Craig Counsell completed his heel turn on Monday at his introductory press conference for the Chicago Cubs. Plenty of Brewers media was down in Chicago to try to get some answers from the former Milwaukee skipper.
The answers they got are sure to make Brewers fans even more upset about Counsell's departure. What were some of the highlights, or more accurately lowlights, from his presser that are relevant to Brewers fans?
Counsell says it "feels good" to put on Cubs uniform
It's like watching Benedict Arnold put on a British redcoat uniform. Counsell, the ultimate Brewer for 17 years, puts on a Cubs uniform and feels good wearing it.
The sight of this is enough to anger any Brewers fan and the comment from Counsell just throws another arrow into the heart of Milwaukee.
Counsell has been thinking about leaving for two years
We've known that back in early September, Counsell told owner Mark Attanasio that he was thinking about leaving the Brewers next season, but apparently Counsell was thinking about that even earlier. According to Counsell, he's been thinking about leaving Milwaukee for two years.
What could've happened two years ago that would lead to Counsell wanting to leave? Occam's Razor tells us the simplest explanation is often the correct one. The simplest explanation is the Josh Hader trade as the turning point in Counsell's feelings about sticking around in Milwaukee. The Hader trade made a mess of Counsell's clubhouse that year, selling off an All Star closer while in first place would indicate the front office isn't serious about winning a World Series.
Counsell likely told them not to do it or he was blindsided by it. Either way, it's the kind of move that logically could lead to Counsell wanting to find a new organization. It explains why he didn't give the Brewers a chance to match the Cubs offer.
The fact that Counsell has essentially been mentally checked out for the past two seasons, ever since that Hader trade, is particularly upsetting because that means the Brewers legitimately had no chance of winning anything in the past two years. That's when he decided he didn't want to sign an extension and that's when he decided he wanted to leave. There was nothing Milwaukee could've done after that Hader trade to change his mind. Even turning a piece of it into William Contreras wasn't enough.
The Hader trade felt awful at the time, then it's begun to feel better after turning Esteury Ruiz into Contreras, but now that trade cost the Brewers their manager. Not only did it cost them the most dominant reliever in the game, not only did it cost them a chance at a World Series in 2022, it cost them arguably the best manager in baseball forever, and they lost him to a bitter division rival.
Resources were a "part of the equation" for Counsell
Many Brewers fans have lamented the lack of resources, aka money, being put into the team on the field in recent years. The fact is the Brewers are a small market with limited resources and even though they punch above their weight class in payroll, they're not able to punch up to being a heavyweight. Counsell, wanted to join that heavyweight class.
"The challenge of this is different" can be translated as "The challenge of this is easier". Craig Counsell has apparently grown tired of having to play guys like Brian Anderson and Owen Miller and Abraham Toro and wants to be able to have top tier players at his disposal, like any manager. This could explain why Anderson was kept on the team despite not playing for an entire month, it felt like it was out of spite for the Brewers at the time and it's looking more and more like it was.
There's nothing the Brewers can really do about their resources. They don't have a massive TV contract like the Cubs do, they don't have as wealthy an ownership group, and they simply can't run a payroll like the Cubs can. While some may simply want Mark Attanasio to sell the team to someone wealthier, where is this magical mystery buyer that will take the Brewers to $200MM payrolls? They don't exist.
Brewers fans have felt the little brother to Chicago for decades. They're the bigger city with more resources and more cachet and in spite of it all, Milwaukee fans are proud of this team and this city and have dominated the rivalry for years under Counsell. At the end of the day, that still isn't enough and the bigger brother wins out in the end.
Counsell underestimated the impact of his move to Cubs on the fanbase
If Craig Counsell couldn't properly estimate that Brewers fans would be upset about him leaving for the Cubs out of the clear blue sky, then he probably wasn't "born a Brewer" as much as everyone thought he was. Everyone associated with this franchise understands that rivalry, and someone who's seen it firsthand for the last 17 years should understand that. He knew what Game 163 meant. He knew what this rivalry meant. If he didn't think going to them would upset people, he wasn't as much a part of it as everyone thought.
Also Counsell saying that "Ultimately your job is to provide your fans with an incredible experience" is quite the quote after he put Jesse Winker on the playoff roster and gave him two at-bats in crunch time. No one in that fan experience was looking for Jesse Winker in that spot. But as he said earlier, he pretty much had one foot out the door for two years already.
Counsell's departure has been a foregone conclusion in his mind for two years and he ended up choosing the place that would sting the most when he left.