The Chicago National League Ball Club

An objective look at the love of my life--the Chicago Cubs.



Baker haters: More bluster than substance

September 3, 2006

We pass each other on the street and know. Maybe it's the averted eyes or the wariness in our step. But we know each other. We're the people who don't think Dusty Baker is evil incarnate.

We've learned we're better off keeping this to ourselves. If you're a man and you don't think Baker is the cause of the Cubs' woes, then you have had your manhood questioned. If you're a woman with similar thoughts, you haven't had your womanhood questioned, and I can't tell you why that is.

Anyway, it's a lonely existence, being in Baker's corner. We know we're a distinct minority. We've learned not to raise a defense of the Cubs manager, not if we value the next two hours of our lives, in which we will be pilloried, flogged, tarred, feathered, quartered and ground into a lovely pesto sauce for offering an encouraging word.

Now this might sound cowardly, but it isn't. It's called self-preservation. We have made our case, and it might as well have been a whisper in a busy train station. You would think Baker had been the captain of the Exxon Valdez instead of the manager of a foundering, no-talent team.

To say the public anger toward him is disproportionate to his perceived sins would be to say an elephant is slightly larger than a flea.

The volume on the criticism is so high now, the attacks so personal that you wonder what the guy has done to possibly bring this on. And if you don't jump on board the Hate Train, there's something not quite right about you. You're certainly not a tough guy. Tough guys chew up people like Baker and spit them out.

It's not that the haters don't have a point. It's that the point has been buried under a mountain of abuse. They could send in rescue dogs and never find the point.

The original point was that Baker couldn't manage his way out of a paper bag. OK, a point certainly worth debating. You say the Cubs have the fundamentals of a Class A team. I say Jim Leyland couldn't have made a winner out of this clump of mediocrity.

See, we actually could have a sane discussion.

But when people make fun of everything from Baker's young son to his wristbands to his way of speaking, dude, where do you go from there? How do you have a discussion in the face of that? Well, you don't.

As the last grains of sand slip through the hourglass for Baker, he carries on. Every day, he is asked questions about his future, and every day he answers them. His responses are all over the board. More pickings for his critics. What used to be considered quaint about Baker—his willingness to talk on a number of different topics—now is considered the ramblings of a befuddled manager.

He talks about race because somebody asks him about hate mail he has received. Critics see this as a blatant attempt by Baker to gain sympathy. No, the guy can't win.

Frankly, I don't know why he would want to stay in Chicago. To turn things around and then have to watch the Baker Haters turn into Baker Backers? How would you stomach that, knowing how you had been treated for at least two seasons? You're supposed to forgive and forget?

If—when—general manager Jim Hendry lets Baker go, it will be a mercy killing. Baker should thank him. He deserves better than he has gotten, from his players and from fans. He deserves his dignity.

Could the majority be right and we in the minority be wrong? Of course. There's room for that, at least on this end. But the other side doesn't want to hear a defense of Baker. It doesn't want to hear about a team that has been decimated by injuries. It doesn't want to hear that Hendry's failure to acquire starting pitchers is the true reason this franchise has stumbled the past two seasons. It doesn't want to hear about the misguided decision to give closer Ryan Dempster a three-year, $15.5 million contract extension last fall.

It would rather turn Baker into a toothpick-chewing caricature.

So we pass each other on the street, we Baker people, and we know. We don't say anything. What's the point?

Everything Baker does is wrong. Why can't we get that through our thick skulls?


Getting rid of Dusty Baker because his team is not performing is about as ridiculous as trading Albert Pujols because he fails to hit a home run every game. Leave the responsibility for the Cubbies' poor performance where it belongs, with the players. -- John Earl, St. Louis, Mo.

This is the type of Cubs fan I'm embarassed to be associated with.

I'm going to try to update this blog more often.


I took a look at the top base stealers in MLB so far and noticed two things.

1) Corey Patterson has stolen more bases than anyone in baseball. I'm not saying we made a mistake. I'm just saying he's the leader.

