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?


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