Craig Counsell’s statistics as a player don’t scream anything special. He was a good fielder with an 18.8 defensive WAR (including a 2005 season in which he recorded the second-highest dWAR in the majors). His offensive prowess was less apparent; a career .255 hitter, Counsell never hit for much power, though he was a good base runner and had one of the most unique stances the game has ever seen.
One trait of Counsell’s that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is leadership, and that’s exactly what Brewers vice president and assistant general manager Matt Arnold pointed to this week on “Big Time Baseball.”
The Brewers needed leadership entering the home stretch. Christian Yelich rewrote the Milwaukee Brewers record books in 2019, setting franchise highs in slugging percentage (.671) and OPS (1.100). He almost certainly would have challenged Prince Fielder’s club-record 50 home runs, as well. But one of the more tragic moments we’ve ever seen on a baseball field ended Yelich’s MVP-caliber year 130 games into his season and left the team without it’s de facto leader.
RADIO.COM Sports MLB Insider and “Big Time Baseball” co-host Jon Heyman questioned Arnold on what went down in the clubhouse after Yelich’s season-ending patella fracture.
“What I think happened is that Craig Counsell addressed the team,” Arnold said. “He really doesn’t do it very often but when he does it’s incredibly impactful. I’d say he’s among the best speakers I’ve ever been around and to have him step up and address the injury, what we need to do and for everybody to stay positive and keep the energy going… I think right now we have a really good vibe.”
Losing Yelich hurts, though, and Arnold couldn’t say enough about their decision to acquire Yelich and what he has done for the franchise.
“We had a lot of reasons to like Yelich,” Arnold said. “I don’t think anybody here would have said he’s going to become one of the best players on the planet, but he really has emerged and has been outstanding. We had a number of people go to bat for him so a lot of credit to our staff that recommended Christian.”
Yelich’s injury is just one of the many hardships that the Brewers have had to endure throughout the season, but they still find themselves square in the playoff picture. Heyman went on to question whether or not Arnold was surprised at their current standing.
“When you enter a season where you were one game away from a World Series… that was something where we set the standards high coming into this year and certainly there were expectations and you never know how the season unfolds,” Arnold said. “Losing [Corey] Knebel in spring training was a big blow for us. Certainly a handful of guys underperformed early on. But we’ve also had a number of guys step up and I feel like the expectations were there from our coaching staff and our players. We had somebody like Christian Yelich to build around, and then we were able to add guys like Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal to our group.
Looking forward, co-host Josh Lewin asked Arnold who he plans to lean on as the regular season comes to a close.
“Lorenzo Cain came through the fire with us last year and had some amazing moments there,” Arnold said. “Having him and some of those veteran leaders that have been through that gives us a little more confidence to be able to weather the storm. [We] understand that it’s going to be a really big challenge for everybody there, but certainly having those types of guys that have been here with us for a number of years now will be really valuable.”
The Brewers are currently battling for the second NL Wild Card spot with the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs, among other teams.
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