Counsell, one of the best managers in Major League Baseball, led the Brewers to five playoff appearances during his nine-season managerial career with Milwaukee. Counsell is the winningest manager in Brewers history.
Ironically enough, Counsell was named one of the National League’s manager of the year finalists — alongside the Atlanta Braves’ Brian Snitker and the Miami Marlins’ Skip Schumaker.
Initially, it looked like the Brewers and New York Mets were the clear-cut favorites to land the Skipper, but the Cubs crashed the party with the record-breaking deal.
The move shocked the baseball world and provided eerie similarities to the team’s October 2014 hiring of manager Joe Maddon.
In the fall of 2014, the Cubs had just finished 73-89, fifth in the National League Central and retained Rick Renteria as their manager. In comes Maddon — an experienced and well-respected manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Two years later, the Cubs broke the 108-year-old Billy Goat Curse and won the 2016 World Series.
The Cubs hired Ross, a player on the legendary 2016 team, as the manager in 2020. He signed a contract extension before the 2022 season, which would lengthen his tenure through 2024. Now, the Cubs relieved Ross of his duties in favor of the more experienced and respected Counsell.
The signing speaks to hometown loyalty.
Counsell, a Wisconsin legend, played six seasons with his hometown team, before manning the club 2015. Raised in Milwaukee suburb Whitefish Bay, Counsell bleeds Wisconsin blood through and through.
Milwaukee Brewers owner had this to say about Counsell’s decision to leave for Chicago:
Counsell spoke to his former players following the announcement of his decision. Many players were just as dumbfounded as the public.
The stunning move floundered baseball circles early Monday afternoon. When you dig deep into all factors, the deal makes complete sense. The Cubs offered a record-breaking deal, and Counsell will remain a mere 95 miles away from his Wisconsin home.
The most interesting nugget is how the move will impact the heavy 2024 free agent class. It’s almost certain Cubs’ president Jed Hoyer remains aggressive during the off-season after signing Counsell to a record-breaking deal.
Two-way superstar and MVP Shohei Ohtani leads a stacked class. Ohtani has emerged as the league’s best player due to his elite production on both sides of the diamond.
Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto has cemented himself as one of the top free agents of the 2024 class. The 25-year-old has dominated during his seven-season Nippon Professional Baseball League career. He has the tools to be a productive, front-end starting pitcher during his rookie campaign.
OF/1B Cody Bellinger becomes a free agent for the second consecutive season. The former MVP signed a one-year prove it deal with the Cubs, and provided elite versatility in his bounce-back campaign.
The Cubs’ decision to hire Craig Counsell is a huge step in the right direction. Time will tell whether top free agents will be attracted by the new skipper on the Northside.
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