The four managers have combined to win 1,174 games, seven division titles, three 100+ win seasons, two World Series appearances and one title — and two of them will manage World Series teams this year. Cora, Hinch, Roberts and Counsell have a combined winning percentage of .550 (1,174-960). Not bad for four guys in their mid 40s.
Since assuming the role with Milwaukee early in the 2015 season, Counsell has led the Brewers from a 61-win team to 96-win team in 2018, and on the brink of reaching their first World Series appearance since 1982.
“You do your job, you try to make a good decision … and stack good decisions on top of each other,” said Counsell. “There was no time table. You just take it as it goes, and we got ourselves into a really good spot. The team — I really believe that we matured greatly as a team kind of after the trade deadline and you start to see things that made you think ofthe possibilities of October.”
On the eve of his first-ever National League Championship Series as a manager, Counsell met with the media to talk about his team, the season and his strategy facing the Dodgers, the defending league champions.
CRAIG COUNSELL Q&A
Milwaukee roots obviously are very important to you. You’ve always talked about that from the time I’ve known you, forever. How does it feel to be representing your hometown of your favorite team as a kid in this situation?
CRAIG COUNSELL: It’s a thrill. I think my idea after I retired was to be a part of this organization in any way I could, to help baseball in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin. I didn’t set out with a plan to become the manager. But I do feel like baseball in Wisconsin and Milwaukee is part of my responsibility, and the best reason to celebrate this for me is how you see it makes everybody feel and how we’ve been able to take our fans on a journey, and hopefully find some new fans that are enjoying baseball.
You talked about the responsibility that you have to Brewers baseball. I remember a video at the beginning of last year where you talked about how you felt like you were in a rebuild. Are you surprised that you’re in this seat in the National League championship series so soon?
CRAIG COUNSELL: You do your job, you try to make a good decision. We’ve tried to stack good decisions on top of each other. David’s done a phenomenal job at adding a whole bunch of really good players to this thing. We’ve gone out and competed and tried to win a lot of baseball games and done a pretty good job of it. So we’ve got ourselves in this position. There was no time table. You just take it as it goes, and we got ourselves into a really good spot. The team — I really believe that we matured greatly as a team kind of after the trade deadline and you start to see things that were — that made you think of October and the possibilities of October. And then we’ve gotten on a pretty good run and find ourselves in this spot. And we feel like that we can compete against anybody.
Yelich has hit everybody, but he hit a couple second half home runs off Clayton Kershaw. Do you think it’s — even for him can be an immediate confidence boost when you get to a guy like him? Would it have been a confidence boost for you if you had gotten to Kershaw?
CRAIG COUNSELL: I think when you’re facing guys like that, I don’t think you think you ever have them figured out. You know they’re going to make pitches. It’s the cat-and-mouse game. Is the success I had in the past, is he going to do the same thing, is he going to do something different? You know, every player is very well aware of the history against the pitcher on the mound. They’ve scouted it. But the great thing about our game is like it’s what’s next? What are you going to do based off that last matchup? I think that’s the cool part about watching Kershaw versus Yelich is to see what happens next.
How did you balance getting guys rest the last couple of days but also maintaining focus? I’m wondering how beneficial having these breaks in terms of maybe taking the pressure off with that?
CRAIG COUNSELL: I think the rest has been good. It’s always good for pitchers at this time of the year to have a little extra time to recover. You’re going into a series where the traditional rules of kind of usage go out the door a little bit, and you’re going to push guys. The winning streak is not something completely on everybody’s mind because it’s been so broken up. I mean, you’re worried about winning series at this point. That’s the carrot for everything. So the win streaks are not as critical.
You were on the Diamondbacks team that won the World Series a much different way; two historically great pitchers, ride them as long as you can. Has baseball gotten away from that, or is it just a matter of using your best guys, whoever they are?
CRAIG COUNSELL: That’s what it is. You’re using your team’s talents the best way you can to win games. So, for that team, that was the best way to do it. For this team, we have to think about things differently because of the talents of the players. I mean, Randy Johnson would be probably first in my draft list. If you could pick a player for me to take in the series, I’d say him in a heartbeat, you know. It would be nice to have him. Our team’s different, you know, and so we’re going to try to — and we’re trying to figure out what’s the best way for us to put together a tough 27 outs and make it tough on them and get those outs as fast as we can. And so we’re considering a different way to put that puzzle together.