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Why is it always Dusty Baker’s fault?

FILE – In this Sept. 13, 2016, file photo, Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker pauses in the dugout before a baseball game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park in Washington. The Nationals announced Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, that Baker won’t be back next season. Baker led the Nationals to the NL East title in each of his two years with the club. But Washington lost its NL Division Series both times. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Do major league front offices realize that only one team can win the World Series every season — one team out of 30?

No, they don’t. They seem to think their team should win it and if they don’t they sweep their manager out the door with a slew of platitudes about how much they appreciated what the manager did, “But. . .”

And suddenly that ‘much appreciated’ manager is either looking fora job or contemplating forced retirement.

Boston manager John Farrell led the Red Sox to the American League East regular season championship, first place in the toughest division in baseball.

What was his reward? Well, he lost in the first round in the postseason to the Houston Astros and the front office said, “There’s the door, John. Don’t let it hit you in the butt.”

Dusty Baker led the Washington Nationals to two straight National League East division championships, the first time for two straight in franchise history.

And he led the Nationals to a huge lead early in the season despite one of the worst bullpens in baseball and a litany of injuries.

But when the Nationals lost in the first round of the playoffs, losing the elimination game due to an unbelievable nine innings of extreme misfortunes, he was told to clean out his desk, but leave the pencils and paper.

It is totally unbelievable.

One half expected the Cubs to stick a pink slip in manager Joe Maddon’s pocket when he lost to the pitch-rich Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. Well, they did fire pitching coach Chris Bosio because the pitchers walked too many guys.

Somebody always has to be The Fall Guy.

The rap against Dusty by the Anti-Baker Boys is that he can’t win in the postseason, as if he swings the bats, runs the bases, pitches the games.

It is so absurd. The hatred against Baker when he was in Cincinnati was frightening. One day he pulled a large cardboard box from behind his desk, stuffed with letters. He selected one at random and said, “Read it.”

He hadn’t read it himself but said, “Full of venom, isn’t it? And unsigned?” He was right on both counts and when I asked how he knew he said, “Because they are all that way.”

It was so disheartening because the man is a real man, an eclectic guy who possesses intelligence in a vast array of subjects from wine to music to philosophy.

His baseball knowledge is surpassed by none. I have never seen a harder working manager. He was always prepared. And his players loved him — from the superstar at the top of the food chain to the seldom-used 25th man on the roster.

The man never once lied to me and I can’t say that for hardly any other manager I’ve covered in 44 years. They all tell little white lies to hide injuries or to cover their mistakes.

Dusty took the blame for everything, including taking the blame when his players should have shouldered the responsibility. And he honestly answered every question I ever put to him without using clichés or hiding behind his desk.

One thing he wouldn’t accept is the charge that he can’t win in the postseason. He took the San Francisco Giants to Game 7 of the 2002 World Series against the Angels and had a three games to two lead.

The Giants were eight outs away from winning the Series but home runs by Scott Spiezio and Darren Erstad as well as a two-run RBI double by Troy Glaus helped the Angels overcome a five-run,seventh-inning deficit to win. A three-run double by Garret Anderson was the difference in the Angels’ Game Seven win to clinch the Series.

Yeah, that was Dusty’s fault that his pitchers gave up big hits to Spiezio, Erstad, Glaus and Anderson.

The Chicago Cubs, those Lovable Losers, hired Baker after he and the Giants parted company .

The Cubs lost in seven games to the Florida Marlins and of course it was Baker’s fault that Steve Bartman interfered with a foul ball could have been caught in Game Six and it was his fault.

It was the eighth inning with Cubs leading, 3-0, and holding a three games to two lead in the best of seven series. Moisés Alou attempted to catch a foul ball off the bat of Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo. Bartman reached for the ball, deflected it, and disrupted the potential catch. If Alou had caught the ball, it would have been the second out in the inning and the Cubs would have been just four outs away from winning their first National League pennant since 1945.

And it was Dusty’s fault that shortstop Alex Gonzalez then made an error on a high hopper right off his glove in the same inning that led to eight runs and an 8-3 defeat. Instead, the Cubs ended up surrendering eight runs in the inning and losing the game, 8–3.

Then they lost Game 7. Yeah, Dusty’s fault.

Baker was later fired by the Cubs and hired by the Cincinnati Reds, a team that hadn’t had a winning season in eight years. Baker took over in 2008 and by 2010 he led the Reds to the 2010 National League Central championship. And it was Dusty’s fault that Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels pitched shutouts against the Reds in the National League Division Series.

The Reds won the National League Central again in 2012 and took a two games to none lead over the San Francisco Giants in the best-of-five. But his ace, Johnny Cueto, was injured after pitching in Game 1 and left with back spasms. He couldn’t pitch again and the Reds lost three straight.

So was it Baker’s fault that Cueto got hurt? Was it Baker’s fault that the Reds lost Game 3, 2-1 in 10 innings. Was it Dusty’s fault that the Reds lost Game 4, 8-3. Was it Dusty’s fault that Buster Posey hit a grand slam home run in the fifth inning off Mat Latos en route to a 6-4 win?

It is all such nonsense. The only thing against Baker is that he seems to be snakebit, nothing seems to go his way in the postseason.

But it isn’t because HE can’t win in the postseason. His TEAMS can’t win in the postseason and that isn’t his fault. If nothing else, he is a victim of circumstances.

His main problem is that he is always his own man. He does what he believes is right. And it cost him the Reds job. After the Reds won 90 games but lost a wild card playoff game to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, management wanted to fire one of Baker’s coaches. He tried to protect the coach and was fired.

That, too, was Dusty’s fault.

 


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