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  • Craig Counsell Leaves Brewers: Why Did He Go, and Who Should Replace Him?


    Jake McKibbin

    The most pressing question, in the wake of the huge gut punch that was the news of Craig Counsell departing the Brewers in favor of the division-rival Cubs, is who will replace him on the top step of the Crew's dugout. Still, we also have to wonder: why did it come to this?

    Image courtesy of © Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

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    Notably, the Cubs did not request permission to talk to Craig Counsell before his contract expired on Halloween. They entered the sweepstakes for his services only within the last week. Thus, in addition to discerning who should take over, we have to try to suss out why Counsell and the Crew couldn't find common ground on a new deal long before this could happen.

    Who Takes Over?
    Mark Attanasio, while clearly stung and shocked by the final decision, was asked about a new manager and said:

    Quote

    “Interestingly, this morning, one of the things I did is I started talking to some of our team leaders, players, about what do they like about what we have and what could we be better at, which we’ll be looking for. I started those conversations, and I expect to have other direct conversations. We have a really good thing. I give Craig credit for helping to build that, and for adding all these coaches, all of whom have stayed. So we’re going to look for a manager who can continue having a terrific clubhouse culture and that can help us keep winning and hopefully get over the hump in the playoffs.”

    One criticism of Counsell is his playoff record since 2018, and in particular, how poorly managed the team was in key situations during the Wild Card Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Brewers will be looking to keep as much in place as possible, and hope that with fresh impetus and energy, they can get over that “hump”. Retaining a lot of the staff behind Counsell will be absolutely key to ensuring a smooth transition, potentially avoiding the type of pitfalls endured by David Ross and Oli Marmol.

    Carlos Villanueva
    Villanueva has been in the role Counsell held right before moving into the dugout--that is, special assistant to the front office. He's headed up the player development segment of the organization, giving him a real feel for the baseball club at all levels. He’s bilingual, which helps a lot of managers in this multicultural sport. However the Brewers recently announced his promotion into a broader role that encompasses baseball operations as well, signifying (perhaps) that he is out of the running for the managerial vacancy, and is more likely to be groomed for high-level front office positions.

    Victor Estevez
    Estevez has just finished his eighth season as a minor-league manager in the Brewers organization, capped by winning Carolina League Manager of the Year in 2023. With the current rookie crop coming through, hiring from within (with a manager who knows and has worked with Sal Frelick, Joey Wiemer, Garrett Mitchell, Jackson Chourio) and, again, the bilingual ability is just invaluable in the major leagues in this day and age. However, there may be a concern with a lower minor-league manager, whose role is more centered around getting players game time than how best to win each individual game. To him, managing a bullpen effectively may be new. The Brewers analytical staff will no doubt be a big help in this, and Estevez is definitely a dark horse for the vacant position.

    Clayton McCullough
    The Dodger’s first-base coach, McCullough has been interviewed for openings with the Mets and Royals in recent years, as well as with the Guardians in October. Players such as James Outman and Mookie Betts have spoken incredibly highly of him, and he’s been a popular name of late in managerial discussions. Rumors are that he may fit other current vacancies neatly as well, so there could be competition here. He comes from a perennial winning club culture, and seems more than ready for the job.

    Other potentials include current bench coach Pat Murphy, Astros bench coach Joe Espada, ousted ex-Giants manager Gabe Kapler, Padres skipper candidate Mike Shildt, the just-replaced David Ross, Brewers pitching, strategy and catching coach Walker McKinven, and A’s manager Mark Kotsay, whom the team has allowed to interview elsewhere amid their rebuild and pending relocation.

    Ken Rosenthal just shared this nugget, containing a truly wild candidate:

     

     

    Why Did Counsell Feel the Need to Leave?
    Primarily, it’s financial. The Brewers had an offer on the table for the biggest managerial contract in the current market, rumored at around $5.5 million in annual value, but the Cubs blew way past that with their $40-million contract. It’s close enough that Counsell won’t have to uproot his entire family, and he can still be in the vicinity for his children who are at university in Minnesota and Michigan. It all made sense for him, from that point of view. With such a big upgrade in salary and a relatively small amount of inconvenience forced on him, it’s tough to begrudge him the change, even if he could have chosen literally any other team to go to.

