Manager's new deal keeps him under contract through 2020 season
By Mike Bauman
MILWAUKEE -- Shortly after Craig Counsell was signed to a three-year contract to manage the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers, in May 2015, he was asked if three years were enough time.
"Well," Counsell said with a smile, "I'll have every day for three years."
Now, Counsell will have every day for another three years. His original contract would have been concluded at the end of the 2017 season. Brewers general manager David Stearns announced Friday that Counsell's contract had been extended three years through the '20 season.
This is a fine decision on Stearns' part. Counsell demonstrated during the 2016 season that no matter how many of his regulars were traded away in the rebuilding process, his club would continue to compete. He is intelligent, diligent and an astute judge of not only talent, but character.
And Counsell is a winner. As a player, he was an integral part of two World Series championship teams -- the 1997 Marlins and the 2001 D-backs.
Counsell and Matt Williams played together on the 2001 D-backs. Williams went on to manage the Washington Nationals, where he was the National League Manager of the Year Award winner in '14
"Craig's going to be a fantastic manager," Williams said. "He's been in every situation. He's been the bench guy. He's been the guy who has to step in and take over where somebody's hurt. He's been the MVP of a League Championship Series [in 2001]. He's hit a home run in the World Series [also in '01]. He's scored the winning run in the World Series [in 1997]. So he's done it all. He's seen every aspect of every part of the game. And he understands how to work.
"He works his fanny off. He appreciates the opportunity that's in front of him. He'll do really well."
Stearns obviously sees Counsell's future in much the same way. Being the manager from the start of a rebuilding process has proved to be a perilous task for many managers, even managers who were more than competent.
Without this extension, Counsell would have been in a "lame duck" season as manager. With this extension, the organization is saying that he is clearly part of its future. Counsell didn't need any assistance in asserting his authority in Milwaukee's clubhouse, but the three-year extension removes whatever doubt anyone might have had about his status.
"We still have a big challenge in front of us," Counsell said Friday, "and I feel like I get to see it through.
"I don't feel like I've accomplished much in this job yet. There's a lot to do, still. I'm interested in performing. That's what's next. I'm not good at looking back, I'm not good at getting nostalgic. I think I am good at looking forward and trying to figure out how to make the next good decision, and that's what we'll try to do."
Stearns called extending Counsell's contract, "the easiest decision I've had to make over the past year."
In a statement on Counsell's extension, Stearns also said: "I am pleased that we have reached an agreement with Craig to keep him as our manager well into the future. Craig possesses the skill set, intelligence and determination to lead our team back to consistent competitiveness. Over the past year, I have observed Craig's leadership first hand, and am confident that he is the right man for the job."
Counsell has deep roots with the Brewers. He grew up in the Milwaukee area, and his father, John, was a member of the front office, running the club's speakers bureau and later serving as the Brewer's director of community relations. Growing up, Craig spent considerable time at County Stadium, learning the game while observing future Hall of Famers in Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Counsell spent six seasons as a player with the Brewers, and he was a member of the 2008 team that reached the postseason, and the '11 team that won the NL Central title and reached the NL Championship Series.
Now, he will have an opportunity that he has earned, an opportunity to succeed once again.
"There's peaks and valleys to this process," Counsell said. "That's part of it -- and actually a fun part of it. You're part of all those decisions. That's where I think this [extension] takes it. It's not going to change the next decision that I have to make, but I know that we're going to go through some peaks and valleys, and we're going to come out on the other side and be in the right place."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.