Let me start by saying if you are looking for ‘www.firedustybaker.com’, you are in the wrong place. I wish to discuss facts and leave the name calling to the sites that support that kind of juvenile behavior….so I will not drop to that level and I request any comments made do not as well. Many of the Cubs Faithful have said it is the players that are not performing; it has nothing to do with management, on or off the field. And while the players are ultimately responsible for wins and loses on the field, it is management’s responsibility to put the players in the right position to win ballgames.
When was the last time the Cubs signed a big named free agent that actually paid dividends on the Northside? Andre Dawson in 1987? Moises Alou in 2002? Well the last big name free agent to sign with the Cubs was Dusty Baker and how is that working out? Dusty Baker has been called a “players manager” and what exactly does that mean? Does it mean he plays the veterans….day in and day out regardless if they are contributing to the team or not? Does that mean he benches younger players that have out performed the veterans because they made a couple of bad plays in the same game, but yet they have been performing all season and lead a pathetic excuse for a team in probably the most important stat….on base percentage.
We all know Dusty’s resume….3-time Manager of the Year; four times he has managed a team into the post-season, once with the Cubs. He is the first Cubs’ manager to have back-to-back winning seasons (2003-2004) since 1971-1972. He led the Giants to the World Series his last year in San Francisco in 2002 and right now he is on the last year of a 4-year contract. Record wise he is the best Cubs manager since Jim Frey (196-182) and since Charlie Grimm (946-782) in the 30’s and 40’s. The Cubs are 15-22 this season and the three previous seasons under Baker they are 256-230. (Don Zimmer, 265-258….Leo Durocher 535-526)
I remember the enthusiasm that surrounded Dusty coming to Chicago and I also remember thinking Dusty is a great manager (that was what you always heard and still hear about Dusty) and he will lead the Cubs to the promised land and three long years ago….he almost did. I also remember thinking at the time when he was hired, why would the Giants give up Dusty when he just took them to the World Series? I chalked it up to money and was glad he was on his way to the Cubbies.
What has happened to the ‘In Dusty We Trusty’ days? The Cubs are playing the worst baseball I have seen them play in the over 25 years I have been watching….something has got to change and it starts with the top, it starts with Dusty Baker.
What Dusty is doing, or not doing, with his team is not working and has not worked since mid-September 2004 when the players started blaming their downfall on the announcers. The Cubs suffered their “September Swoon” and did not make the playoffs. Last season was blamed on injuries and this year more of the same, plus the ‘we do not have a left-handed batting practice pitcher’ excuse….give me a break, what happened over the past week when they lost all but one game to a bunch of right-handed pitchers….they have not faced a lefty since May 2nd against the Pirates’ Zach Duke, that is 13 games and 12 losses
Reportedly the relationship between Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker is as strong as ever and there has been a lot of speculation as to why Baker’s contract has not been extended. If Hendry does want Baker to remain as the manager, then they need to make changes internally that will change Baker from a “players manager” to a “winning manager”, because all that matters is results and if excuses won ballgames then the Cubs would have won the prize three years ago.
Here are two examples to ponder:
On May 11, 2003, the Florida Marlins were 16-22 when Jack McKeon took over for Jeff Torborg after he had led the Marlins to a 79-83 record in 2002. Along with Torborg, the Marlins General Manager, Larry Beinfest, also replaced their pitching coach Brad Arnsberg with Wayne Rosenthal. At that time the Marlins were in last place in the National League East, 9 games behind the Atlanta Braves and had injury problems of their own. McKeon lit a fire under the young Marlins and they finished the year 91-71 (75-49 under McKeon), beat the Cubs in 7 and won the World Series.
On June 21, 2005, Jerry Narron replaced Dave Miley as the manager for the Cincinnati Reds and while no one has seen the end of this story the beginning is worth mentioning. The Reds were 27-43, 16 games under .500 and 18 1/2 games back of the Cardinals when Miley and pitching coach Don Gullett were replaced by Narron and new pitching coach, Vern Ruhle. While the Reds did not make the playoffs, they did improve to a .500 team under Narron with a 46-46 record. This season under new ownership, Bob Castellini, and a new General Manager, Wayne Krivsky, the Reds are off to a very good start at 23-15, 2nd place in the Central, 1 game behind the St. Louis Cardinals. The Reds are playing with a confidence that has not been on the banks of the Ohio River since the Lou Piniella days with a less talented team (on paper) than the 2006 Chicago Cubs, even without Derrek Lee. The Reds have played better this season when Ken Griffey, Jr. has not been in the line-up.
If Jim Hendry is determined for Dusty Baker to remain his manager than he and Baker have a lot of changes to make. The modern athlete responds to money, at least that is what I have heard, well if that’s the case then fine them for every missed sign, every missed cut-off man, every bonehead play and make them accountable for their actions, just don’t pass it off as a bad day and tell them to go get ’em tomorrow….those days are running out. Light a fire under these guys and if they do not perform to the highest of their ability, fine them….do something to get their attention, if they don’t care, find out a way to make them care and if that does not work….let them go and find someone that is willing to give their all for the good of the team on a daily basis, not just when they feel like it.
Aramis Ramirez has all of the talent in the world but he is not using it and is turning out to be the 1994 version of Scottie Pippen. Ramirez is not getting the pitches he has over the past two seasons without Derrek Lee (and others) in the line-up, no doubt….but he has had so many one-pitch, one-out at bats over the past two weeks, that I have lost count. This is where management needs to pull him to the side and coach him, not just allow him to continue what he is doing….his performance not helping him or his team. When the “rookies” on the team are playing better than the veterans, it makes you wonder is it the players or the coaches, but in this case the coaches need to remind the inmates who is running the asylum.
The Cubs have made very questionable roster moves: the trade for Freddie Bynum (20 games, 2 started, .188/.212/.313, 6 for 22 with 2 triples) a 7-year minor leaguer without any options left….for 2 players, the call up of Ryan Theriot (3 games, 0-1 with a walk and a run scored) when he has not played, yet Neifi Perez started all three games against the Padres and went 3 for 10 with a walk (2 of the hits were on Friday), could Ryan Theriot have done just as well? If not, send him back to Iowa so he can get some playing time. The Cubs are handcuffed right now with what personal they have and this is when a good coaching staff and manager are the keys to success.
Change is needed, but the big question is where. Some feel the Cubs need another bat and while that is the case, they also need a leader, either in the dugout or on the field. Right now it is a free for all and the leadership of this team must be held accountable, from the players to the coaches to the front office and especially Dusty Baker.