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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Dusty Baker feels the weight of being loved and hated by baseball

Baker has won more than most in his 50-plus years in the major leagues. He played in four World Series with the Dodgers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He won one of them. As a manager with the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Nationals and now the Astros, Baker is 1,969-1,719 with a .534 winning percentage. His teams have made the playoffs 10 times in 24 years. One of them won the pennant.

But Baker is, to this point, known as much for the games he hasn’t won — Game 7 of the 2002 World Series with the Giants, Game 7 of the 2003 National League Championship Series with the Cubs, Game 5 of the 2016 and 2017 NL Division Series with the Nationals. Baker remembers every one of them, every missed call, every bad bounce — every confluence of baseball circumstances that colluded to make him the most prolific manager to never win the big one, or something like that.

Baker was fired by the Giants after he led them to their first NL pennant in more than a decade. The Reds fired him after they failed to advance past the NLDS in consecutive years. The Nationals did the same, despite a full season of assurances that Baker would return. Of all the teams he has managed, Baker says, that’s the one team he didn’t feel ready to leave at the end — the one split that still stings.

“They make you want to feel like you’re a failure,” Baker said. “But I haven’t failed at all.”


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 31, 2021 at 10:08 AM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Bhaakon Posted: August 31, 2021 at 04:41 PM (#6037487)
I don't know if not offering a new contract after the current one expires counts as firing, in which case only the Reds actually fired him. With the Giants there was some sort of personal animosity that led both sides to want to end the relationship. IDK what happened in DC, but his contract was up. He commands a big salary and he has a big personality, both of which are a potential headache for upper management, so I'm not really surprised his tenures are short.
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: August 31, 2021 at 04:52 PM (#6037490)
With the Giants there was some sort of personal animosity that led both sides to want to end the relationship.

If I recall correctly, his beef was with the owner, rather than with Sabean.
   3. Rally Posted: September 01, 2021 at 01:50 PM (#6037694)
Baker is a big personality and big contract. He’s not being brought in for rebuilding jobs. Teams that have hired him, after his first job with the Giants, are looking for a proven winner to get them over the hump. With the Nationals he won 95 and 97 games. But they lost in the first round both years. Dusty comes into jobs where the expectations are higher than what most managers get hired into.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: September 01, 2021 at 01:58 PM (#6037700)
Teams that have hired him, after his first job with the Giants, are looking for a proven winner to get them over the hump.

That certainly wasn't true about the Reds. They were bad. Then, under Dusty, they got good. Then they got bad again after they dumped him.

And the Cubs were pretty bad the year before they hired Dusty (though they probably had more reasonable expectations of being good than Cincy).
   5. Brian C Posted: September 01, 2021 at 06:58 PM (#6037822)
The Cubs were bad before he got there, then got good, then got really bad again and really unlikeable to boot - I think a lot of Cubs fans will tell you that the late September 2004-2006 stretch was a pretty sour time to be a fan. Then after he left, they were good again.

Unclear how much of that had to do with Dusty directly, but then again, unclear how much if it didn't. At the very least, he didn't seem like much help.
   6. sunday silence (again) Posted: September 01, 2021 at 09:26 PM (#6037866)
Who can hate Dusty? I was disappointed when the Nats lost but still love him.

IDK what happened in DC, but his contract was up.

It really seemed like maybe he was slipping a bit. One of the games in that playoff series ended on a bloop hit to LF when it was a Sac Fly wins the game so there was no reason to play back. Something like that. And then the no interference call when the bat hit the catcher. He should have appealed that one. Small mistakes but I dont think the Lerners were in the mood to tolerate that.
   7. Brian C Posted: September 01, 2021 at 10:00 PM (#6037877)
I mean, I don't hate Dusty, but I don't remember him very fondly. I think most Cubs fans feel similarly.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: September 04, 2021 at 04:44 AM (#6038241)
For the Cubs, Dusty was a good manager (but not a great one) then a very bad manager. Or maybe not very bad in terms of his managing -- his usual faults -- but he got touchy, the players got touchy and the play got sloppy. A players' manager can be a good thing but he let it go way too far. He would defend players for Little League mistakes and not in a "it happens to everybody every once in a while" way but more of a "remembering how many outs there are is tough" way. (Yes, that's hyperbole but not much.) Still, by Cub manager standards, he was a godsend and I doubt the 2003 team has as much success with an average manager at the helm. Maddon's the best we've had since at least Durocher but Baker and Piniella are pretty close for next best.

The job he's done since leaving the Cubs is probably more impressive -- 91, 97, 90 wins with the Reds, 95 and 97 with the Nats, probably topping 90 wins this year. He may be something of a Showalter -- he'll get you good, he won't win it all -- or he may be the Lou Whitaker of managers but looks close enough to a HoF manager to me.

And he's got good taste in music. I'm confident I'd much rather hang with Dusty than LaRussa, Cox, Maddon or Piniella.
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: September 04, 2021 at 08:13 AM (#6038245)
I’m a big Dusty guy, but I have no problem saying he was not good for most of his run in Chicago. He should have quit at the end of 2004. It didn’t seem like he had much in the way of motivation those last two seasons, and spent them ######## about petty things.
   10. TomH Posted: September 04, 2021 at 08:54 AM (#6038247)
Dusty Baker - "I hear a lot of people say, 'Put Cedeno in.' What am I supposed to do? Push Neifi out now? This guy has saved us."

The saga of Neifi Perez is what caused some of us to question Mr Baker's wisdom as an MLB manager.

In 2005, a not-young Neifi played in 154 games for the Cubs. He batted in the #2 spot; one of the most important slots in the batting order; more than anywhere else (he also hit #7 and leadoff). He couldn't get on base, thus not scoring runs and also making lots of outs; and he could not bring runners home. In 609 PA, he scored 59 runs and drove in 54. The Cubs, despite an above-avg team OPS of .764, scored a below-avg # of runs, and finished with 79 wins. Derek Lee had a monster year, leading the NL is hits (199) and total bases (50 doubles, 46 dingers). But he finished only 7th in RBI. Dusty had his guy, and he put him often in a spot that hurt the team more than it helped.
   11. stanmvp48 Posted: September 04, 2021 at 10:58 AM (#6038261)
I always thought that having Darren Lewis bat leadoff for the 93 Giants was an example of Dusty having his guy and putting him in a position that hurt the team.
   12. SoSH U at work Posted: September 04, 2021 at 12:39 PM (#6038272)
Dusty Baker - "I hear a lot of people say, 'Put Cedeno in.' What am I supposed to do? Push Neifi out now? This guy has saved us."

The saga of Neifi Perez is what caused some of us to question Mr Baker's wisdom as an MLB manager.

And the subsequent revelation that Ronny Cedeno was not, in fact, any good, never caused anybody to revisit that thought.

Not that it was ever justified batting him second, which was always a mistake, but Neifi was actually a productive player during his Cubs tenure (and far better in Chicago than anywhere else).
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 04, 2021 at 12:53 PM (#6038274)
Dusty constructed his lineups by demographic rather than ability. Little guys, middle infielders and center fielders were going at the top, and that was that. And they were going to bunt, dammit.

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