View Full Version : Dusty: "I'm not bitter" about time in Chicago

04-09-2008, 02:55 PM

Bitter? Baker says no

Dusty Baker says he asked the Cubs for a one-year deal to stay in Chicago. (AP)

By NICK PIETRUSZKIEWICZ npiet@nwherald.com
April 8, 2008

MILWAUKEE - Dusty Baker stood up from the chair in the visiting manager's office at Miller Park, tugged at his belt, tucked in that strange-looking gray Reds road uniform and paused at the door for a moment.

He needed to steel himself for this ride down memory lane, this trip to a time when he wore a white pinstriped uniform with a Cubs logo stitched on his chest, back to a place where, for the first time in his life, he failed.

A second or two passed, then he pulled on his hat, forced a smile onto his face and whispered "Let's go" to himself as he headed toward the dugout. He was ready, or so he thought.

Reliving those days in Chicago bothers Baker because he wants to live in this moment, leave the boos and the towel drills and the hate mail, and most of all the losing, behind.

What bothers him just as much, though, is that he asked for a chance to finish the job, offering to take a deal to which even managers with zero experience, much less ones with three division titles and three NL Manager of the Year awards to their name, would not agree.

"I even asked [for a one-year deal]," Baker revealed for the first time Tuesday. "No problem. Just give me one more shot."

The Cubs flatly refused. Told him it was time to go.

"I don't like leaving a job undone," said Baker, who returns to Wrigley six days from now for the first time since he was ushered out immediately after the 2006 season. "I don't like leaving at the bottom. I asked [Cubs general manager] Jim Hendry, told him I'd like to try it again even though people weren't for me at the end. Everybody else said, 'don't even think about it.' I said, 'yeah, man.' I wanted one more shot at it."

The Cubs felt that he wasn't the man for the job. But then, Baker wonders, who is?

"People said 'Congratulations, you're the first Cubs manager to get another job after [being] fired.' " Baker said. "Why is that? Is that some kind of burial ground for managers? Why? Something's not right there."

That toothy grin, the one that accessorized Baker's first two years with the Cubs as often as those double-wide wristbands but disappeared his final two seasons, suggests he's happy here, that he doesn't really think about his time in Chicago until someone else brings it up.

But when they do, the frustration, the anger, the hurt comes back even, though, time and time again, he says he's past it. He says he'd rather not talk about it. Of course, then he starts talking about it.

"I ask myself, 'If I was so bad, why'd you (the Cubs) have to go spend that money?' " he says, referring to all the huge contracts Hendry started handing out about 38 seconds after Baker was told he wasn't wanted back. "It ain't my money, they can do what they want to do. ... You give me the players [and] I have a good chance to win.

"I don't look back. I don't want to live in the past. I'd rather live my life and be left alone. They don't miss me. So go on your business. It's no big deal. Why should I look back? Everybody's sleeping good there. So why should I live back there?"

The smile is gone now as he leans back against a wall. Perhaps he should have taken another moment or two before he walked out of the manager's office.

"I'm not bitter," he insists. "I went through that already. What do I have to be bitter about? What gives someone the right to make you feel bitter?"

Let's change the subject, he says. Of course, he ends up going back to the subject.

"Why am I such big news?" he asks. "I sold a lot of newspapers over there and a lot of ads. Every time somebody gets hurt, I hear [it was my fault]. How come other managers don't hear it when somebody gets hurt? I must be more powerful than I thought."

Not much about him has changed. Baker still drops Hank Aaron's name every few minutes, and says "big-time" at least once every sentence. He still walks through the clubhouse and calls his players "dude" and "homie." He still chomps on toothpicks and passes out unsolicited advice.

"People who are in baseball ... as long as he has [been] aren't going to change," says Reds catcher Paul Bako, who played for Baker with the Cubs. "If they do, it usually means they aren't good at it. He's going to be who he is. He's not going to change for anyone. He's still Dusty."

