Cubs hire Counsell as new manager

Cubs hire Counsell as new manager

Cubs hire Counsell as new manager

In a stunning development, the Cubs have hired Craig Counsell to be their new manager.

The Cubs announced on Monday that Counsell will replace David Ross at the helm for the North Siders, who fell short of the postseason after a late-season fade this past season. That Chicago pried the 53-year-old Counsell away from the rival Brewers and made him the highest-paid manager in history sent shockwaves around the baseball world.

“Today we made the difficult decision to dismiss David Ross,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said in a statement. “On behalf of the Cubs organization, we express our deep gratitude for David’s contributions to our club, both on and off the field. First as a player and then as a manager, David continually showcased his ability to lead.”

Cubs hire Counsell as new manager
Cubs hire Counsell as new manager

Sources told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand that Counsell’s pact with the Cubs is a five-year deal worth a record $40 million. The Brewers made an offer weeks ago that would have made Counsell MLB’s highest-paid manager — in the neighborhood of $5 million per year, according to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy.

In nine seasons with the Brewers, Counsell guided the club to three division titles, five playoff appearances (all within the past six years) and a 707-625 record (.531 winning percentage) in the regular season. Counsell was raised in Wisconsin and still calls the state home.

“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Brewers ace Corbin Burnes told McCalvy on Monday. “I think my reaction is the same as everyone in the organization and the fan base. We’re just shocked initially.”

“I’m still processing it, too,” said longtime Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff, who got a call from Counsell soon after the news broke. “I was not expecting the Cubs.”

Per a source, the Cubs waited to reach out to Counsell until Nov. 1 – after the manager’s contract with the Brewers had expired. That removed the requisite step of asking permission from Milwaukee to interview the manager (which the Mets and Guardians did earlier in the process). That kept the Cubs’ approach quiet and set the stage for the surprising deal to swiftly come to fruition.

Cubs hire Counsell as new manager
Cubs hire Counsell as new manager

Ross managed the Cubs the past four seasons, going 262-284 (.480 winning percentage). While leading Chicago to an NL Central title in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The North Siders looked to be on their way to a playoff berth in ‘23. But dropped 15 of their final 22 games to fall out of the October picture.

Both Hoyer and team chairman Tom Ricketts raved about how Ross kept the team focused all season.

The change in direction with Ross — a beloved member of the 2016 World Series championship team. It is reminiscent of when the Cubs hired Joe Maddon away from the Rays ahead of the 2015 season. That played a role in Chicago turning the page on. A rebuild and entering a stretch of four straight playoff appearances. Including three consecutive trips to the National League Championship Series.

In the wake of the quick playoff exit in ‘20, the team’s midseason stumble in ‘21 led to a two-year rebuilding phase that featured blockbuster trades dismantling the roster’s foundational players.

The revamped roster – most notably impacted by the seven-year, $177 million signing to bring shortstop Dansby Swanson into the fold – was in the postseason mix deep into ‘23.

The Cubs fell 10 games below .500 on June 8, but then rattled off 50 wins in the next 78 games to push their playoff odds north of 90% in early September, according to FanGraphs.com’s calculations. When the Cubs arrived in Milwaukee for the final series of the season, the Brewers had already clinched the division. Chicago was then eliminated after Game 161.

“It comes down to the players at the end of the day. We’re the ones that win and lose the ballgames”. Cubs veteran Kyle Hendricks said at the end of the season. “He’s just such a great leader of men.”

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