The Brewers announced on Friday that Craig Counsell has been given a 3-year contract extension, making him the Brewer manager through the 2020 season. General manager David Stearns has confidence that the second year manager has what it takes to get the Brewers to the promised land.
“This was probably the easiest decision I’ve had to make over the past year. Craig is uniquely qualified to be the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers,” Stearns said.
Counsell is excited to continue leading the rebuilding Brewers. “I am more inspired and challenged by this job than the first day I took it,” he said. “And I’m inspired by the challenge we have in front of us. I feel like I get to see it through, and that’s important.”
Counsell, 46, grew up around County Stadium, as his father worked in the Brewers front office. He was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 1992 and made his debut in 1995. He was traded to the Florida Marlins during the 1997 season.
Counsell helped the Marlins get to and win the World Series in 1997. He hit .299 with 20 runs scored down the stretch as the Marlins earned the Wild Card spot. In one of the best Game 7s in World Series history, Counsell drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth, then scored the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the 11th to win the game and the Series against the Cleveland Indians.
He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 1999 season, but he was released during Spring Training before the 2000 season. The Diamondbacks picked him up five days later.
In 2001, Counsell was again instrumental in a World Series winning team. He earned the NLCS MVP while hitting .381 with 4 RBI and 5 runs scored against the Atlanta Braves. Once again, Counsell’s team went to a seventh game in the World Series, this time against the New York Yankees. Counsell came up in the bottom of the ninth after the Diamondbacks scored the tying run and got hit by a pitch. Luis Gonzalez was the next batter and drove in the winning run and once again Counsell celebrated a World Series Championship.
Counsell was traded to his hometown Brewers after the 2003 season in a 7-player deal. He played for the Brewers in 2004, then went back to the Diamondbacks for a couple of years. He came back to the Brewers in 2007 and finished his career in Milwaukee.
Counsell was a part of getting the Brewers back to the playoffs in 2008, the first postseason action in Milwaukee since 1982. He was also part of the 2011 team that won the National League Central and went to the NLCS.
After the 2011 season, Counsell went to work in the Brewer front office. In May of 2015, he took over for Ron Roenicke as the manager of the Brewers. The Brewers were 7-18 when he took over, and Counsell led them to a 68-94 record.
This season, the Brewers were not expected to do well, with many experts predicting a 100-loss season due to a rebuilding process that sent most of their veterans packing. Counsell led an inexperienced team to a 5-game improvement over the previous year, including a 16-13 record from September 1st on.
Counsell is the right man for the job in Milwaukee. He understands the challenges ahead of him and he is ready to lead a youthful team He also knows exactly what it would mean to Brewer fans to finally win a championship. And now Counsell has the job security, or at least as much job security an MLB manager can have, to take some of the pressure off of him.
Counsell has the right attitude, saying, “I want to be here through this process. I want to be part of October baseball in Milwaukee. That’s why I originally did this, ant that’s why I’m here. This is really the only place where I want to be part of October baseball.”
We will see over the next few years whether or not the Brewers will make it back into the postseason.