Craig Counsell was introduced officially as manager of the Chicago Cubs on Monday, though the shocking move has been discussed at length in the baseball world for the last week.
The Milwaukee Brewers saw Counsell become a true free agent as a manager, and he was expected to be a hot commodity for those with a vacancy.
Instead, Counsell and the Cubs reached an agreement that led to David Ross’ firing as the team’s manager.
Counsell was a name Brewers fans knew for 17 years as a player and manager, so heading to an NL Central rival hurt the masses in Milwaukee. Speaking with reporters from his now-former city, Counsell admitted he didn’t realize the backlash that would come with his decision.
“It was 17 years,” Counsell said. “I started to understand that. It’s a long time. It was people that mean a lot to you and will continue to. But that dynamic has changed. I understand it all. I understand the emotion.
“And I did. I underestimated the emotion of that all. And that’s probably why it hits you so hard.”
Counsell spent six years in a Brewers uniform as a player, including his final five years from 2007-2011 before taking over as the team’s manager in 2015. And in that gap, Counsell was a front-office member of the Brewers immediately after retiring, while also serving as a radio analyst to call games.
As a manager, Counsell led the Brewers to the postseason in five of the last six seasons.
“My time in Milwaukee working for the Brewers was wonderful,” Counsell continued. “The experience that I think we’ve all had there — I think — has been pretty darn good. I’m thankful for that. Very, very thankful for that. I hope we can all be thankful for that, really.”
The Brewers were publicly frustrated with the Counsell decision during a media session to discuss what the city and surrounding areas in Wisconsin were dealing with.
“I’m not going to speak for Craig,” owner Mark Attanasio said. “He spoke plenty over the past several weeks as to what he was trying to do. We’ll see if it was successful, or if this was a one-off.
“[We’re all here] today because we’ve lost Craig, but I’ve reflected on this. Craig has lost us, and he’s lost our community also.”
A sign at Craig Counsell Park in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, was also vandalized after reports came out of him joining the Cubs.
The Cubs will be seeing their divisional foe throughout the seasons to come, and Counsell isn’t expected to get the warmest of welcomes from the Brewers faithful when he returns.
In fact, the move likely enhances what the rivalry already was.
But Counsell and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer were both all smiles as a new era was ushered into Wrigley Field on Monday.
As Attanasio said, we’ll see who made the right decision in the end.