"I'm not that powerful. I've been here two years. There's no way you can be here two years and be that powerful. I didn't run Stoney out of own. That's not my style. I didn't want Stoney to leave. I wanted him
back." "Their leader is not a whiner, reputations are usually blown out of proportion."
"You can't bring bad stuff from the past into the
future. I've never seen anything like [the '04 controversies] in my 36 years in
the game. I'm sorry it was on my watch."
"I didn't like Houston drilling Derrek Lee with two outs in the ninth, [knowing] we don't see 'em again until next year. To me, that's dirty baseball."
"Did some writer add fuel to a fire that wasn't there? I don't know."
"I don't take things as insults. You're the one who's got to play, bro. It's a big year for him and a big year for us, period. It's a big year for me. Personally, I'm not crazy about going into my last year of my contract (in 2006) without winning (in '05)."
The above quotes were from the Cub manager over the weekend at the annual love fest that is the Cub Convention. Dusty Baker's reputation with the Giants was that he was a great manager in the clubhouse dealing with the egos of players like Bonds and Kent, he was questionable tactician managing a game, and he was a poor handler of pitchers. During those years Dusty's strength inside the clubhouse was never questioned. Following 2004 you have to question if Dusty could have handled this team any worse--both on and off the field.
Dusty Baker lost control of the Cubs in 2004. Dusty can spin this thing anyway he wants. He can blame the media, the rules setup before he arrived, or the "snitches" in the clubhouse. The fact is 2004 happened on his watch. Dusty Baker always has an alibi. If you cannot make decent in-game decisions managing a baseball team you had better run a good clubhouse. If you can't do either, good luck getting that contract extension.
It's funny how things change in one year. A year ago Baker was the toast of Chicago. He had turned the Cubs into winners. Bringing them within 5 outs of the...you know. Now Baker is in a real pickle. Fan perception is that Baker chased the popular Stoney out of town. Stoney's replacement is Bob Brenly, a man who has won the World Series--this decade. Brenly's a perfect replacement for Baker if the big blue express runs off course this season.
Baker will face his first challenge when and if Sosa arrives in Mesa. How will Baker handle the fragile sluggers ego. Even Sosa-apologist Ron Santo has called for Sammy to apologize for his actions the last day of the season. Is that realistic? I don't think so. Listening to the Cub players over the weekend, it sounds like they expect an apology from the future HOF'er. Baker is going to have to save his relationship with Sammy, along with the rest of the teams relationship with Sahm. If Dusty can do this, the Cubs will have gotten what they hired Baker to do. If not, get ready to see another new color commentator in the broadcast booth in 2006