Cubs general manager Jim Hendry ended the speculation about Dusty Baker's immediate future today by saying the manager is in no jeopardy of being replaced at the moment.
``There's no truth to any of the speculation,'' Hendry said. ``I don't know how it got started and took off like this.''
As for Baker, he is likely to finish out his four-year contract in the dugout, provided the Cubs continue to play well after the All-Star break. The Cubs have won three straight and four of their last five games.
``I haven't changed my stance on Dusty from Day One,'' Hendry said. ``People can say or speculate what they want, but I never told people I would make a decision this week and I'm not planning to make one.''
Hendry gave no time frame for making a decision on whether to give Baker a contract extension. He will continue assessing how Baker, his staff and his players respond in the final three months and only take action if he sees the situation declining. Hendry also said that no coaching changes are being considered at this time.
``When there's an announcement to be made, we'll make it, but there's nothing coming any time soon,'' he said. ``The only person making the decision is me.''
this page is unsurprised to hear more self-affirmation from the clinically insecure hendry -- the constant reiteration of just who exactly is in charge indicates that he himself isn't confident -- but is puzzled by the childish lying about the source of speculation regarding baker's job. hendry himself started the speculation with his comments last week. he isn't stupid enough (we think) to not have realized the implications of what he was saying, as his comments then were clearly intended to take the heat off a team in a death spiral by giving the impression of a functioning, self-correcting bureaucracy at work behind the scenes.
clearly, it would seem, that bureaucracy is in any case broken.
this page said once before that, having survived the inflection point of pressure, it suspected baker would ride out the storm -- indeed, that abject failure seems to be of little consequence within the cub front office, if hendry's own extension is any indication. it then further said last week that hendry's own impotence made it likely that little would happen soon. this decision to hang on to baker at least for the time being certainly seems to affirm that view -- though dusty is part of the problem, the problems obviously run far deeper and higher than the manager.
cubs coach chris speier on the score this afternoon gave another perhaps unintentional glimpse into the total dysfunction of the cubs as an organization. it has been noted here and elsewhere that the cubs, despite being a fundamentally unsound team, do not drill under baker. this goes some way in explaining, it would seem, the basic situational errors -- such as the failure to hit cutoffs and have the pitcher cover first -- that have been a feature of dusty's teams.
but what speier revealed is what has taken the place of practice -- ad hoc fantasy camps. coaches dick pole, gene clines and gary matthews hit groundballs to corporate executives who have paid the cubs for the privilege of getting out onto the field to take a few groundballs and some instruction from cub coaches. the coaches are then compensated for their time by receiving goods and services from the corporations involved.
this is how the priorities of this team now lie -- coaches hitting grounders to paying fantasist executives before games while the players lounge in the clubhouse.
mike imrem in today's daily herald wonders if macfail shouldn't try to leave while he still can with some measure of grace, and this page can hardly disagree. the unbelievable incompetence and aimlessness that pervades this franchise from its players to its general manager is all, in the end, a reflection on macfail's awful tenure with the cubs which has been every bit as bad as the time that preceded it. this team is the product of his organization -- he is responsible for every part of it.
this page is of the considered opinion that macfail has as team president bred a poisoned, lazy and stupid culture within a cubs organization which is in every likelihood incapable of producing a consistent winner under his watch in large part because of his incompetence in baseball operations. after a dozen years, it has become clear that he doesn't know how to build a winner and thus has little effective notion of how to evaluate the performance of those underneath him who are supposed to help him in that cause.
as baker twists in the wind, one problem at least temporarily reprieved by another problem, this page would ask you, dear reader, why it isn't andy macfail's head being demanded on a platter before he can be allowed to put yet more future years beyond the grasp of victory.