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Read Between The Lines...

... and I think you'll see that Dusty Baker is treading on really, really thin ground once this season is over.

I do believe that Jim Hendry will keep his word and not fire Baker before his contract is up. Some of you, I know, think this is a bad thing, that it may be damaging the progress of players like Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno and Ryan Theriot, but that can be reversed -- there are, after all, only 45 games left.

I say "read between the lines" because of some of the bizarre words coming out of Baker's mouth, quoted in this Paul Sullivan article in today's Tribune. Baker said, among other things:

"You've got to treat yourself better. You've got to eat better. You've got relieve the stress. You've got to drink less, you've got to drink more water, you've got to take care of yourself.

"Everything passes. It's very stormy when you're in it, I'm not going to lie to you. I talked to my sister the other day. Not to get biblical, but she said, 'Sometimes God delivers you from the desert, and sometimes he walks with you in the desert.' That kind of put things in perspective to me."

Honestly, I don't know what any of that has to do with winning baseball games. There's certainly nothing wrong with having spirituality in your life -- and I know Baker does -- but this reads like someone who's about to go off the deep end. But where Baker may have sealed his fate was when he was asked about Hendry's upcoming "evaluation" (yeah, I know, buzzword! buzzword!) of his performance this year:

"You should've been judging me on the last 13 or 14 years versus these last three or four months."

Unfortunately, Dusty, that's not the way baseball works, and you've been around the game for nearly forty years, so you ought to know this. Much more so than many other businesses, professional sports is absolutely a "What have you done for me lately?" sort of endeavor. I wrote a few weeks ago about how Baker may have sealed his own fate by NOT adapting to changed circumstances, by repeatedly going back to old, failed strategies; this is a recipe for getting fired not only for a baseball manager, but for a manager in any business.

Sullivan writes about Baker's comment above:

Hendry could not have been happy with Baker's challenge to evaluate him on his entire career instead of 2006 alone. Hendry's carefully chosen response -- "When you're in the situation that we're in, a lot of things go into play when you're evaluating field personnel" -- suggested Baker will be evaluated on what has transpired this season, as well as how the season ends.

And that, I believe, tips Hendry's hand. Why? Remember how carefully he reacted when Todd Walker said, last fall after his option was picked up by the ballclub, that Hendry was only picking up the option in order to trade him?

I don't think that was originally Hendry's intention -- but if you were someone's supervisor at your job, and that person had deliberately made a "screw you" comment like that publicly, wouldn't you try your hardest to get rid of that employee? In this case, of course, Hendry wasn't going to just cut Walker, as he did have value to the ballclub both as a player and in future trade value, but we all know how desperately he tried to deal him all offseason, and when the deadline came close, he sent him away for what we hope is a future return -- though that return may be three or four years away.

The point is, everyone has a breaking point, and I suspect Hendry's reached his with Dusty Baker. Baker, as I wrote last month, can be a good manager if he gets exactly the right mix of players, as he had in 2003. What that accomplished, though, was Hendry ceding authority to Baker on acquisitions -- resulting in the sorts of players the Cubs have now, and the philosophy of both hitting and pitching that have led us to this disaster of a season.

It's going to play out, because Jim Hendry said it will. But I think Dusty Baker will be gone once the last out is registered on October 1.