Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How a manager knows he's lost his team

Dusty Baker won a division title last year with Cincinnati, so he probably figures that telling horror stories of his tenure with the Cubs won't sound too much like sour grapes.

But there's certainly something nasty to this tale:

"At the very end, somebody took a dump right where I stood in the dugout every day,” Baker said Monday morning. “That was the low point. The grounds crew guy cleaned it up. He said, ‘Oh, I think it’s dog crap.’ I said, ‘No it ain’t. That’s human crap.'"

Baker claims not to know how the dumper was. I have my doubts about that; a manager, if only out of self-preservation, ought to know his team well enough to know who hates him that much. (If you want to try to figure it out, here's the roster of the 2006 Cubs.)

Dusty Baker can smile
now, but the end of his
tenure in Chicago was
But then, that always seemed to be the problem with the Cubs under Baker, and even under Lou Piniella. Baker in particular is a hands-off manager, content to let the veteran players run the clubhouse. It worked well in San Francisco; it worked last season in Cincinnati.

It didn't work in Chicago, where a clubhouse culture developed in which nobody took responsibility for anything. The only people who were held to account were TV broadcasters Steve Stone and Chip Carey, dislodged for the sins of (a) praising players on opposing teams and (b) noting the lack of accountability in the organization.

Baker deserves a lot of the blame for that; so does Jim Hendry, then and now the general manager, the man who hired (and fired) Baker and the man who chewed out Stone for saying on the radio that the Cubs "can't handle the truth." 

Baker probably figures the story says something about the players he had in Chicago, and it does. It also says something about the contempt the players had for their manager, and their certainty that no matter what they did, nobody would have the guts to do anything about it.

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