2) Juan Pierre ranks 7th. But that's not what's interesting. Amongst the top 30 base stealers, Pierre has a lower OBP than anyone. He also has less RBI's than anyone in the top 40. And amongst the top 25, only two players (Patterson being one) have drawn fewer walks than Pierre.

He's very fun to watch. He seems like a great guy. He is not getting the job done by any stretch of the imagination.


What is there to say about the current state of the Cubs?

Boers and Bernstein had an interesting discussion yesterday following the shameful 9-3 loss and eventual sweep by the Marlins. They discussed how the Cubs front office hasn't done anything to give fans the impression that they care the team is losing.

You can see it in the players, most recently with Greg Maddux going medieval on a water cooler during yesterday's game. But what has the organization done in the last month that leads you to believe they are as disgusted with the losing as the fans are?

I'm in the all-too-familiar position of being content with seeing my team fail if that's what it takes to bring real change. Change on the field, in the dugout, and in the front office.

The 2003 euphoria/2004 expectations suddenly feels like a decade ago.

As far as I'm concerned, Derrek Lee and Carlos Zambrano are the only 100% untouchables on the current roster. I wouldn't LIKE to trade Prior, but I'd definitely listen.

Meanwhile, the White Sox, with a smaller budget and smaller fan base, are positioning themselves for a run at another title.

Effin A.

And even though I'm supposed to hate him, Albert Pujols is putting up mind boggling numbers. Part of me hopes he hits 62 HR because there really is no evidence to suggest he's juicing.

If Pujols hits 62, you'd be wise to consider him the single season home run king.

EDIT: According to USA Today, the Sox actually have a higher payroll than the Cubs, $102.8 million to $94.4 million. I apologize for being misinformed.


In 34 games, Albert Pujols has 18 HR, 43 RBI, has scored 35 runs, is hitting .328, and has an OBP of .466.

Since it appears that he doesn't use any 'performance enhancing supplements', he should be getting more much attention than this cartoon monster.


I'm having trouble watching this team. Not because I don't stick by them, but because it actually depresses me and it's not healthy.


I get too down when the Cubs are playing like crap and it's not a good thing. Their play affects my overall joy far more than it should.

So when they get down by a few runs, I usually turn the game off. You're calling me a quitter aren't you?

I like to think that my mental health is more important than watching the game. If I continue watching the team swing at first pitches, give up 0-2 hits, walk leadoff men, get doubled off base, and try to pull everything the pitcher throws, I'm going to give myself a stroke.

New Cubs drinking game...have a shot every time Matt Murton gets called out on an inside fastball. Happens about twice a game.


Be Positive

This is how the Cubs can stay afloat...

1. Aramis Ramirez needs to start HITTING. He can't keep doing this pop up crap with runners in scoring position. He's now the biggest threat in this lineup, and he needs to show why. Heat it up, Aramis.

2. Juan Pierre needs to raise his OBP bigtime. His little punches through the infield are nice when they actually get through. But I'd love to see him break form and work the pitchers more. He is invaluable when he's on base.

3. More power. Speed is great, I'm not denying that. And even WITH Lee, there is not a lot of pop in this lineup. Barrett, Jones, and Murton need to play longball a little more often.

4. Maddux and Z need to carry the starting rotation. Maddux has re-discovered his winning ways, and Z will come around (right?). These two are crucial until the fragile Wood, Prior, and Miller return next month.

5. Bullpen needs to stay sharp. Aardsma did nothing to impress me against LA, and Ohman and Novoa still make me feel like someone is jabbing me with a spork. But Eyre, Howry, Williamson, and Dempster have been studs. PLEASE keep it up.

And hows this for positive...

In 2003, Corey Patterson was arguably the Cubs MVP before he went down with a season ending injury. I remember hearing that on the radio and thinking "we're screwed." We all know how close we came to a World Series that year without our young stud. Anything can happen.
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