The year away doing TV work didn't make Baker appreciate that seat on the bench more because he maintains that he always appreciated it. Still, being away from the Cubs, from a place that loved him and then loathed him, from an organization that coveted him and then disowned him, changes a person, even if they don't want to admit it.

"I'm the same 'O.G.' I used to be," he says.

But he's not, because everything around him has changed.

"It is different here," said Reds center fielder Corey Patterson, who, like Baker, was vilified in Chicago and has come to Cincinnati in search of a baseball cleansing. "I don't know why things are the way they are in some places. Here it's laid back and the fans are great - they don't overreact too much. They appreciate things here. You can feel it."

The fans will be waiting for Baker at Wrigley.

"I was booed there, why shouldn't I expect it when I go back?" Baker says. "I'm past getting my feelings hurt."

The boos might not hurt, but the memories - of losing, of not being given that shot to finish the job - those still haunt him, even if he refuses to say so.

Nick Pietruszkiewicz is the Northwest Herald's sports columnist. Write to him at npiet@nwherald.com. For more, read his blog, "No, Seriously," at NWHerald.com/noseriously.

04-09-2008, 03:02 PM
I'll bet Dusty would like to pound the Cubs into the dirt.

That makes him llke us.

Always Red
04-09-2008, 03:20 PM
I'll bet Dusty would like to pound the Cubs into the dirt.

That makes him llke us.

This makes me like Dusty. :thumbup:

04-09-2008, 11:58 PM
I like Dusty. He's colorful, he says goofy things that you know he must mean another way otherwise they don't make sense, and maybe he's at that point where all the experience and the things that have gone wrong change him just enough to make him better at his job.

Also - he isn't part of the "fraternity" -the "good old Reds gang" that always got hired as managers and coaches so he brings a new perspective and input. With Cast as owner and WK as GM, and Jocketty to advise, and Baker and the new hirings since Kriv took over...well the old days are gone at last thank goodness.

04-10-2008, 12:06 AM
I was more than willing to go with Mack again this year but now that Dusty is here, he is OUR manager and I hope the REDS BEAT THE CUBS INTO ANOTHER DIMENSION.

Of course, I have always hated the Cubs, even in the middle 70's and 80's when they were Rick Reuschel and whoever else happened to be there for a little while...yeah, I know they had some players...they still never did anything.

04-10-2008, 10:39 AM
I could hear you whispering as I crept by your door.
So you found some other joker who could please you more.

I'm not angry, I'm not angry anymore.

Doc. Scott
04-10-2008, 06:25 PM
Beyond Patterson batting leadoff every single time he plays, I can't really think of any systemic or chronic issue that really bugs me about Baker so far.

We'll see, of course.

04-10-2008, 06:29 PM
Cubs fans always need a scapegoat. It's the billy goat's fault. It's Bartman's fault. Then it's Dusty's fault. And soon enough, it will be Sweet Lou's fault.

Dusty Baker will do wonders here in Cincinnati. I truly believe that.

Always Red
04-10-2008, 08:32 PM
And soon enough, it will be Sweet Lou's fault.

Quoted for truth.

I hate the Cubs.

04-10-2008, 08:41 PM
I could hear you whispering as I crept by your door.
So you found some other joker who could please you more.

I'm not angry, I'm not angry anymore.

Why do you have to say that there's always someone who can do it better than I can?

But don't you think that I know that walking on the water won't make me a miracle man?

04-14-2008, 03:04 PM
The Cubs players say that they're not bitter, but some fans are not willing to go that far.

Cubs not playing blame game with Baker
Many Cubs fans love to hate Dusty Baker, but players refuse to fault former manager
By Paul Sullivan
Tribune staff reporter

April 13, 2008, 10:03 PM CDT

PHILADELPHIA -- The Dusty Baker era provided Chicago with some of the best and worst memories imaginable, from the highs of the 2003 playoff run to the lows of the Cubs' last-place finish in 2006.

Two years after Baker's dismissal, the mere mention of his name still ignites heated conversations about his ultimate place in franchise history.

