Craig Counsell, baseball’s most coveted free-agent supervisor since Joe Maddon, was employed by the Chicago Cubs on Monday in a cold-blooded transfer that harked again to the time former Cubs President Theo Epstein introduced Maddon to the North Side 9 years in the past.
With a five-year deal for Counsell that’s reportedly price a report $40 million, Cubs President Jed Hoyer signaled the lacking piece in Year 3 of the crew’s rebuild was a well-respected supervisor who might get essentially the most out of his gamers and get them to a championship stage.
David Ross, the favourite son of Epstein and a hero of the Cubs’ 2016 World Series champions, was employed by Epstein to switch Maddon in October 2019. But he apparently failed to point out Hoyer he was nonetheless the suitable man for the job after a season-ending collapse value the Cubs a National League wild-card spot.
In a press launch Monday, Hoyer stated Ross “continually showcased his ability to lead,” including that his “legacy will be felt in Chicago for generations.” The assertion added an “oh, by the way” that Counsell would be the supervisor “going forward” and will likely be welcomed at Wrigley Field subsequent week.
There was no clarification of Ross’ dismissal or any point out of Counsell’s profession.
Plenty of time for that on the introductory information convention. Maybe Counsell will comply with Maddon’s lead and purchase a spherical of drinks for the media.
Counsell, 53, loved nice success managing a small-market crew in Milwaukee, the place he received the NL Central 3 times within the final six seasons and compiled a .531 profitable proportion over 9 seasons.
He’s 7-12 in 5 postseason appearances, together with a two-game sweep by the Arizona Diamondbacks this 12 months in an NL wild-card sequence. His Brewers groups usually overachieved till the postseason rolled round.
Still, this transfer is bound to be welcomed by Cubs followers who adopted Counsell’s profession and weren’t enamored with Ross’ 4 seasons on the North Side, which included a division title — and fast playoff exit — within the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Counsell guess on himself final winter when he opted towards extension talks with the Brewers, and it paid off handsomely. Brewers proprietor Mark Attanasio in all probability took him without any consideration, understanding Counsell’s love of Wisconsin. Milwaukee wasn’t simply the one place Counsell had managed, however he additionally grew up in Whitefish Bay and nonetheless makes his dwelling there.
Counsell interviewed with a number of groups, together with the New York Mets, Cleveland Guardians and Houston Astros. No one had any inkling of the Cubs’ curiosity in him or that he was intrigued by the Cubs, a corporation he appreciated to poke enjoyable at — such because the day in 2017 when he criticized a postponement at Wrigley Field by saying “it’s the first time for us that we’ve had players treated for sunburn after a rainout.”
Ross not solely had one other 12 months remaining on his contract however was a favourite of Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts.
Hoyer went to nice lengths to defend Ross from fan criticism this previous season, making the transfer much more gorgeous than the Cubs’ dismissal of Rick Renteria to rent Maddon after the 2014 season. That hiring concerned a recruiting journey to Florida by Epstein and Hoyer and a leak of their curiosity in Maddon effectively earlier than making the transfer.
Monday’s information leak, first reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, was like an explosion at Clark and Addison. The reverberations will likely be felt for months.
Ross and Renteria, in the meantime, will without end be linked in Cubs historical past for the dismissals by Epstein and Hoyer, who each appeared glad with the established order. When requested at his end-of-season information convention how vital 2024 could be for Ross to proceed as Cubs supervisor, Hoyer gave a long-winded reply that indicated Ross would return.
“He’s not a new manager anymore,” Hoyer stated. “He’s going into his fifth season. I believe he’s actually matured within the job and developed. Like all of us, I believe he desires to get higher yearly.
“One of his greatest skills is he’s self-critical. He wants to continue to get better. And I know he’s going to spend the winter thinking about how he could have done things differently. … It is a very important year next year for him and for all of us.”
How Hoyer went from 2024 being a “very important” 12 months for Ross’ future to relieving him of his duties a month later is a query solely the Cubs president can reply. The basic managers conferences, which start Tuesday in Scottsdale, Ariz., will afford Hoyer a possibility to elucidate.
Among the criticisms of Ross this previous season was his choice to play his regulars to the final drop down the stretch regardless of fatigue setting in. On the ultimate street journey, the Cubs hit .236 with a .306 on-base proportion whereas going 1-5 in Atlanta and Milwaukee to blow the wild-card spot. Dansby Swanson was 1-for-17 (.059) on the journey and regarded mentally exhausted. The Cubs made a number of uncharacteristic errors as they collapsed.
Will Counsell change issues? He by no means obtained the Brewers to the World Series regardless of their profitable methods. The closest they got here was in 2018, once they misplaced to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven video games within the NL Championship Series.
But he’ll be anticipated to get the Cubs to the promised land on the North Side, regardless of who’s on the crew. Now it’s as much as Hoyer to enhance a roster that might lose its most beneficial participant, Cody Bellinger.
After the Cubs’ trade-deadline sell-off in July 2021 began the mini-rebuild, I requested Counsell if he thought the Cubs had been headed in the suitable route.
“Do I look like Jed Hoyer?” Counsell stated with a smile. “I don’t know. I’m certain their farm system is drastically improved, and I’m certain there are younger gamers I actually don’t know a lot about or in the event that they’re shut to creating an affect.
“I don’t think you can ever know. … We all think we know what’s going to happen, but there are teams that surprise every year. I don’t think you can make a statement right now about what can happen next year.”
Now Counsell and Hoyer are linked on the hip with a crew that must be anticipated to contend in 2024 and past.
Hoyer made a press release with out really saying it:
Missing out on the postseason is not an possibility.