Craig Counsell don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows. With no interest in his services this offseason, he has decided to retire and will take a job with the Brewers’ front office.
Counsell is 41, which even though he’s been around forever, is older than I think of him as. That’s because he was already in his late 20s when he started to register in our baseball consciousness when he scored the winning run in the 1997 World Series. He played a good bit with the Marlins after that, but didn’t spend a full season with a full-time job until he was 30.
That was with the Diamondbacks in 2001, a year which would cement his place, such as it is, in baseball history. he was the NLCS MVP that season, going 8 for 21 and driving in four runs in five games against the Braves. While he was only 2 for 24 in the World Series that year, he was famously hit by a Mariano Rivera pitch to load the bases for Luis Gonzalez in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7. And we all know what Luis Gonzalez did next.
After that he didn’t have trouble finding work for over a decade, going from Arizona to Milwaukee … and then back to Arizona … and then back to Milwaukee. Hey, whatever worked. For his career he posted a line of .255/.342/.344 which is useful enough for a middle infielder/third baseman. And with the caveat that fielding metrics often disagree with one another, his glove was reputed to be solid. At times excellent. He certainly seemed that way.
His career ended with something of a whimper, going hitless in four plate appearances during the 2011 postseason. This following a record-tying 45 consecutive hitless at bats during the regular season.
But you know what? There’s a saying in many professions which basically goes “you have to be something really special to screw up that many damn times.” It’s not a backhanded compliment if you think about it. Being given an opportunity to fail big and/or to fail often means that someone trusts you, likes you and has confidence on some level that you’ll eventually succeed or that you’ll figure it out soon. That doesn’t always happen, but it’s better to be given that chance than to have the account, the case, the task or, in Counsell’s situation, the bat, taken out of one’s hands.
Happy trails, Mr. Counsell. You gave Craigs — and late bloomers — a good name.