    He also could have seen a reset coming with the Brewers, particularly with Brandon Woodruff’s injury, whereas the Cubs are coming out of their own downcycle and are looking to become a true force again. Combined with a potential stagnancy arising from being in one place for too long, it could benefit both parties to have fresh faces and fresh challenges to drive them forward.

    Craig Counsell was the best manager the Milwaukee Brewers have ever had. He may be sorely missed, and should be hailed for bringing a winning mentality to an organization that was largely bereft of playoff opportunities prior to him. He can’t be given all the credit for it, but he definitely played a part, and for that he deserves gratitude.

    Who's your favorite potential Counsell replacement? Is it one of those I listed, or do you envision someone else? Should the Brewers have foreseen this major pay raise and gotten more proactive with Counsell? Let us know what you think.

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    How about an even wilder choice than Rosenthal proposes? That candidate certainly would have to command respect from everyone in the clubhouse,  and be able to communicate bi-lingually with the roster. Most importantly, he would have to have an intimate knowledge of the pacing of the game, particularly with respect to the handling of the pitching staff.

    My out-of- left-field nomination is therefore-drum roll-Yadier Molina (if he can see himself outside of the Cardinals' organization)!

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    Jake McKibbin
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    23 minutes ago, Sixtolezcano said:

    Rickie Weeks…….surely you jest?

    I certainly would be, but entirely unsure if Rosenthal is. 

    Weeks was recently promoted to special assistant of player development, so perhaps that was an interview and got mixed up in the maelstrom, however entirely possible as a player with on field connections, young enough to be relatable and an understanding of the front office that he's a candidate. How far that goes, I guess we'll see

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    I say we hire David Ross and make this a real rivalry again, I am not shedding one single tear that Craig is gone. I am especially not a fan of his pitching changes during the past season. 

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    3 hours ago, Jake McKibbin said:

    I certainly would be, but entirely unsure if Rosenthal is. 

    Weeks was recently promoted to special assistant of player development, so perhaps that was an interview and got mixed up in the maelstrom, however entirely possible as a player with on field connections, young enough to be relatable and an understanding of the front office that he's a candidate. How far that goes, I guess we'll see

    Another article tied in CC's path to coaching with RW's current path.  Hence the link.  

    No idea if Week's would be good at coaching or not, but obviously multiple people think he can't.  Why not? 

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    26 minutes ago, CheezWizHed said:

    Another article tied in CC's path to coaching with RW's current path.  Hence the link.  

    No idea if Week's would be good at coaching or not, but obviously multiple people think he can't.  Why not? 

    Some things that could make people think Rickie is a less than ideal managerial candidate...

    The kind of player he was. The worst fielding second baseman of the advanced metrics era. Struck out a lot (133 career K%+) 111th out of 120 batters with at least 5,000 PA from 2003-17. Normally people think of managers as guys who didn't have the athletic gifts, but did all the little things right. Rickie is kind of the opposite of that archetype.

    Their perception of his personality. Prince Fielder was always considered the "leader" of those Brewers teams. Rickie was more soft spoken and I believe has a bit of a stutter which some could perceive as not lending itself well to being a leader of men.

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    20 minutes ago, sveumrules said:

    Some things that could make people think Rickie is a less than ideal managerial candidate...

    The kind of player he was. The worst fielding second baseman of the advanced metrics era. Struck out a lot (133 career K%+) 111th out of 120 batters with at least 5,000 PA from 2003-17. Normally people think of managers as guys who didn't have the athletic gifts, but did all the little things right. Rickie is kind of the opposite of that archetype.

    Their perception of his personality. Prince Fielder was always considered the "leader" of those Brewers teams. Rickie was more soft spoken and I believe has a bit of a stutter which some could perceive as not lending itself well to being a leader of men.

     Good synopsis of Weeks. I'll add that when he played, I used to imagine that if the third baseman positioned himself 35 feet behind the bag the guy still wouldn't bunt, mainly because I doubt he ever cared enough to learn how. If they go the former Brewer route, I'd much rather see Villanueva.

    Too bad Kevin Seitzer isn't younger.

    Espada, Snitker & McCullough are all intriguing.

    Murphy will join CC in his new job, right?

     

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    1 hour ago, Jim French Stepstool said:

     Murphy will join CC in his new job, right?

