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Eulogy For Dusty Baker September 17, 2006

Posted by chuckwh in Chicago Cubs, dusty baker, Gore, Jim Hendry, MLB - Cubs, News and politics, Tribune Company.
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In November, 2002, I predicted that if Dusty Baker screwed up during the 2002 World Series, it meant that he had the Cubs on his mind, and that if he didn’t and brought a World Series to San Francisco, Jim Hendry’s overtures to him had already been rebuffed.

Here is what I wrote, in part:

The rumor mill says the Cubs want Dusty Baker. So the question is, does Dusty want the Cubs? If he does, and if he is managing with that thought buried deep in the recesses of his brain, he is doomed to make a critical managing error during the World Series that will cost the Giants the series.

The setting is absolutely perfect for The Cubs. Dusty, because he’s a professional and an excellent manager, will certainly be focused on the game. But he is human. Somewhere, deep in the black matter of his brain that really isn’t accessible during the heat of battle, when the game is on the line, is a little Cub thought. With the pressure on, no matter how good a manager he is, if he is thinking he wants to manage the Cubs, he is doomed to make a critical error in judgement. This will be no reflection on his ability as a manager, just as Billy Buckner’s famous gaffe was no reflection on his talents as a baseball player. Rather, it is a reflection on the utter power of the Billy Goat Hex, which is such a force that not even its originators have been able to lift it.

If Baker comes away home free and avoids making critical errors, then you can, if you’re a Cub fan, assume he doesn’t want to manage the Cubs, and they’ll hire someone else. But if he does, then that is why the setting is perfect. He’ll mess up, be remembered for it, and the Cubs will hire him. He’ll then manage himself into oblivion, remembered only for his classic World Series managing foibles. If he’s lucky, like Gene Michael, he’ll somehow escape and go on to continue a stellar career. But that is a rare outcome. Usually, Cubness results in pain, anguish, and ridicule.

As this World Series winds down, prognosticators wondering if Dusty will sign with the Cubs would do well to simply watch his fortunes during the World Series. If he does okay, he won’t sign. If he slips and falls, chances are high he’ll sign with the Cubs. Not because the Cubs want losers. But because they create them. It’s all part of the Hex.

HBO is about to do a special on the Cubs, but I doubt they’ll manage to include this tidbit of truth, this disturbing morsel of the doom that haunts all Cubs fans.

Not even I, cynic that I was at the time, could have anticipated such incredible twists as the Bartman catch, the fall of Kerry Wood (if you’re a fantasy baseball player, you know that if Wood re-signs with the Cubs he’s doomed, and if he doesn’t, it’s time to snap him up for 2007), or the vaporware that is Mark Prior.

Nor did I anticipate Dusty Baker giving up the way he did in May and June during one of the most awful stretches of baseball I’ve ever seen.

Still, it’s hard to accept seeing Dusty on the chopping block when it’s the Cubs’ general manager, Jim Hendry, who suited up this year’s team and dared Dusty to try to accomplish something with it. A rookie has started 70 games for this year’s team. I don’t know if that’s a MLB record or not, but it doesn’t speak well to Hendry’s reputation as a former scout who specialized in pitchers.

Dusty is owed no reprieve, however.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Baker plans a memoir:

Baker plans to write a book someday about his career in baseball. The Cub years, he said, will merit only a chapter.

“I have a lot of chapters on a lot of stuff,” he said. “I’ve always thought about it. Someday I’ll write my memoirs, maybe go up to a mountain someplace.

Many Cubs fans will, perhaps rightly, claim that the above was part of the problem, that Dusty’s lack of allegience to Chicago and its most beloved sports team is what doomed him from the beginning. That, and the Billy Goat.

But real Cubs fans know that the Billy Goat curse will never be lifted as long as incompetence rules in Wrigleyville. As the Tribune Company burns itself to the ground, nobody will feel sorry for its managment, especially knowing that selling the Chicago Cubs to an entity that cares would easily take care of that need to sell $500 million in “non-core broadcasting and publishing assets“.

In other words, there is no curse. Never has been. The Chicago Cubs are grossly mismanaged. Its baseball operations are led by Andy McPhail, who has overseen this mess for about 12 years or so. For years his efforts have been laughable on the field, but he somehow has managed to keep fannies in the seats. It’s almost as if Ford or GM built sub-par cars and didn’t get punished by the market for doing so. Of course, they do, and the market responds in kind. Why this doesn’t happen with the Chicago Cubs is a question philosophers may spend several centuries trying to determine.

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