Craig Counsell explains decision to leave Brewers for Cubs: ‘Needed and wanted a new professional challenge’

The story of the 2023-24 offseason in Major League Baseball thus far has been Craig Counsell’s decision to leave his managerial post with the Milwaukee Brewers in favor of the same role with the Chicago Cubs

Counsell’s contract with Milwaukee ended after this past season, so that he would wind up elsewhere wasn’t especially surprising. What was a shock is that he landed with the Brewers’ chief NL Central rival who plays a mere 90 minutes down I-94. The rumors surrounding Counsell’s decision had him likely reuniting with David Stearns with the Mets or perhaps staying in Milwaukee. The Cubs, though, were able to land perhaps the best manager in baseball by dismissing David Ross and making Counsell the highest-paid manager in MLB history. 

Counsell leaves Milwaukee as the best manager in franchise history. His 707 wins leads all Brewers managers, and he also tops the franchise list for most career games over .500 at 82. He’s the longest-serving manager in Brewers history, and over those nine seasons he enjoyed a winning percentage of .531 despite small player-payroll budgets along the way. As well, Counsell led the Brewers to three division titles and five postseason appearances. In what turned out to be his final year, the Brewers went 92-70 and finished atop the NL Central standings.

So why would a Wisconsin native and beloved figure in Milwaukee go elsewhere, especially to the Cubs? In a wide-ranging conversation with reporters, including Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Counsell answered those questions and many more. When it comes to his thought process and the possibility that a once beloved native son will now be a persona non grata in Milwaukee and environs, Counsell said this: 

“I think as I was going through this process, it became clear that I needed and wanted a new professional challenge. At the same time, look, I’m grateful to be part of this community. And that’s going to continue, hopefully, because it has nothing to do with baseball, that part of it. I’m looking forward to being part of a new community and hopefully impact our community well, too. But as I went through it, it just became clear that I needed a new challenge.”

Perspective and gratitude aside, Counsell is probably going to hear vigorous boos when he makes one of his many annual trips to American Familly Field as Cubs manager. That’s quite a change for a manager who was supremely popular among Brewers partisans and had been for a long time. Things change, though, as Counsell, the Cubs, and the Brewers will now surely attest. 

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