Emma: Bold hire of Craig Counsell a proven commitment for Cubs’ future
Before tearing down the Cubs’ championship core and beginning an ambitious rebuilding plan, Jed Hoyer had set course for the future with his goal in mind.
“The next great Cubs team,” as Hoyer had coined it even before the trade deadline in the summer of 2021.
What followed were difficult but necessary decisions with the Cubs’ future in mind – trades of World Series icons like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Báez, a familiar retooling blueprint and the priority of sustainability rather than sentiment.
Hoyer’s next great Cubs team has a new leader after the appointment of Craig Counsell as manager and dismissal of David Ross from those duties. It was a move that seemed stunning and surely was painful, though one which reminds of Hoyer’s utmost priority as president of baseball operations.
For all Ross meant to the Cubs during their World Series championship season in 2016 and since he has served as manager over these last four seasons, sentimentality cannot form this franchise’s future.
Counsell, 53, has proven himself as perhaps the very best manager in baseball over nine seasons with the Brewers. He led Milwaukee to five playoff appearances over the last six years, including three National League Central titles. As the Cubs faded from their championship form and their window for contention closed earlier than anticipated, Counsell guided the Brewers to becoming the class of this division.
During Counsell’s tenure as Brewers manager, his teams never once opened the season with a payroll above 17th in Major League Baseball. The success is proof of his abilities as a leader and tactician.
A native son of Milwaukee who grew up and played with the Brewers organization, Counsell was not prioritized with a lucrative extension. It was a surprising turn given his track record of success. Counsell’s contract officially expired last Wednesday and he became available for hire.
Early Monday afternoon, the Cubs announced their bold move to hire Counsell. Hours later, he was named one of three finalists for National League Manager of the Year.
Just as when the Cubs fired Rick Renteria in October of 2014 and hired Joe Maddon as their new manager, this transition was one made with opportunity in mind. Counsell represented a clear upgrade for the Cubs while Ross was still learning in this job.
Counsell is the type of manager who’s not supposed to become available absent of unique circumstances. Hiring him marks great intentions moving forward.
The Cubs enter this pivotal offseason ahead still disappointed by missing the playoffs but motivated to build upon an 83-win ballclub. They are expected to be significant players in an offseason that includes stars like Shohei Ohtani and Cody Bellinger, plus potential trades for All-Stars like Juan Soto and Pete Alonso. There’s a new core in place with the likes of Justin Steele, Dansby Swanson, Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ, plus budding prospects like Pete Crow-Armstrong and Jordan Wicks.
Belief is warranted in the future of these Cubs heading into a new season ahead. Certainly, Counsell himself sought that in leaving the success of Milwaukee for the promise he found in Chicago.
The next great Cubs team has a new manager in Counsell, who can lead a future filled with winning.