“We left wins on the table.” – Jed Hoyer
If you’re wondering why Craig Counsell is the new Cubs manager, that’s it. Hoyer could have stepped up to the podium, dropped that quote, tossed his microphone aside, and walked away. If you’re among the “make it make sense” crowd that believes David Ross was cut down in cold blood, that’s all you need to know. Relationships matter, just not as much as wins.
The Cubs missed the playoffs by one game after losing 17 of their final 29 games and five of their last six. Ross made some questionable managerial and lineup decisions all season, particularly in the final month. Pete Crow-Armstrong, Alexander Canario, and Luke Little were used sparingly down the stretch and his gassed veterans played sloppy baseball at times, but Ross ignored it. When Hoyer spoke about giving away wins, he pointed the finger directly at his former manager.
The Cubs’ poor play in September hurt even more when the Diamondbacks advanced to the World Series. Chicago lost six of seven games to Arizona this season, all in the final six weeks, including four by one or two runs. The Cubs were also 10-18 in May while Ross struggled with poor lineups and a mismanaged bullpen. Dumping the beloved manager is justifiable by Chicago’s 21-24 record on one-run games alone. Hoyer felt like a lot of those games were winnable and said so. Ross was entering the final year of his contract and, though Hoyer and Tom Ricketts spoke reverently of him after the season, nobody ever mentioned a potential contract extension.
The Brewers, by the way, won 18 of their final 29 games on their way to an NL Central title and have gone to the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. Counsell was a free agent and loved the idea of managing the Cubs, so Hoyer pounced. The Cubs-Brewers rivalry may now supersede both organizations’ bitterness toward the Cardinals, at least in 2024. That’s good for both teams and better for baseball.
Cubs News & Notes
- Hoyer downplayed speculation that he would be overly aggressive this winter while leaving the door open to big acquisitions.
- The president of baseball operations explained the managerial switch by saying he has a responsibility to the fanbase to win as many games as possible.
- Counsell lives for two things: his family and baseball.
- Chicago’s new manager explained his “scary decision” to accept the challenge of managing the Cubs.
- Counsell signed with the Cubs because he needed a new challenge. His $40 million contract was very persuading, too.
- Brewers president of baseball operations Matt Arnold said he would like to retain Counsell’s coaches in Milwaukee, but won’t prevent anybody from seeking better opportunities elsewhere.
- Christopher Morel is working at first base to “see how he reacts.”
- Mike Axisa of CBS Sports predicts Cody Bellinger will return to the Cubs on a seven-year contract worth $180 million.
- Scott Boras said the Cubs will have to “loosen their belts” if they want to bring the star center fielder back.
- Chicago’s North Side baseballers will need to replace Bellinger’s production if he departs.
- Power hitting is still the soft spot of Chicago’s roster whether the lefty slugger stays or leaves.
- Bellinger, Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele, Nico Hoerner, and Dansby Swanson are finalists for this year’s all-MLB team.
- Craig Breslow had some very nice things to say about the Cubs while meeting with the Boston press.
Odds & Sods
Trevor Bauer potentially returning to MLB rubs me the wrong way.
Trevor Bauer’s agents Jon Fetterolf and Rachel Luba are meeting with teams in hopes of finding Bauer a job back in MLB. Bauer went 10-4 with a 2.76 ERA for Yokohama, including 9-2 with a 1.97 ERA over his last 15 starts. His fastball ticked up 1 mph on average, hitting a 99.3 max
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 9, 2023
- Milwaukee: The good folks of Milwaukee are very angry that Counsell — who was nearly as beloved as sausages, cheese, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Bob Uecker — departed for the Cubs, of all teams.
- Cincinnati: Jonathan India is a popular name among executives at baseball’s GM Meetings. Multiple teams have reportedly asked the Reds about the infielder’s availability.
- Pittsburgh: Pitcher Steven Brault, who spent parts of six seasons with the Pirates, announced his retirement on Monday.
- St. Louis: The Cardinals, who are searching for starting pitchers, hope to make an aggressive move early in free agency.
The Brewers are reportedly open to moving any player on their roster ($), according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
MLB announced yesterday that it was canceling the remainder of the GM Meetings because of a stomach bug that swept through the attendees.
Counsell in Cubs digs is going to take some getting used to.
WELCOME TO CHICAGO CRAIG COUNSELL pic.twitter.com/UHda39bU0Z
— Chief Cub (@ChiefCub) November 6, 2023
They Said It
- “I don’t think we signaled that we’re going to have some crazy aggressive offseason, I like our position and if there are moves, even big moves, that will help us continue that trajectory we’ll definitely do it. But I don’t think it’s a signal somehow we’re going to have the biggest and boldest offseason. If we do, it’s because things lined up for us.” – Hoyer
- “Yesterday was an emotional day. I was sad first, then happy, then I was crying, then I was laughing, I went through all of it. There was a lot yesterday, and I understand. It was a decision that affected a lot of people, and I take that very seriously. I understand people are mad. That’s part of this. That’s part of what makes this hard. But sometimes you just have to try to think above that and do what you think in your heart is right for you and the people around you.” – Counsell
- “I sat down with [Counsell] for hours and hours and just loved the conversation. He’s super engaging. Had a really great back-and-forth. And it was clear that not only his ability – his ability is obvious – but I felt there was a connection and a commonness of purpose. From that point, I knew that obviously it had to be kept very quiet because I couldn’t risk that publicly with David [Ross].” – Hoyer
Thursday Walk-Up Song
I’m down for an intensified Cubs-Brewers rivalry.