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I Used To Be Disgusted...

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... now I try to be amused...

If you're of "a certain age", or maybe even if you're not, you'll recognize those lines as lyrics from Elvis Costello's "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes".

That's apropos of nothing, but I was sitting here at the keyboard absolutely racking my brains trying to think of some way to write the post about last night's 6-1 Cub loss to the Mets, and that song popped into my head.

Yes, I'm disgusted. What Cub fan couldn't or wouldn't be after the listless excuse of baseball effort that our team showed the last three days, or in fact, the last five days, including the final two games in Philadelphia?

It was suggested in the comments in last night's game thread that the Cubs might have quit on Dusty Baker.

This has happened at least twice in recent memory, in 1999 when the players were in nearly open revolt against Jim Riggleman, succeeding in getting him fired, and in 2002 when they and the feckless Bruce Kimm were clearly going in separate directions.

Is it a coincidence that neither of those men, nor Don Baylor, who Kimm replaced, has gotten another major league managing job since they left the Cubs?

I wonder. In my lifetime, the Cubs have had thirty-one managers (including the five different bodies installed in 1961 and 1962 in the infamous "College of Coaches").

Only six of them have managed to land another manager's job after they left the Cubs:

  • Bob Scheffing, who managed the Tigers for two-plus seasons and also was GM of the Mets from 1970-1975;
  • Bob Kennedy, who managed Oakland for one year and later came back to be Cubs GM in the late 1970's;
  • Leo Durocher, who the Astros hired mainly as a "name" -- he was 66 years old and pretty much done at the time;
  • Jim Marshall, who managed the 1979 A's to one of the worst years in franchise history (54-108);
  • Lee Elia of radio-tirade fame, who managed the Phillies for a year and a half, and
  • Jim Lefebvre, who had an interim stint with the 1999 Brewers.
What does this tell you? For one thing, it tells you that Dusty Baker isn't going anywhere, even for all the rumors that have been flying. Jim Hendry hired him; he was Hendry's first major hire -- Don Baylor, another high-profile manager, was hired by Andy MacPhail -- and Hendry seems to be perhaps even staking his own professional life on Baker's success or failure. I do NOT see Hendry firing Baker. Period.

Baker himself may realize this record of failure over the last fifty years and want to stick around. That remains to be seen. Note Baker's managerial record -- after a spectacular 103-win debut season in 1993 where he missed the playoffs on the last day of the season, the Giants stuck with him through three really bad losing seasons until he had a sudden breakthrough (and a playoff spot) in 1997.

In this regard, check out this quote from Baker himself, from today's Sun-Times:

They have had a lot of managers in a short period of time, and you've got to have some consistency of leadership over a period of time, or else you are starting over all the time. It's tough to be patient when the focus every year is that this has to be the year. I can't do anything about the last 100 years. I can do something about the years I have been here."
He's right. Do we really want to start over, with new people? If you want to get rid of Baker, why not get rid of Hendry too? But then you might be in line for several 90-loss seasons in a row. I don't want that, and I don't think any of you do either.

If you think I'm being an apologist for Baker here, I'm not. I'm only trying to show how various things that have happened in the past -- to Cub managers, Baker himself, and what Hendry's M.O. appears to be -- means we are likely going to see Baker at the very least finish out his contract.

What is done in the upcoming off-season will show who's really in charge. It's clear that Baker has dictated roster composition in certain ways, in particular the carrying of twelve pitchers all season, weakening an already mediocre bench, and the roster spots for people like Jose F. Macias and the failure to play young players (why couldn't Matt Murton be the Cubs' version of Jeff Francoeur?) -- that's all Baker. If Hendry wants Baker to play certain people, then he's got to take charge and compose the roster that way.

I can take losing. What I can't take is quitting, or absolutely listless effort like we've seen the last couple of days. Victor Zambrano isn't that good a pitcher -- this time, the 1-through-6 hitters in the Cub lineup went 4-for-22 instead of 0-for-22, still pretty bad -- and the tone of the game was set in the first inning when Aramis Ramirez threw away a routine ground ball that would have ended the inning. That led to two unearned runs, the first of which scored when Beltran scored from first base on a medium-deep single by Cliff Floyd.

This is just not excusable.

The only thing the ballplayers can do is look in the mirror, realize that it falls on them, and start playing the way this team is capable of playing. It's an old saw -- no team is as good as it looks on a winning streak, and no team is as bad as it looks on a losing streak. This team isn't this bad.

I leave you today with this bit of trivia, from the AP game summary. Who has time to look up this stuff?

Both Zambranos entered with 42 career wins, the second time in major league history that opposing starters with the same last name came in with matching victory totals, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other was on June 15, 1944, when Red Barrett of the Boston Braves and Dick Barrett of the Philadelphia Phillies each had 19 wins.