Milwaukee — Craig Counsell was 12 when Milwaukee Brewers last reached the World Series. His father worked for the team, so counsel often tagged it, even during the 1982 playoff run.
Usually, the counsel sat at the stand of County Stadium, the former home of Brewers, and saw his favorite team and his favorite player, the Hall of Fame Robin Yount. However, when tensions increased during the match, the counsel walked to a special place in his head that proved successful.
“My lucky place was at the end of the stadium,” Counsel recently pointed out where in the American Family Field, the team’s home since 2001. I was watching the game from the spot on the aisle leading up to the upper deck. You need to find a lucky spot. “
His vantage point has changed a lot these days. After playing 16 seasons in Major League Baseball, the counsel — a Milwaukee player — has been watching his favorite team from the dugout since 2015. Meanwhile, he has established himself as one of the best managers of baseball. This season he has led the Brewers to several milestones the team hasn’t reached since 1982, when the counsel was there to see the counsel fall to St. Louis Cardinals in Round 7 of the World Series.
Until Tuesday, Brewers, playing in the smallest market for Major League Baseball, was at a pace of winning 99 franchise-record games. They took first place in the National League Central 13 and a half years before St. Louis Cardinals and held the largest division lead in MLB. With a record of 89-56, Brewers outperformed the franchise in 33 games, over .500. The highest level since 1982. And if the Brewers reach the playoffs as expected, they will reach the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, setting the franchise record for the club that played the first season in 1969.
A common thread for teams with changes to the front office and roster: counsel.
“Players need to play the game, but it starts from the top down and players feed their managers,” said Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, who won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2018. ..
“I don’t think he has enough credit,” Yelich continued later. “I really don’t. It’s almost a crime that he hasn’t won the Manager of the Year in the last few years. He definitely deserves it and is a big reason for all our success here. “
The 51-year-old counsel took over the Brewers after Milwaukee made a 7-18 start under Ron Reniky in 2015. Prior to that, his coach was limited to the Youth League with children. However, his experience as a player led the team, had relationships with that player, and prepared to earn their respect.
He became the captain of the team from the walk-on at Notre Dame. In the 11th round draft topic, he was a slender infielder known for his gloves (and his quirky batting stance) rather than his bat. In 1997, at the age of 26, he overcame the history of minor injuries and regularly spotted majors. He was assigned a mission and was released and traded during his career. He won the World Series ring at the Florida Marlins in 1997 (winning Game 7 against Cleveland) and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 (MVP of the League Championship Series and in Round 7). When participating in a team victory rally). World Series against the Yankees).
“He feels really good about the ball club,” said Brewers left-handed relief player Brent Suter. “When we get home from the expedition, he reduces his work, or adds work as needed. He needs to speak (speech to the team) and leave the club to him. It has very good pulse energy, as it does. It’s a bit instinctual, but it’s also the result of playing in the big league for years and 15 years. “
The counsel said he didn’t think much while playing, but former Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said he often sees the counsel as a potential manager because of his experience, personality and intelligence.
“We can put it all on the list, but what stands out is the respect for all our teammates,” says Melvin. “Whenever I talk to the people in the game, he’s always one of the most respected teammates and accepts nothing but win every day.”
Management ideas crossed the counsel’s head in 2011. His final season on the field was 41, and the Brewers recorded .178, which was his estimate of being a “really bad player.” He remained on Milwaukee’s roster, partly because Melvin evaluated the counsel’s influence at Clubhouse.
The counsel didn’t know how long it would take him to become a manager or if that would happen. His goal was to serve as a leader in the organization, but his loyalty was in his home team.
“I felt it was my job to help advance baseball in Milwaukee after play,” he said. “I didn’t know this would necessarily be the case. I’m really lucky. I always feel responsible for it and enjoy it.”
The counsel grew up in Whitefish Bay, a community 15 minutes north of Brewers Stadium, and still lives there. He is a proud graduate of Whitefish Bay High School, where he meets his future wife, who will be attended by all four children. Both his high school field and the Little League Park where he once played bear his name. His 19th jersey number has retired.
He played for Brewers for six seasons. After retiring, he returned in 2012 as a special assistant to Melvin in the front office. Three years later, Melvin hired a counsel as a manager.
“He knows how important the Brewers are to Milwaukee,” said Jeff Margolis, who grew up with the counsel and was the best man at the wedding. He later added, “It makes more sense to Craig as it means everyone becomes a Brewers manager.”
Margolis called the counsel a “child in the Midwest,” and said the counsel was mowing the lawn with a riding lawn mower given by the Hall of Fame near former teammate Trevor Hoffman. A few years ago, Counsel stopped at his 30th high school reunion after a day game in Milwaukee.
In the field, the counsel is praised for both his tactical and interpersonal skills. The latter has become more important these days as the front office plays an increasingly important role in the way games are played. The counsel is NL’s longest-serving manager, emphasizing the change of demanding positions.
Josh Hader, one of Brewers’ star reliefs, said the counsel “is not trying to over-manage.” Corbin Burnes, one of Brewers’ ace starters and a leading candidate for the NL Cy Young Award, said he was grateful for the counsel’s direct and open communication practices. According to Suter, the counsel is situationally aware and foresighted about how to deploy relief and pinch hitter throughout the game.
“I’ve been coaching in a variety of situations for 40 years and it seems to be a lot of success on paper,” said Counsel’s former coach at the University of Notre Dame and Brewers’ bench coach since 2016. Pat Murphy, who serves, says. “But this guy taught me a lot about Major League Baseball games and a lot of things. It should be the other way around, right?”
Without his time working in the front office, where he said Melvin exposed him to all sides, the counsel would say he was the team’s current president of baseball, David Stearns, or the team’s general manager, Matt Arnold. He said he wouldn’t understand Arnold’s point of view.
“One of the reasons I enjoyed working with Craig so much is that he has the ability to question everything he does and that we do it as an organization.” Sterns said. “And through lively questions and discussions, he grew up naturally and changed his view on certain aspects of how he did it, but of what he believed and strived for. The general belief is to put the player in the best position to succeed. It is constant from day one. “
A good example: The 2021 Brewers are dominated by fairly traditional starting pitchers. This is in contrast to 2018, when the teams carried by the dominant bullpen and Yelich had less than one win before reaching the World Series.
“In 2018, we had a team that needed very active management from pitch 1, especially the pitching staff, and Craig understood that and adjusted the style accordingly,” Stearns said. increase. “The team we have now is built around elite starting pitchers, and Craig can adjust his management style accordingly and keep his work on our roster in the right place. I was able to do it. “
The counsel, two-time winner of the NL Manager of the Year Awards and facing fierce competition from the San Francisco Giants’ Gabe Kapler this year, has Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, Burns and Hader reaching the major leagues. Grow into a star.
Woodruff, Burns and Hader were key figures in the 2018 team, very close to the pennants. The counsel said he was lovingly remembered in Milwaukee, thanks to the trip the team took with the fans. This is what he said baseball was good in October. The team also provided new memories to the fan base who saw their favorite team playoffs only twice in 2008 and 2011 until Stearns took over from 1983 to 2015.
The counsel lamented that Brewers, one of the six franchises that never won the championship, hasn’t returned to the World Series since 1982. He is still thinking about the team. But one day he hopes to give Brewers fans new memories to last a lifetime.
“The fact that you saw those moments and were just a few of them as fans makes them want to offer those moments to other fans frankly because they won’t disappear. “.” He said.