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Cubs hire Craig Counsell as manager, ending David Ross' tenure

Ryan Herrera Avatar
November 6, 2023

The Chicago Cubs took the offseason’s first major swing, and it was a stunner.

Former Brewers manager Craig Counsell is headed to Wrigley Field, replacing current skipper and 2016 World Series hero David Ross.

The news was reported by several sources on Monday morning with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic landing the first report. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon. Reports have said the deal is for five years and $40 million.

The Cubs’ higher ups had publicly backed Ross as their manager after the season. Chairman Tom Ricketts even went as far as to state, “He’s our guy,” on the last day of the year.

They were pleased that Ross kept the team on track even when it fell 10 games below .500 in June, which led to a run where the Cubs reached 12 games over .500 three months later and were in the playoff race until the last weekend of the season.

“Do we have disagreements and do we have no heated conversations? Of course we do, but you will with any manager,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said of Ross during his season-ending presser. “They have to make so many different decisions. They have so many things to weigh, so obviously, we work hard all the time to give him the right information.

“If there are things that we disagree with or things that we can do better, he’s very open-minded to that. He’s constantly trying to improve. Ultimately, we’re very pleased with the job he did this year, and I think that he should be proud of the fact that that group kept fighting for him.”

However, the team’s September collapse — when they lost 15 of their last 22 games to miss the playoffs — left some doubt about Ross, who still had another year with a club option for 2025 in his contract. Though it’s likely not the case that he managed himself out of a job, the Cubs ultimately decided a move was necessary.

Ross, 46, finishes his Cubs managerial stint with a 262-284 record in four seasons. He guided his group to the playoffs in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season (34-26), before roster turnover led to losing seasons in 2021 and ’22.

The Cubs ended the 2023 season 83-79 and just shy of a postseason berth.

“Today, we made the difficult decision to dismiss David Ross as our major league manager,” Hoyer said in a statement. “On behalf of the Cubs organization, we express our deep gratitude for David’s contributions to our club, both on and off the field. First as a player and then as a manager, David continually showcased his ability to lead. David’s legacy will be felt in Chicago for generations and his impact to our organization will stack up with the legends that came before him.

“Going forward, our major league team will be managed by Craig Counsell. We look forward to welcoming Craig at Wrigley Field early next week.”

Chicago Cubs manager David Ross and Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell (30) meet before their game Thursday, April , 2022 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Ill.MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL

Counsell, 53, managed for parts of the last nine seasons in Milwaukee, posting a 707-625 record.

Since 2017, the Brewers have posted a 573-460 record, good for a .555 winning percentage. Milwaukee made the playoffs in five of those seven years, finishing with at least 86 wins in each of the six 162-game seasons.

Counsell has become recognized as one of the best skippers in baseball, and he was widely considered the best option on the free-agent manager market. Leading a ballclub in the smallest market in baseball to winning seasons year in and year out has helped him build that reputation.

After Milwaukee’s ended and Counsell hit the market, the bidding war seemed to come down to either the Brewers or the Mets.

Counsell is from the Milwaukee area having grown up roughly 10 miles away from American Family Field. His father, John, worked for the organization, and he played for the Brewers for six of his 16 big league seasons. Meanwhile, Counsell’s former boss with the Brewers, David Stearns, is now the president of baseball operations in New York, and the Mets pursued him hard.

But Monday, the Cubs pulled off a move that shocked the baseball world, replacing their sitting manager with one of the best on the market in one fell swoop.

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