Brewers owner, players express shock at Craig Counsell's departure

League: MLB

Posted on: 07 Nov, 2023 at 05:53 PM

Credit: Mike De Sisti / The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The reaction to Craig Counsell leaving the Milwaukee Brewers to manage the Chicago Cubs has been near universal shock, from the players and fans all the way up to Brewers' ownership.

"When he first told me, I said, ‘Are you messing with me?'" Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said of the Counsell decision.

Counsell not only spent the past 17 years with the Brewers organization as a player, executive and manager, but he grew up in the Milwaukee suburbs, hanging out at County Stadium where his father worked in the front office, and is still raising his own family in that same suburb of Whitefish Bay, Wis.

While Counsell's reported 5-year, $40 million deal with the Cubs makes him the highest-paid manager in MLB history, the Brewers had on the table a multiyear offer to Counsell that would have helped Counsell achieve that status, according to Attanasio.

"I felt very good about that, and he made a decision to go another direction," Attanasio said.

Counsell's contract expired at the end of the 2023 season, and Counsell reportedly told Attanasio that he was considering a move, either to take time off or to manage elsewhere.

Still, the news came as a shock to most.

"I'm still processing it, too," said longtime Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff, who was among multiple players who reported being called by Counsell to share the news. "I was not expecting the Cubs. ... But then when you dig down a little bit deeper, you kind of get it."

Brewers ace Corbin Burnes echoed the stunned reaction.

"It kind of came out of nowhere," Burnes said. "I think my reaction is the same as everyone in the organization and the fan base. We're just shocked initially."

Some fans apparently also are unhappy with Counsell's move. A sign at Craig Counsell Park in his Whitefish Bay reportedly was vandalized with spray paint on Monday. The sign was eventually covered with tarp.

Despite the shock, Attanasio said he does not look at Counsell's move as a betrayal and took a positive look toward the future for the Brewers organization.

"Definitely not betrayed," Attanasio said. "I'm so high on what we have that I can't imagine somebody wanting to be somewhere else...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."

Counsell, 53, went 707-625 in nine seasons with the Cubs' National League Central neighbors. The Brewers won three division titles in Counsell's tenure and made a run to the NLCS in 2018, where they fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.

Milwaukee went 92-70 in 2023 and won the division before being swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League wild-card round.

--Field Level Media