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Astute Counsell up to tough task with Crew

MLB.com

For years, Craig Counsell has been widely known as one of the most intelligent people in baseball.

It could be argued that now he may have to be the Albert Einstein of dugouts to steer the Milwaukee Brewers back onto a winning track. One way or another, being named manager of the Brewers at this moment in history represents an imposing challenge.

For years, Craig Counsell has been widely known as one of the most intelligent people in baseball.

It could be argued that now he may have to be the Albert Einstein of dugouts to steer the Milwaukee Brewers back onto a winning track. One way or another, being named manager of the Brewers at this moment in history represents an imposing challenge.

The Brewers announced Monday that Counsell was replacing Ron Roenicke as manager. There can be considerable debate about how much of Milwaukee's plight was the fault of the manager, but there wasn't any doubt that a change in direction was desperately needed.

The Brewers have, since the middle of last season, surrounded themselves with defeat. Yes, they were in first place for 150 days in 2014. But the trend lines do not support the notion of further near-term success.

Milwaukee is 38-66 over the past 104 games, including a 9-22 finish in 2014 season and a 7-18 start to the 2015 season.

Counsell was given a three-year contract. Perhaps he can get the current roster to perform up to the Brewers' most optimistic expectations. Or if Milwaukee can commit to a course of sensible restructuring, Counsell could be just the man to lead the march into the future.

Counsell is a winner. He played on two World Series championship clubs and had integral roles in both titles. He scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 1997 Series for the Florida Marlins. Counsell reached base in the winning Game 7 rally in the 2001 World Series, when the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the Yankees. These were the same Yankees who had won three straight World Series coming into '01.

Counsell was the Most Valuable Player Award winner in the 2001 National League Championship Series. His consistently superior performance led then D-backs manager Bob Brenly to note that everyone always said that Counsell did all the little things well. Brenly said that it had become obvious that doing all the little things well opened the door for the big things to be done just as well.

And in Milwaukee, Counsell will have a following in the Wisconsin fan base. He grew up in a Milwaukee suburb. His father, John, worked as director of community relations for the Brewers. Counsell also played for the Brewers. One way or another, he has a long Milwaukee lineage, and that gives him a built-in base of support among Brewers fans.

Counsell has served as a special assistant to general manager Doug Melvin since 2012. It is a mark of Counsell's range that he has also filled in as an analyst on Brewers broadcasts, and he has performed with insight, candor and wit.

At the official announcement of Counsell's hiring, he was asked if this moment was surreal for him.

"It's not surreal," Counsell responded. "It's a place where I've prepared myself to be.

"It's an honor and it's humbling, but I feel like this is what I was meant to do," he said, and then added with a smile: "I feel like I'll be better at this than I was at playing."

Counsell will be a first-time manager. Melvin, in addressing that topic, pointed to, for instance, the success that Mike Matheny has had as a first-time manager with the Cardinals.

Video: Brewers GM Melvin on team's managerial change

But beyond that, Melvin said that the diligence in preparation that Counsell had demonstrated as a player would serve him well as a manager.

"I believe that will resonate in the clubhouse," Melvin said.

Now comes the difficult task of turning the losing into winning. Taking over a team that is 7-18 means there is no tough act to follow. But as Melvin pointed out, since the beginning of last September, Milwaukee has won two games in a row only three times.

"You'd have thought you would win two games in a row by mistake," Melvin said.

The Brewers have been locked into defeat. But their new manager has a record of winning and the creative intelligence to figure out a way to get something better out of this team.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com.

Milwaukee Brewers