It's all Dusty's fault
Ok, maybe not ALL his fault, but I feel the need to provide a counterpoint to what the Sloth said yesterday.
When Dusty Baker came to Chicago for the 2003 season, the entire town was behind him. He was a proven winner who had just managed a team to the World Series. He had a track record for dealing well with difficult players. He was a self-professed master of managing pitchers. In other words, he wasn't just a step in the right direction, he was a leap.
And wasn't the 2003 season just about perfect? Sure, it ended in about the most terrible way imaginable (to the point where I still can't recall most of the highs of that year), but for one long summer, everything worked out just right. Mark Prior was a Cy Young, whether he won the award or not. Kerry Wood was unhittable in September. Carlos Zambrano became a Name. Joe Borowski became the working man's hero. Aramis Ramirez came to town, and Kenny Lofton softened the blow of losing Corey Patterson mid-season.
Ok, so there were a few rumblings in there as well. Sammy Sosa lost some of his luster that summer. Hee Seop Choi and Bobby Hill went from being The Future to extras on Lost. But for the most part, Dusty earned every penny in 2003.
Then, 2004 rolled around, and that's when the bitching began. The grumbling. The complaining. Apparently, we fans demanded too much. We asked too many questions when it came to our pitchers' health. We didn't deserve to boo when our team let us down. Suddenly we got a sense that it was okay for a professional ballplayer to threaten the team's commentators. We also saw from Baker a stubbornness streak that has proven to be almost endless. We were told that walks are overrated. We watched as the younger players on the team spent prolongued periods of time on the bench. Then, the team collapsed in the final weeks of the season and went home empty handed and upset. Sammy became a media monster and was chased out of town with torches pitch forks. He pointed the finger at Dusty Baker and blamed all his woes on the Cubs skipper. (Ok, you can't really blame Dusty for that one, Sammy really is an asshat. Point is, you'd think the guy who handled Bonds and Kent could've figured something out.)
It's only 21 games into the new season, and things still aren't any better. Dusty won't start a clearly superior Jason Dubois. He's destroyed the already-fragile arm of Chad Fox. He insists on using LaTroy Hawkins as the team's closer, even over Mike Wuertz. It feels like the dark days of 2004 all over again. What Dusty has to realize is that as the manager of the team, he sets the tone for the players attitudes. If Dusty takes a "me v. them" attitude, the team will pick up on it. If he takes an "I can't be wrong" attitude, the players will think the same way as they try to justify their latest boneheaded suspension. Dusty has to step up and change the tone.
I'm already planning on my trip to the next Cubs Convention. Not that I'm guaranteed to go, but I really want to, and when I do, I will again be one of the first to stand in line during the question and answer session on Saturday morning. When they give me the mic, I'll look at Dusty and say this:
Dusty, when you came to Chicago, I was incredibly excited because I thought it was an act of legitimacy and a step in the right direction. My girlfriend thinks you're cute. But after three seasons, those are the only good things I have to say about you. You have no grasp of baseball strategy, you refuse to play young ballplayers even if they appear superior to your veterans, and you've destroyed the arms of a handful of Cubs pitchers. Please don't come back. Please. Even if they ask. We want a winner in Chicago, and with you, all we'll get is a dysfunctional team with no real concept of how to play baseball.
Dusty, go home.