Conceding that my close attention to Major League Baseball waned in the late 1980’s as our family grew, I’ve always felt that the best manager I’ve ever seen was Billy Martin. Because of his managerial skill, Mr. Martin was asked to manage [and because of his vitriolic nature, ultimately asked to leave 😉 ] multiple organizations. With each team, he would assess the talent that he had, and won Divisions, Pennants, and World Championships with different strategies and different arrays of talent: when he had great power, he relied on offense and the homerun; when he had starting pitching, he relied on his corps of starters and his defense; when he had speed but little power, he’d steal a base, hit and run, and manufacture offense; when he had a great closer, he’d build his game strategy to maximize his closer’s effectiveness.
Although I’m but a bandwagon fan of the current Milwaukee Brewer team (although a true fan of the 1982 World Series team), I’ve now seen enough that I consider Craig Counsell — although toiling in a small market during Baseball’s Big Money Era may prevent him from ever mounting the victories and championships that Mr. Martin did – to be every bit as adept as Mr. Martin was. He only had one pitcher win as many as 10 games this year and has only one position player – Mr. Yelich (despite my enduring affection for Charlie Moore) – that is better than the 1982 counterpart. [Although I’m happy to debate, I’d submit that the ’82 team was markedly better than the current Brewers at catcher and all infield positions; that Ben Oglivie (40+ homeruns in ‘82) and this year’s Ryan Braun are a “push” in leftfield; and that although they brought very different skills to their teams, Gorman Thomas and Lorenzo Cain are a “push” in centerfield as well]. Mr. Counsell nonetheless managed his team to as many victories (in 162 games) as the ’82 Brewer team.
Mr. Counsell doesn’t seem to get rattled; he’s been able to leverage a bunch of different talents to the team’s best advantage; and by all accounts, he’s been able to juggle a number of personalities and egos to maintain a loose clubhouse. Whether Milwaukee wins or loses the pennant or – if it gets that far – the World Series, he’s done an incredible job, and the Brewers and we Brewer fans — true or bandwagon – are fortunate to have him.
2 thoughts on “On Craig Counsell”
Jim, it’ll not be a surprise that I’d comment on my Beloved Brewers. It’s been so many years of “who cares” that this team has been such a joy to watch play. I agree Counsell has done an outstanding job of managing his team. He’s on the forefront of a fundamental change from the traditional way of managing a pitching staff, focusing on using all his pitchers, rather than a traditional approach of starters going as many innings as possible and having a closer, such as Rollie Fingers who could go as many as three innings. What’s also changed is that traditional approaches such as sacrifice bunts and hitting to the right side to move a runner from second to third has been replaced by an emphasis on home runs. The change is driven by game theory that says outs given away through such things as sacrifice bunts or steal attempts result in fewer run OVERALL than looking for more opportunities to hit home runs. (Although I would point out the great Orioles teams of the 60s and 70s were managed by Earl Weaver had the offensive philosophy of the three run home run. I saw Frank Robinson hit a home run over the left field bleachers at old County Stadium. I was in those bleachers and watched, open-mouthed, as it flew over my head and over the bleachers.).
I will admit I like the way Counsell has managed the pitching staff. I will admit I frowned and grumbled when he didn’t have Arcia bunt with a runner on second and no one out in the 7th inning of a 1-1 game. Arcia popped out, the runner was stranded and the Brewers lost in 13 innings. Apparently, I’m still grumbling.
I agree the 82 everyday players were better. I think the 18 pitching staff is better.
We shall see tonight if they can extend their season, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks for reminding why I loved baseball so much.
Hey — it has been a WONDERFUL season. Do agree with your Arcia grumble, however — and with Smoltz’ continued comments about managing differently in a short series than in a full season. Kind of expect — maybe just hope — that if the game situation warrants it, those Brewers with sufficient bat control (Braun comes to mind) will shoot for singles in the gaps in the Dodgers’ shifts, rather than swinging for homers. I admit that I was concerned about what effect the painful loss might have on the team — would much preferred to have been blown out 10-0 in the fourth game. I hope they can keep it going :).