Craig Counsell has been in the major leagues for 16 seasons. You might remember him as the player leaping across the plate with the winning run for the Marlins in the 1997 World Series; he got a second ring with the 2001 Diamondbacks. For the last five years the Milwaukee-area native has been a capable backup infielder for his hometown Brewers.
Until now, that is. Counsell turns 41 this month. In celebration of his upcoming birthday, he's hitless in his last 45 at-bats, dating back to June 10:
During his 0-for-45 streak Counsell has lowered his batting average from .236 to .145, although with one walk and one hit by pitch during that stretch he does have a nifty .042 on-base percentage.
The all-time record (for non-pitchers) is 46 consecutive hitless at-bats, set by Bill Bergen of Brooklyn. They were known as the "Superbas" then, but Bergen's performance was anything but superb. He was one of the worst hitters -- maybe the worst -- in major league history, hitting .170/.194/.201 (with just two home runs) in 3,228 plate appearances.
Counsell has tied the second-longest streak in history, set by Dave Campbell in 1973. Here's a list of the longest non-pitcher streaks, as of 2005 (the most recent list I could find).
But Counsell has been a decent hitter at times in his career, and hitless streaks like this aren't necessarily the sole property of banjo hitters. Earlier this year, the Phillies' Raul Ibanez had an 0-for-35 run, one short of the Phillies' team record, held by Len Matuszek (1982-83) and Desi Relaford (1998).
It happens to All-Stars; Robin Ventura suffered through an 0-for-41 in 1990, his rookie year, but his manager, Jeff Torborg, stuck with him and Ventura had a solid career. Also in his freshman season, Jose Canseco had an 0-for-40, but recovered to be named Rookie of the Year.
I mentioned this is the record for non-pitchers. The all-time record is held by Bob Buhl, a former Cubs pitcher who did not get a hit for the entire 1962 season (0-for-70) and was 0-for-87 overall from late 1961 through early '63.
That record will likely stand for a long time, but now that Counsell has reached the
pinnacle nadir of position-player 0-fer's, he should go for the record. Zero for two in his next two at-bats would put him in the memory of baseball fans forever. Go for it, Craig.
Or perhaps the right phrase would be, "Don't go for it."