Baker, Hendry with the Media
Baker: 322-326 in his four years
Baker: 322-326 in his four years

Posted Oct 2, 2006


Dusty Baker met with reporters at Monday’s press conference in the interview room at Wrigley Field, but did not answer questions. He issued a formal address to the media, and Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry later fielded questions.

Dusty Baker Statement:

I’d just like to tell everybody that I just want to thank the organization for giving me the opportunity to try and come here and win this thing. I wish we could have gotten it done, but we didn’t, so I guess all things must come to an end, and all things come to a pass. I fully expect – it’s hard to think with all that click, click, clicking – to stay in baseball in some capacity. I’m not exactly sure what yet. I’m going to go home, be with my family for a few days, and perhaps the phone might ring to ask me to do something. We’ll see.

My time here in Chicago was a very good time. I learned a lot. Again, like I said, I wish we could have gotten it done. I want to thank my players for the effort that they’ve given us. We came up short, but as has been in the past, I fully expect to stay in relative contact with my players. They usually call me for advice in one area or another.

I told them yesterday just to learn from some of things they might have understood and some of the things they didn’t understand; just retain it and perhaps some day they can use it on being better ballplayers, better family men and better people period. Hopefully, we instilled some winning in them. I just wish the organization and Jim Hendry well as they go forward, just like they wish me well as I go forward.

Thanks for your time. Thanks for your understanding and I hope you respect me and the fact that I’m not really going to take any questions. There’s really no answers right now. With that being said, I’ve got to go finish packing, which is something I don’t enjoy doing and something that’s very emotional while you’re doing because you see four years come to pass very quickly in front of your face. I’m going through everything and just prepared to go back home with my family. Thank you.

Jim Hendry Opening Statement:

Well, it’s certainly an unfortunate day. Being the general manager, I had a very good relationship with Dusty. I think the world of him. Aside from baseball, he’s a tremendous human being; a very caring man. He’s done a lot for not only his players in the game, but for many, many people outside of baseball and he’s been very good to me. Obviously, he was the choice and the only choice that I wanted to make in 2003 when I was fortunate enough to be in charge of the Chicago Cubs. Today’s a day until recent times that I never foresaw happening.

In this position of times, you have to try to focus and do what you think is not best for any individual, including yourself, but what’s best for the Chicago Cubs. So that’s why I came to the decision not to renew Dusty’s contract. I’m certainly not here to not share the blame. A total team effort on our bad season ... we just didn’t play well. We certainly had our share of injuries and nothing really went right since about the end of April.

With that being said, I just feel that sometimes you just -- you know, it just didn’t work. You have to make a change and move forward in the best interest of the organization. But he’s a very special guy. It’s been hard to watch him go through some of the things that he’s had to go through. ... He’s certainly not finished in our game and he’s certainly not incapable of going elsewhere on down the road and managing, and winning.

It’s just part of the business. Joe Torre -- two or three places he didn’t win. He found the right place at the right time and the rest is history. Dusty Baker’s done nothing but great things for the game and certainly our failures on the field are not something that I would ever totally put on him, or expect him not to rebound [from] and be successful with whatever else he wants to do.

Like I said, I’m very grateful to him. He made me look awful smart in 2003. So with Andy’s situation yesterday, and today doing what I feel has to be done with us moving forward, it’s certainly not something that I take a lot of comfort in.

On Baker’s evaluation process.

Well, George, when you do what I do on a daily basis over time, you know, you keep digesting everything. Basically, I would simplify just in the fact that I think this is for the best interest of the Cubs and where we’re at, and what we have to do. I just think a change is appropriate.

It’s a very tough job, as we know, from where Dusty sits. Obviously, history was almost changed for good. Unfortunately, it’s gone down a slippery slope the last two years. Like I said, we all deserve a big part of the blame; not just him. It’s the nature of the business. In professional sports, it’s the way it is.

There’s nothing I would get into specifically. A lot of things that have been reported – his and my relationship – that was inaccurate. We’ve had a lot of solid discussions. We’ve never had fights or arguments, or large disconnections ... Really, it hasn’t been in any way, shape, or form, even in the worst of times, a situation where we didn’t communicate well. So it’s a tough day for all of us, because he’s ... above everything an outstanding man.

