Throughout the offseason, Fish Stripes is counting down the Top 100 All-Time Marlins. Using the Wins Above Replacement metric, each of the 523 players to have appeared in the regular season for the Florida/Miami franchise were considered. The top 100 scores made the list. The floor was set at 2.0, for Adam Conley and others. Today’s player, Craig Counsell earned 2.5 with the club.
Counsell was a 6’, 180 lb. second baseman from South Bend, Indiana. Born on August 21st, 1970, he went to Whitefish Bay high in Milwaukee before joining the Fighting Irish ot Notre Dame. The Colorado Rockies selected him in the 11th round of the 1992 amateur draft, with the 319th overall pick. Eight players in that round went on to play in the majors, most notably Counsell (career WAR 22.3) and Casey Blake (career WAR 24.9).
Before getting to the Marlins via trade in the middle of the 1997 campaign, Counsell made his way up through the Rockies’ minor league system, with stops in the Northwest League (low-A, Bend Rockies, 18 games, .246/.352/.377/.729), the California League (high-A, Central Valley Rockies, 131 games, .280/.401/.380/.781), the Eastern League (double-A, New Haven Ravens, 83 games, .280/.366/.403/.770), and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (239 games over parts of three seasons, .281/.336/.404/.739). He also appeared for the Rockies at the major league level, in three games and getting two plate appearances in 1995 and once as a pinch runner two seasons later. In a good-for-him situation, the Rockies sent him to the Marlins for Mark Hutton on July 27th, 1997.
Counsell was immediately put into Florida’s starting lineup, and got 47 starts through the end of the season, appearing in 51 games overall. The Fish went 32-20 when he plaeyd and 60-50 when he sat. Although Counsell was well short of the requisite plate appearances for the rate-based statistical leaderboard, he would have ranked first on the team (with a minimum of 180 plate appearances) with a .299 batting average. Counsell slashed .299/.376/.396/.773, showing a lot of patience at the plate by drawing more walks (18) than strikeouts (17). He also totaled 16 RBI through the season, along with 13 multi-hit games.
On August 24th, Counsell hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning (see above) for a 6-0 lead against St. Louis in a game the Marlins would never trail before eventually winning, 7-1. Two days later, in an 11-0 whitewash of the Chicago Cubs, Counsell hit three singles and a double, scoring twice as one of five players with multiple hits. September 3rd would see him draw a walk and steal a base in the second, hit a no-out, one-on single and score in the fourth, and hit a two run single and score in the sixth. Counsell went 12-for-41 in the postseason, including six-for-14 in the Marlins’ five-game series win in the NLCS over the Atlanta Braves. He also tied the Cleveland Indians in the bottom of the ninth with this sacrifice fly:
In 1998, Counsell survived the fire sale which gutted the World Champions and left us with a 54-108 club. Despite only 400 plate appearances over 107 contests, he led the Marlins wtih 51 walks, and slashed .251/.355/.373/.678, with 19 doubles, five triples, four round-trippers and 40 RBI. The Fish posted a 39-68 record when Counsell played and a 15-40 record when he sat. He had 18 multi-hit games, including five three-hit affairs.
On April 16th, in a 12-4 Marlins win over the Philadelphia Phillies, Counsell hit a grand slam in the first inning to put the Fish up 6-1, then added a single in the seventh for good measure. On April 27th, he singled in the third, doubled in the seventh, then doubled in the ninth, eventually scoring a game-tying run in an eventual 5-4 Marlins win against the Colorado Rockies. July 24th would see Counsell hit an RBI-single in the second, an infield RBI-single in the eighth, a solo home run to tie the score in the 10th, and a sacrifice bunt in the 12th inning of a crazy, 7-6, 12-inning loss to the Phillies. Each team scored in each half of each extra inning in the contest.
Counsell remained with the Marlins for the first part of the 1999 campaign, but he only started 10 times out of his 37 appearances, and hit just .152/.211/.167/.378 before the Marlins traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a PTBNL (Ryan Moskau).
After finishing out the season with the Dodgers (50 games, .259/.311/.315/.626, nine RBI), Counsell went on to split his next 12 major league seasons between the Arizona Diamondbacks (664 games, .266/.348/.357/.705, 24 home runs, 193 RBI) and the Milwaukee Brewers (711 games, .241/.333/.326/.659, 13 home runs, 130 RBI. Counsell is currently the manager of the Brewers, since May, 2015.