Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Dusty in Trouble. Of Course.

It is absolutely amazing how the Chicago Cubs can dumb down a manager.

Both Dusty Baker and Don Baylor - the last two Cubs' managers not considered interim - brought manager of the year credentials with them to the Windy City. Oddly, neither could figure out a couple things - how to keep players like Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Bill Mueller, Nomar Garciaparra, etc., on the field (should have had MD degrees instead of manager of the year plaques, I guess).

Nor could Dusty keep an otherwise sophisticated city from fixating on one fan interference play in the 2003 NLCS series loss to the Florida Marlins - and equating that bit of bad luck to his managing ability.

Let's see, what did he do wrong in '03? Baker had the Cubs' two top pitchers (Prior and Wood), set up to pitch Games 6 and 7 against the Fish. The Cubs were up, 3-0, and within five outs of their first World Series since 1945 when fan Steve Bartman flagged a foul ball hit in the stands rather than let leftfielder Moises Alou reach in to snare the ball. Alou freaked. The Cubs fans immediately went into their best woe-is-us, we're doomed imitation of the persecuted act perfected by Boston Red Sox fans.

Forget the fact that the team had an ace in hand - Wood. Chicago moaned, groaned before and after a Game 7 loss. Never mind that the Marlins - the eventual world champs - were a pretty darned good team. Baker had officially transformed from coveted manager/genius to village idiot. He never was allowed a shot at redemption. Couldn't overcome Bartman, the breastbeating fans nor the fact that he has never, ever been able to count on having the injury-prone Prior and Wood as a 1-2 punch for any length of time, since.

What a dope!

But don't worry, Dusty. If and when the Cubs fire you, your IQ will improve in direct proportion to the distance you put between youself and the city of Big Shoulders - and Bigger Second Guessers. Get on with your life, and leave the Cubbies' fans to cry in their beer while wishing their team could figure it out like the White Sox - the defending champion White Sox - did. Who knows. Maybe some of the Cubs' fans have MDs. Maybe they can fix broke-down pitchers and all else that ails this terminally underachieving franchise.