Column: Craig Counsell says all the right things in his Cubs Convention debut. ‘You don’t think I can do it? Watch.’

Craig Counsell understands numerous eyeballs will probably be on him in 2024 after signing a file five-year, $40 million deal to handle the Chicago Cubs.

Like any free agent who hits the jackpot, the stress to dwell as much as the contract merely will probably be one thing he’ll need to take care of from opening day.

Winning shouldn’t be elective, it’s anticipated. There will probably be no studying curve or time to acclimate himself to the group. It’s win or else.

But Counsell instructed the gang Saturday on the Cubs Convention that he has been an underdog for many of his skilled baseball profession and doesn’t know every other technique to be. So don’t count on any modifications in his demeanor or managerial model simply because he modified uniforms. Counsell wore fitness center sneakers and a black hoodie to his Cubs Convention debut.

“You’ve just got to do it your way,” Counsell mentioned. “I’m fairly conscious of what occurred within the place I’m in, and I’m grateful for it. But it nearly makes me really feel like no one thinks I can do it now. That’s how I’m processing it now — (that) you don’t suppose I can do that.

“You don’t think I can do it? Watch.”

It was a daring assertion, particularly approaching his first day of interacting with Cubs followers. I’ve listened to many managers come to the Cubs Convention since my first one as a Tribune reporter in 1987, together with Don Zimmer, Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Joe Maddon and David Ross. But I don’t recall any of them difficult individuals to doubt him on his opening day.

It could be simply what this group wants as a result of the Cubs, as at present constructed, have left numerous room for doubts. To counsel it’s a higher group than the one which ended 2023 is loopy. Unless they re-sign Cody Bellinger, the lineup shouldn’t be one that almost all groups will worry. The Shōta Imanaga deal was possible a superb one, however the rotation nonetheless lacks depth. And there’s the nagging query of what to do with Christopher Morel, the energizer bunny who lacks a set place to play.

But it’s early, even with spring coaching a month away. Bellinger may not be a Cub, however his identify was introduced up on quite a few events from followers and reporters.

Counsell mentioned he has quizzed his workers for lineups and written down some potential lineups of his personal, solely to be instructed by President Jed Hoyer to not trouble.

“Jed said it was the fourth inning, so I don’t have to,” he instructed followers.

So Counsell wrote a model with Bellinger and one with out him?

“No,” he instructed reporters with amusing. “Nice try.”

If it’s solely the fourth inning of the offseason, Hoyer is just getting began in his deal-making. That suggests they may go all the best way to the beginning of spring coaching earlier than ending the roster building, ready for the proper deal as an alternative of panicking to satiate impatient followers.

“We don’t have any fixed deadline,” common supervisor Carter Hawkins mentioned. “In a perfect world you have your team going into spring training. A lot of these players that sign in March and into the season, it’s just a tough transition phase to get back up to speed when you’re behind the eight ball that way. It doesn’t mean it can’t work, but it seems like it’s harder to work. That’s anecdotal, of course. We wouldn’t rule it out. It would be foolish to rule anything out. But we’d much prefer to get our team sooner than later.”

Counsell was high-quality with the sluggish tempo of the offseason.

“You have to adjust, and in Jed’s role, you have to be patient,” he mentioned. “And when deals present themselves, you make them. And if you don’t do it that way, you’re probably making deals you don’t like. … Trying to get your team better really never ends. There is no end date to that.”

First impressions Saturday had been principally optimistic as Counsell spun tales about an 0-for-44 droop, how a Garth Brooks second in spring coaching helped him change his batting stance and the way he went to a casting name in Milwaukee for a bit position within the 1989 movie, “Major League” however was instructed: “You look like you are 12 — you could be the batboy.”

Perhaps the singular second that gained over probably the most followers Saturday was when Counsell mentioned his philosophy on bunting, which he not often asks gamers to do.

“I think we love the word ‘sacrifice,’ ” he defined. “However, if the sacrifice isn’t successful, it’s not good for the team.”

At his first Cubs Convention in 2003, Baker instructed followers to embrace the idea of hope in spring coaching, when younger gamers can emerge out of nowhere and make groups higher.

“You have to leave some room for some spontaneous surprise,” Baker mentioned.

Likewise, Counsell mentioned he firmly believes within the farm system and the potential of profitable with a youngish group. But he instructed a gaggle of reporters that “solving for wins” could be finished in several methods, and he’s not in opposition to spending in any respect.

“Look, I don’t want to knock star players,” he mentioned, laughing. “If you can get a player that does a lot, that’s incredibly valuable. Bats in lineups, they help teams. You’re looking for them for sure. But you’ve got to acquire them the right way.”

Counsell has spent nearly two months on the job attending to know his new environment, gamers and workers and studying the idiosyncrasies of Cubs followers. After being related to the Brewers for therefore lengthy, he’s beginning to really feel comfy in blue pinstripes, albeit with the identical black hoodie.

“It feels better certainly working with players,” he mentioned. “Even this weekend feels better, meeting players, interacting with fans. That feels like the job I was supposed to do.”

And keep in mind, it’s solely the fourth inning.