Should Baker be remembered as the manager who forever changed the Cubs' lovable losers image? The manager who sat idly by while his players lost focus during the '04 stretch run? Or a victim of circumstance in the injury-riddled seasons of '05 and '06?

Everyone has their own opinion, but as Baker comes to town with Cincinnati on Tuesday, here's what some of his former players had to say about some of the myths—and realities—of the Dusty years:

As the story goes: He ruined Wood and Prior
Wood and Prior suffered arm injuries after Baker leaned on them heavily down the stretch of 2003.

"Nothing that happened to me was because of that man," Wood said. "You have guys that go through their whole careers and don't get injured. You have guys that go through two years and get injured six times. I don't think it has anything to do with a manager or a [pitching] coach or anything like that, it's either going to happen or it's not.

"I don't think he had anything to do with that."

As the story goes: Baker responsible for the Mercker-Stone feud
The 2004 meltdown really began when reliever Kent Mercker called the press box in August to complain about comments by Chip Caray and Steve Stone. Baker was blamed by many for failing to harness his players.

"I don't know why," Derrek Lee said. "You can't be in the clubhouse while someone is calling the broadcast while he's trying to manage the game. So, it's just what it is. I don't think Dusty worries too much about that."

The Baker-Stone controversy took on a life of its own during the stretch run.

"Any time you get into it with something in the media, it never works out well for anybody," Wood said. "It is what it is. It happened. I don't think any of us wanted it to happen, and it got a little bit ugly. But you have to realize what you're dealing with."

[B]As the story goes: The 2004 collapse was Baker's fault
The Cubs had the wild-card lead going into the final week but fell apart at the seams in New York and at home against Cincinnati.

"It was us, the players," Lee said.

"We had a rough schedule that last month, and then we just ran out of gas the last couple of weeks and we couldn't hold onto that slight lead we had. That had nothing to do with Dusty."

As the story goes: Baker enabled extreme cases of 'Z being Z'
Carlos Zambrano acts the same way under Lou Piniella that he did with Baker, and both shrugged off his emotional personality.

"There are some guys in your career you have to appreciate and thank, and Dusty is one of those guys because of the confidence he gave me and the opportunity to be a starter," Zambrano said.

As the story goes: Baker stunted Theriot to play Perez instead
With the Cubs out of the race in '06, Baker often played veteran Neifi Perez over rookie Ryan Theriot, leading to criticism he slowed Theriot's development.

"I don't think that's a fair criticism," Theriot said. "Neifi was a great player, and a proven veteran, a guy that did a lot of good things for a long time. There's a flip side you never hear about. He could've thrown me to the wolves and it could've turned out bad. I learned a lot just sitting back watching. There wasn't very much pressure, so just sit there and understand the big-league life. I learned from guys like Neifi and Todd [Walker]. They taught me a lot. One thing Dusty did do, when he started seeing some confidence, a couple good games in a row, he kept throwing you back out there."

As the story goes: NL-worst 66-96 in '06 was Baker's fault
Lee's wrist injury in April led to a 96-loss season that spelled the end of Baker's Cubs career.

"There was some bad luck," Zambrano said. "Dusty had good players the last year, but everybody was hurt and he didn't have many players. As soon as the fans saw that, they started arguing and creating negative things about Dusty. He tried his best when he was here, to do the best possible to make this team win. Things didn't go the way he wanted, but he tried his best. The fans want to win, and we just didn't win the last two years Dusty was here."

As the story goes: Baker is the opposite of the fiery Piniella
Baker was known as a player's manager who coddled his team, unlike his successor. But Wood said they're a lot alike. "There are not that many differences," he said. "They both hate to lose."

As the story goes: He badly wants to beat the Cubs
Baker said he was "beat down" in Chicago, leaving the impression he was bitter and eager to show the Cubs they wronged him.

"I don't think so," Lee said. "I mean, I think he enjoyed his time here. It's unfortunate 2006 was such a bad year. It was unfortunate he had to go out on that term. I don't think he's bitter. He's not a bitter person. I don't think he circled Chicago on the calendar, or he wants to beat us more than anyone else."