Craig Counsell retired on January 17th, marking the end of a 15-year career that for Arizona Diamondback fans, was highlighted by his crucial hit-by-pitch at bat in the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Of course, his most famous moment came as a member of the Florida Marlins, leaping across home plate as he scored the winning run of the 1997 World Series. While Counsell’s career statistics will never be confused with the greats of the game, he nonetheless proves that certain numbers do not measure a career.
In addition to his two World Championships, Counsell played on three other playoff teams: the 2002 Diamondbacks and the 2007 and 2011 Milwaukee Brewers. That is a lot of postseason appearances for a guy who didn’t spend much time on a large market team; 50 games in 1999 with the Dodgers was the exception. Although he was a starter at different points during his playing days (including 2001), he was never considered a guy to worry about in a lineup day in and day out. Yet, as you can tell, every Playoff and Championship team needs a player like Craig Counsell. One guy that I would rate as similar to Counsell would be Mark DeRosa. His overall numbers are better than Counsell’s but he wasn’t feared by anyone as a guy that can beat you. He, like Counsell, was part of many playoff teams. Although So Taguchi didn’t have nearly the career of Counsell and DeRosa, he does have two World Series rings with the 2006 Cardinals and 2008 Phillies. It always seemed he was in the middle of a big rally at an important time in an important game. These are the type of guys that are often overlooked yet always make a big contribution.
Perhaps the best tribute to Craig Counsell was made by former Brewers teammate Corey Hart. He said Counsell would be missed more than Prince Fielder in the clubhouse because of his leadership. Production can be replaced if the right moves are made. Finding leaders who are clutch is much more difficult to gauge. The career of Craig Counsell is an example of both traits. That is why he leaves his diamond days as a winner.