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updated: 10/5/2017 11:24 PM

No shortage of motivation for ex-Cubs manager Baker

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  • Dusty Baker, who managed the Cubs from 2003-06, is back in the playoffs with the Washington Nationals. Baker will match wits with current Cubs manager Joe Maddon in the NLDS.

    Dusty Baker, who managed the Cubs from 2003-06, is back in the playoffs with the Washington Nationals. Baker will match wits with current Cubs manager Joe Maddon in the NLDS.
    Associated Press

 
 

All eyes will be on the field when the Cubs and Washington Nationals open the National League division series tonight at Nationals Park.

It would be wise to cast an occasional glance at the respective dugouts, where Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Nats counterpart Dusty Baker will be stationed.

For as successful and beloved as he is, Maddon headed into the current season still taking heat for his handling of the Cubs' pitching staff last postseason.

Then there's Baker.

Nearing the end of his 50th year in baseball, Baker is still looking to win his first World Series as a manager.

As a player, won a ring playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Baker came close to managing the San Francisco Giants to a championship in 2002, and many thinks the Cubs club he managed in '03 had enough talent to win it all.

Of course, the Cubs collapsed that year against the Florida Marlins in the NL championship series, setting up Baker's messy exit from the North Side.

Now 68 years old, Baker is going to be extra motivated to knock out the Cubs.

"Yeah, there's always extra emotion," Baker told reporters Thursday. "I've got a couple former teams in the way. I've got some extra motivation against the Yankees, too. They beat my team when I was a kid, the Dodgers, and they beat me when I was a manager on the Dodgers. Oh, yeah, I've got motivation with a few teams."

Baker's contract is up at the end of the season, and the Nationals have yet to approach him with an extension.

Always popular with his players, the Nationals have been rallying behind Baker and they should also have some extra emotion as they try to advance out of the NLDS for the first in franchise history.

"The thing about Dusty, I've always heard how good he is with his players," Maddon said.

"That's the thing that has always stood out to me when I first started doing this. Talking with him one-on-one, it's always a real friendly, cordial, easy conversation with the guy. So you can see where that follows up with his players.

"I don't really know him that well. I'm not professing to know him that well. I just know the interaction I've had, it's always pleasant."

Maddon managed the Cubs to their first World Series crown in 108 years last season, so the Nationals get the first crack at knocking off the defending champions.

"I mean, that's an advantage to them somewhat that they have been there, but we've been close ourselves," Baker said. "So this is going to be a heck of a postseason. You've got some quality teams in both leagues."

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