Chicago Cubs: Feelings toward Dusty Baker are still complicated

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: It was a wild ride under Dusty Baker from 2003-2006. They got close to the ultimate goal but it went spiraling down so fast.

It was November 16, 2002 when the Chicago Cubs officially introduced Dusty Baker as their manager. Cubs fans were in disbelief that they were able to snag a successful veteran manager like Baker that was coming off an NL pennant in San Francisco. It was a breath of fresh air to not only see the Cubs bring in top-tier guys, but to hear Baker’s introductory presser which included him saying that the past needs to stay in the past and they should only look forward.

His first season they win the division title behind young studs Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Baker changed the culture to weed out the “lovable loser” mentality. He was well liked by everybody and the city was going around saying, “In Dusty we trusty!” Then the NLCS happened…but even despite that awful ending the optimism was really high going into 2004.

It was 2004 when things started to turn. On top of a terrible collapse in the final days of the season, the team had dealt with injuries to Prior and Wood, popular broadcaster Steve Stone’s criticisms angered Baker and the higher-ups to the point he left after the season ended and Sammy Sosa walked out of the clubhouse which led to him being traded to Baltimore. Despite an 89-win season, Baker was feeling some heat from outside and inside the organization.

Any hopes of a World Series on the North Side were pretty much gone by 2005. They went 79-83 and watched the crosstown White Sox win it all. By 2006, the “Fire Dusty” chants were ringing louder than ever in the bleachers (along with flying beer cups on multiple occasions) as his final season as Cubs manager ended with 96 losses. Prior was toast, the team was dead, and Baker was frustrated beyond words. His contract ended and the team parted ways.