    I'd say most coaches at that level would take the HC job if offered.  Some people really don't want that spotlight, but the opportunities are pretty rare. So if he wants to be a HC, he has to take it if offered. 

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    Jake McKibbin
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    2 hours ago, Jim French Stepstool said:

     

    Murphy will join CC in his new job, right?

     

    Murphy and all coaches are contractually with the brewers for next year, meaning unless they give permission for the Cubs to interview him (unlikely) Murphy will be with the Brewers next season 

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    9 minutes ago, Jake McKibbin said:

    Murphy and all coaches are contractually with the brewers for next year, meaning unless they give permission for the Cubs to interview him (unlikely) Murphy will be with the Brewers next season 

    Murphy isn't. It was updated that he did not sign a deal. The rest of the staff re-signed this offseason.

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    6 hours ago, Jim French Stepstool said:

     Good synopsis of Weeks. I'll add that when he played, I used to imagine that if the third baseman positioned himself 35 feet behind the bag the guy still wouldn't bunt, mainly because I doubt he ever cared enough to learn how. If they go the former Brewer route, I'd much rather see Villanueva.

    Too bad Kevin Seitzer isn't younger.

    Espada, Snitker & McCullough are all intriguing.

    Murphy will join CC in his new job, right?

     

    My two choices would be Stephen Vogt or David Ross. 

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    Jake McKibbin
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    5 hours ago, BrewersRice said:

    Ricky Weeks, the non team player who refused to be moved from his position? No thank you.  Not sure if Kevin Seitzer is under contract with the Braves, but he could probably help the Brewers hitters. Maybe they might also consider Mike Guerrero, from their minor league ranks, or Charlie Greene. https://wisportsheroics.com/milwaukee-brewers-kevin-seitzer-manager/

    Does this mean he's less likely to play players in positions they're not so good at?

    For example maybe Weeks is less likely to make reverse platoon split righties face left handers?

    It'd be interesting for sure to see him there, and be interesting how the players would view that. Would there be any of Weeks' traits people feel would be good in a manager?

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    Teams now needing new managers after Cleveland snapped up Steven Vogt. 

    Starting With The Los Angeles Angels, The Houston Astros, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and The Milwaukee Brewers.  Radio said everyone thought Craig Counsell would go to the Mets and follow Stearns. The media seems to be wrong about everything, especially politics. 

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    35 minutes ago, Brian said:

    Just heard on MLB Network Don Mattingly on the short list of potential new Brewer managers. 

    Brewers losing Counsell to get a former manager of the year. Typical Brewers 'W'.

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    Jake McKibbin
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    51 minutes ago, MrTPlush said:

    Brewers losing Counsell to get a former manager of the year. Typical Brewers 'W'.

     

    1 hour ago, Brian said:

    Just heard on MLB Network Don Mattingly on the short list of potential new Brewer managers. 

     

     

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    4 minutes ago, Jake McKibbin said:

     

     

     

    Haha, I was merely joking. I would not have actually been a fan of that potential hire. 

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    Jake McKibbin
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  • Posted

    Just now, MrTPlush said:

    Haha, I was merely joking. I would not have actually been a fan of that potential hire. 

    Haha me either! Nice to know he's off the board

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    I hear words like betrayal and anger being tossed around. Really? I can see shocked and disappointed sure but beyond that? If the Brewers had told him 5.5 was all they would pay no wonder he left. If they said give us a chance to match and he didn't that's a little different but would have we? Bottom line is the baby bears have a far greater potential in terms of payroll and thus roster than the Brewers do. CC wants a World Series win, and to compete at that level long term.
    If you want to blame someone blame ol Bud Selig. He sold out MLB to the big city owners and the union. He then got to sit on the lap of the big city owners and make millions himself. MLB should have a system of parity like the NFL has, where ALL teams play by the same set of rules and cap.
    The Angels have more revenue than the Brewers have just in TV contracts without selling one ticket or one hot dog. Then you have the Mets and the Braves and the Yankees and the Dodgers and yes the Cubs. It is an unfair playing field. Thanks Bud, enjoy your millions with what time you have left. THAT is your legacy.
     
    I don't want a re-tread for a manager.  Bring in a younger and hungry guy who can develop talent.  I like the Dodgers 1st base coach or one of the hitting coaches being mentioned.  I'd interview Ross too in the least.  
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