Imrem: Baker deserves more respect than he gets

  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comWashington Manager Dusty Baker talks to the media before Game 3 of the National League division series at Wrigley Field in Chicago Monday, October 9, 2017.

    Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comWashington Manager Dusty Baker talks to the media before Game 3 of the National League division series at Wrigley Field in Chicago Monday, October 9, 2017.

 
 
Updated 10/11/2017 8:21 AM

The Washington Nationals-Chicago Cubs game in the NLDS was postponed Tuesday, and it wouldn't be surprising if Dusty Baker is blamed for the inclement weather.

Especially after the Nats' manager said "this day comes as a plus for our team" because "a lot of my team" is under the weather.

 

Baker is already being criticized for sticking with Tuesday's scheduled starter, Tanner Roark, today in Game 4 rather than switching to the more accomplished Stephen Strasburg.

Few are considering that maybe Strasburg told Baker he couldn't go.

Every postseason game is another chance for Baker, the former Cubs manager/current Nationals manager, to win respect routinely denied him.

"I've always learned," Baker said, "the only thing you have to satisfy is God, family and yourself, and those are three entities you can't fool."

Moving up toward the Top Ten of winningest managers in history, critics still are reluctant to elevate him into the ranks of the greats.

Baker is managing on the final year of a contract now -- a rarity for someone who guided his team into the postseason -- just as he often did with the Giants.

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"I know what I'm about and I have supreme confidence in myself," Baker said.

Observing him here as Cubs manager from 2003-06, a good guess is that Baker is more sensitive to criticism than he'd like us to believe.

Accepting that premise, Baker must want badly to finish his career with the highest compliment: the Hall of Fame.

So much in any sports these days depends on how many championships a person won. Baker's problem is he hasn't won any despite managing four different franchises into the playoffs.

I'm on the side of the argument that believes Baker should be a strong candidate for Cooperstown regardless of whether he ever wins a World Series. The other side insists that he has to win at least one.

Even if Baker really doesn't pay attention to criticism, he concedes that family and friends will tell him what is being said.

This should be a proud time of the year for Baker -- managing in the playoffs again -- but it can also be agonizing because of the scrutiny.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The losing manager frequently is ripped when his team loses a postseason game, and Baker has lost plenty of them.

"The reality of it is," Baker said of a manager's decision, "it's only correct if it works."

The difference now is that the winning manager often is ripped, too, as Joe Maddon was after the Cubs won the World Series last year.

Maddon can deflect the second-guessers by pointing out that he has a championship to his credit.

Baker's resume is in stark contrast to that: losing Games 6 and 7 of the 2002 World Series to the Angels.

Also, this week in Wrigley Field, Baker has been booed routinely because he took the Cubs to within five outs of the World Series but is blamed for falling short.

Steve Bartman has been forgiven; Dusty Baker hasn't been.

"I just want to remain in between and not have anybody control, you know, my self-esteem," Baker said.

Tuesday's rainout will be made up Wednesday, providing Dusty Baker with an opportunity to maintain his chance to win this year's World Series title.

But it's also an opportunity for his critics to crow some more if the Nationals are eliminated.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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