Longtime readers of this site will remember that I was a defender of Dusty Baker long past the time when it was reasonable to do so. In retrospect, that was a big mistake, and I acknowledge all of Dusty's failures with the Cubs -- and we don't have to rehash them here. Baker was a success with the Cubs up until a certain fateful inning in 2003. After that, the litany of mistakes is huge.
Again, this post isn't meant to recap, but to look forward to tonight, when we will see the return of Baker as manager of the Cincinnati Reds; it will be his first visit to Wrigley Field as a former Cub manager
This is a very rare event. Here is the complete list of Cub managers (besides Baker) who held another managing job after they left the team (years they managed the Cubs in parentheses):
- Bob Ferguson (1878); managed several other teams from 1879-1887
- Tom Loftus (1900-01); managed Washington Senators in 1902 and 1903
- John Evers (1913 and 1921); managed Chicago White Sox in 1924
- Fred Mitchell (1917-20); managed Boston Braves from 1921-23
- Bill Killefer (1921-1925); managed St. Louis Browns from 1930-1933
- George Gibson (26 games in 1925, after Killefer); managed Pittsburgh Pirates from 1932-34
- Joe McCarthy (1926-30); managed New York Yankees from 1931-46 and Boston Red Sox from 1948-50
- Rogers Hornsby (1930-1932); managed Browns from 1933-37 and 1952 and Cincinnati Reds in 1952 and 1953
- Bob Scheffing (1957-59); managed Detroit Tigers from 1961-63
- Harry Craft (16 games in 1961); managed Houston Colt 45's from 1962-64
- Bob Kennedy (1963-65); managed Oakland A's in 1968
- Leo Durocher (1966-72); managed Houston Astros in 1972 and 1973
- Jim Marshall (1974-76); managed Oakland A's in 1979
- Lee Elia (1982-83); managed Philadelphia Phillies in 1987 and 1988
- Jim Lefebvre (1992-93); managed Milwaukee Brewers for the last 49 games of 1999
That's not a very inspiring list -- only McCarthy had success after he left the Cubs (and the Cubs probably should never have let him go), and over the last 50 years, the only former Cub managers to have returned to Wrigley Field in the opposition dugout are Durocher, who as an Astros manager seemed bored and out of it (though he did manage Houston to their second winning season, 82-80 in 1973), Elia with the Phillies, and for one series as interim manager of the Brewers in late 1999, Lefebvre. Even before that, only Mitchell, Gibson and Craft (whose Cub tenures were brief and forgettable), and Hornsby came to Wrigley Field as visiting managers.
So we are witness, this week, to something that's happened rarely in Cub history. Will I boo? Probably not. Indifference, in my opinion, is the best reaction. Jay Mariotti, who I often criticize here, has it exactly right today:
This is a man who never quit as much as he never fit in. Baker should have done more homework about Cubdom and its indigenous demons and frustrations before he quickly grabbed general manager Jim Hendry's offer late in 2002, when he was looking for work after the Giants lost the World Series and didn't want him back. Actually, Hendry should have done more homework on Baker, too, instead of falling in love with the marquee name.
I'm more interested in seeing the reaction to former Cub prodigy Corey Patterson, also returning to Wrigley Field for the first time since being unceremoniously dumped (for minor leaguers Carlos Perez and Nate Spears, neither of whom is likely to ever wear a major league uniform) at the end of his horrid 2005 season.
It'll be an interesting night. Most importantly, the Cubs are looking to start winning home series. I'll have a game thread up later this afternoon.