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An epic slump

ERIC: *With special thanks to Tim Allen of WSSP, Milwaukee’s Sports Talk Radio 1250 for reminding me of this epic slump of Counsell’s during my 6/11 appearance on his show. (Listen to the podcast here.)

Last year, 40-year-old infielder Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers suffered through an epic slump during his final season in the major leagues. Counsell went 0-45 before finally busting out of his slump. He went 3-3 on June 10, 2011, and then proceeded to go nearly two full months before getting his next hit. During that spectacular streak of ineffectiveness at the plate, Counsell’s batting average nose-dived from .236 to .145. He had one walk and one hit by pitch during that period, meaning that his on-base percentage during the slump was an eye-popping .042. Along the way, Counsell took sole possession of second place for the all-time longest slump, passing Tony Bernazard of the Cleveland Indians, who did it in 1984, and Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio, who also went 0 for 44 with Boston in 1971.

When asked about the slump, Brewers manager Ron Roenecke answered with some classic double-speak: “It is what it is. He’s still battling. He still feels good upstairs. Whether it’s driving in runs or saving runs, I don’t see the difference.”

By comparison, during Counsell’s run at immortality, Boston Red Sox infielder Dustin Pedroia had 70 hits. Jacoby Ellsbury had 60 hits. Melky Cabrera had 65 hits. Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets had 65 hits. Even knuckleballing pitcher R. A. Dickey of the Mets had 6 hits. That’s how epic Counsell’s slump truly was.

One of the mainstays of the book version of You Stink! was Bill Bergen, whom we quite appropriately anointed the worst hitter in the history of Major League Baseball. Bergen owns the record for longest slump at 0-46, and Craig Counsell came within one more out of tying that ignominious record last season.

However, it was not to be.

Finally, on August 5, 2011, Counsell spanked a pinch-hit single off of reliever Enario DelRosario in the ninth inning of a game against the Houston Astros to break the slump one out away from tying Bergen’s record for futility. A wry smile spread across the face of the 15-year veteran as he watched his teammates celebrate in the dugout. The single raised Counsell’s batting average to .153.

“It’s been ugly, it’s been bad. Just to do something right, it’s good,” declared Counsell after the game. Counsell’s manager, Ron Roenicke, had this to say: “It’s big. It’s important when you’re feeling for a guy, you want him to do it and then he finally comes through. It’s a nice relief.”

Counsell had a 16-year career in the Major Leagues, won two World Series championships, and was the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player in 2001. Unlike Bill Bergen, he was not a bad ballplayer.

And so, Counsell’s historic streak of futility ended one out short of surpassing the epic 0-46 mark posted by Bill Bergen, thereby allowing Bergen to retain his crown as the worst hitter in the history of Major League Baseball. Counsell retired at the end of the season last year, realizing that the slump was a message he had better listen to. Congratulations (or perhaps condolences?) to Craig Counsell for dodging that particular bullet.

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Readers Relate

“We always read about the good teams and the great players, but it’s the bad teams and the horrific players that help build teams’ rich histories. You Stink! lets you know, that it can always be worse, and makes you appreciate your ball club that much more!” - Matt Lambert, a Cleveland Indians fan -----------------------------------------“Gave Dad a copy of You Stink! about the worst baseball teams and players in history. The review: ‘a home run.’” - Scott Gosnell, Columbus, OH

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