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Craig Counsell departure ‘not a betrayal,’ Brewers owner says


ESPN News ServicesNovember 7, 2023, 3:21 p.m.4 minute read

Why hiring Craig Counsell is a big deal for the Cubs

David Schoenfield explains the Cubs’ decision to bring in Craig Counsell to replace David Ross as manager.

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio admitted he was as stunned as anyone by Craig Counsell’s arrival to the Cubs, but said he didn’t feel ‘betrayed’ by the longtime manager’s departure from Milwaukee.

The Cubs shocked the baseball world Monday by firing manager David Ross and replacing him with Counsell, who was synonymous with the Brewers after spending the last 17 years with the organization as a player, executive and manager.

Attanasio told reporters that when Counsell informed him of his decision, his response was, “Are you kidding me?”

“We are all here today because we lost Craig,” Attanasio said. “But I thought about it: Craig lost us, and he lost our community, too.”

Counsell, who led the budget-conscious Brewers to five postseason appearances and three NL Central titles over the past six years, became one of the biggest managerial free agents in recent years when his contract expired at the end of this season.

Although he was expected to either stay with the Brewers or be hired by the New York Mets, Counsell ultimately ended up with the Cubs, agreeing to what sources told ESPN was a five-year contract worth record $40 million.

“It came out of nowhere,” Brewers ace Corbin Burnes told MLB.com. “I think my reaction is the same as everyone in the organization and among the fans: We’re just shocked at first.”

“I’m still processing it, too,” Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff added. “I wasn’t expecting the Cubs. … But when you dig a little deeper, you kind of understand.”

Attanasio was asked if he viewed Counsell’s move to the rival Cubs as a betrayal.

“Certainly not betrayed,” he said. “I’m so proud of what we have that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be anywhere else. … Our goal for our family is for my sons and I to be stewards of the community for a long time, and then I I hope that after 2050, someone else will have the same emotion for the team, the community which is very special.

“From the first day I got here, there’s no place in the country like Milwaukee.”

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, in his opening statement on Craig Counsell’s stunning trade to the Cubs, said: “We’re all here today because we lost Craig. But I’ve been thinking about it: Craig lost us, and he lost our community too.”John Fisher/Getty Images

Attanasio said the Brewers already offered Counsell a contract that “would have made him the highest-paid manager in baseball, both per season and overall.”

“I felt really good about it and he made the decision to go in a different direction,” said Attanasio, who declined to answer whether the Brewers had the opportunity to match the Cubs’ offer.

Counsell grew up a Brewers fan in the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. His father, John Counsell, is the Brewers’ former director of community affairs.

The former Brewers infielder took over as Milwaukee manager during the 2015 season after Ron Roenicke was fired and went 707-625 in over eight seasons, giving him the franchise record for the victories and successful matches.

But Counsell began indicating as early as September that he was open to change, according to Attanasio, who said he wanted to give Counsell the chance to test the open market.

“He dedicated many years to the organization and he asked for the opportunity to do this,” Attanasio said. “I want to support our people.”

Attanasio announced that Counsell’s coaching staff would be back with the team next season and said the Brewers would be “committed to finding a manager who can be as successful as Craig.”

“We really have a good thing,” Attanasio said. “I thank Craig for helping build this and adding all these coaches – all of whom stayed.

“So we’re going to be looking for a manager who can continue to have a great club culture and who can help us continue to win and hopefully get over the hump in the playoffs.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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