011 NLCS.

Managerial career[edit]

Counsell got back in the game on May 4, 2015, when he was named the replacement for Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke, who had been fired the previous day with the team sporting the worst record in the majors (7-18). It was his first managerial or coaching assignment at any level, but he already knew many of the players having played with them only a few years earlier. After retiring, he had worked as a special assistant to Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin, with his duties including some scouting and minor league instruction. He came into the managers's job with a thorough knowledge of the organization and its players, compensating for his lack of actual managerial experience. After not having been ejected from a single game during his playing career, he was tossed for the first time on July 27th, when he came out of the dugout to defend Carlos Gomez, who had been ejected for throwing his helmet after being caught stealing in the 9th inning of a 4-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Craig came out to argue that the punishment handed to Gomez was excessive and was tossed.

In his first full season as manager in 2016, the Brewers had a forgettable year as they finished in fourth place, well off the pace, but the team's top brass was evidently satisfied with his work. On November 11th, they signed him to a three year contract extension. In 2018, he led the Brewers to within a win of the World Series, bowing out in seven games to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. During the postseason, he was noted for the creative use of his pitching, using a bullpen game on a couple of occasions and relying heavily on his relievers in the absence of top line starting pitching. He took the Brewers back to the postseason in 2019, as they played the Wild Card Game against the eventual champs, the Washington Nationals. The Brewers had a lead late in the game before the Nats came back to win, 4-3. Following the season, he was given a new three-year extension taking him to 2023. The Brewers made the postseason again in 2020 and 2021, going out in the first round of the postseason both years, then after missing out in 2022, when they finished second. That was a one-year blip as the Brewers came back strong to win another division title in 2023, their third under Counsell's leadership, and make their fifth postseason appearance in six years. This was followed by another quick exit, however, as they were swept at home in two games at home by the Ariona Diamondbacks in the Wild Card Series. During that season, rumors had emerged that Counsell may want to move to a bigger team where he would have a chance to contend for a World Series title, and not just a quick appearance in the postseason, with the two managerial positions in New York being seen as potential landing spots.

After the 2023 season, on November 6th, Counsell was named manager of the Chicago Cubs for 2024. It was a stunning announcement, as David Ross's position as skipper was not seen to be in danger after he had led the team through a difficult reconstruction and back to contender status. The Cubs evidently felt they needed someone else to take the final step to the promised land, and saw Counsell as a proven winner who was universally respected within the industry. He was offered a five-year contract worth $40 million to accept the job, rejecting a similarly lucrative offer from the Brewers to take on the new challenge. Because Counsell's contract had expired on November 1st, the Cubs had not been required to ask Milwaukee's permission to interview Counsell, and would not be required to offer any form of compensation either.

On June 15, 2022, he won his 564th game as Brewers manager, passing Phil Garner for first on the team's all-time list.

Craig holds a degree in accounting from the University of Notre Dame.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Preceded by
Ron Roenicke
Milwaukee Brewers Manager
Succeeded by
Pat Murphy
Preceded by
David Ross
Chicago Cubs Manager
Succeeded by

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
2015 Milwaukee Brewers National League 61-76 4th Milwaukee Brewers replaced Ron Roenicke (7-18) on May 4
2016 Milwaukee Brewers National League 73-89 4th Milwaukee Brewers
2017 Milwaukee Brewers National League 86-76 2nd Milwaukee Brewers
2018 Milwaukee Brewers National League 96-67 1st Milwaukee Brewers Lost NLCS
2019 Milwaukee Brewers National League 89-73 2nd Milwaukee Brewers Lost Wild Card Game
2020 Milwaukee Brewers National League 29-31 4th Milwaukee Brewers Lost NLWCS
2021 Milwaukee Brewers National League 95-67 1st Milwaukee Brewers Lost NLDS
2022 Milwaukee Brewers National League 86-76 2nd Milwaukee Brewers
2023 Milwaukee Brewers National League 92-70 1st Milwaukee Brewers Lost NLWC
2024 Chicago Cubs National League Chicago Cubs

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jordan Bastian: "Cubs hire Counsell as new manager",, November 6, 2023. [1]
  • Bob Baum: "Counsell a Surprising Star", The Times Daily, October 24, 2001, p. 3C. [2]
  • Craig Counsell (as told to Al Doyle): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, December 2005, pp. 72-74.[3]
  • Bill Ladson: "Burnes, bats help Counsell pass 'Scrap Iron': Brewers skipper passes Garner on the franchise's all-time managerial wins list",, June 16, 2022. [4]
  • Adam McCalvy: "'I needed a new challenge': Counsell talks move to Cubs",, November 7, 2023. [5]
  • Steve Megargee (The Associated Press): "Brewers' exit puts spotlight on the uncertain future of manager Craig Counsell", Yahoo! Sports, October 5, 2023. [6]
  • Rick Sorci: "Baseball Profile: Craig Counsell - Milwaukee Brewers", Baseball Digest, August 2007, p. 56. [7]

Related Sites[edit]