When asked about a possible timetable for hiring a new manager.

Everyone has been speculating of who will be the next manager probably since the All-Star break. And that goes along with the territory of what you guys have to do. I have never contacted anyone; never done anything that wasn’t the right thing to do in Dusty’s situation. All I would promise you is that it will be a very extensive search. I know how important this decision is for the franchise, and for all of our fans and for all of us involved with the Cubs. It’s going to be a huge decision. It’s first and foremost on my plate for the off-season, and I will begin working on the process probably as early as tomorrow.

On the future of Baker’s coaching staff.

I have not talked to the coaches yet individually, so I would be in the wrong by addressing publicly what I would say before I meet with them. I told Dusty that I wasn’t going to talk to any of them before I talked to him. I made myself available this afternoon and tomorrow for them to come by, so to get any more specific than that without talking to them first would be wrong.

On whether injuries and bad luck were taken into account regarding Baker’s fate.

Sure. Like I said, it’s not my nature to play the blame game. It’s not my nature to play the excuse game. It’s just an unfortunate situation. Like I said, in ’03 and ’04 we probably – none of us saw this day coming. There are a lot of factors that you probably can’t put your finger on or try to make a rational reason or excuse for why things happened the way they did on the field. Certain days – we’ve all been through a lot here and seen some things that are hard to believe. ...

I just tried to factor everything in and like I said ... just make the decision that I thought was best for the Cubs at this particular time. In no way, shape or form is that a slight of, “Dusty can’t do this and Dusty can’t do that,” or “somebody else can do it better.” I just felt like, with where we’re at and what’s happened the last couple of years, it was just time to make a change.

Asked when things changed in his support of Dusty.

Yeah – well, I never was not supportive of him, whether it was publicly or privately. I even felt in June or July when we played so well right before the break in Milwaukee that we still might be able to make a run ... The last month or so, I certainly didn’t put a strong emphasis of losing the ball games the last third of the season on Dusty. We certainly lined up with a lot of guys that I think are going to be good players or pitchers down the road, but may not have been ready for daily action here. So I certainly wasn’t up there checking off the losses in August and September, and blaming him for that.

So it wasn’t a lack of support ... and I’m sure he would tell you the same thing. We’ve never had issues of [anything but] a straight forward, honest relationship. It’s just a matter of everything I digested. My feeling is it’s just something that you have to do. Sometimes you have to make a change and like I said, it certainly should not put him in a spot where someone else shouldn’t think he could be successful down the road somewhere else. A lot of people that are of his caliber in this game have had some misfortune; had some bad timing; wrong spot, wrong time after a lot of early success and can move forward elsewhere and do very well.

On his reaction to Andy MacPhail resigning as Team President Sunday.

Well, it was honestly a complete surprise to me. I didn’t find out until about 10 o’clock yesterday when I arrived. Andy MacPhail obviously was great to me. Everyone in here knows we have a lot of offices about each other, but he was very good to me. His past obviously speaks for itself. He’s the one that made me the general manager of the Chicago Cubs and was very good to me. I feel like a big part of me let him down, too; that if we’d had a better last year and a half or two, maybe that wouldn’t have happened. I certainly should take my share of blame for that.

When asked about the “cost savings” of MacPhail.

I don’t know how I could answer the cost savings of Andy MacPhail. I have no idea what Andy ever made, nor is it my business. And I’ve been assured by the Tribune Company to go out and hire the best manager [I] think for the job. I don’t think there’ll be any worry about who makes what. We’ve got a job to do here. I’m still the general manager and we’ve got to retool, get to work and have a great off-season starting with hiring the right manager. I don’t think the Tribune Tower costs in that regard is an issue at all.

When asked what he’s looking for in the Cubs’ next manager.

Well, Phil, to answer that in a global fashion, I’m certainly not ready to do that. I know where you’re going, but just getting through where we’re at now and doing what I had to do today, I have not in any way, shape or form ... contacted other people or laid groundwork for other people. I wasn’t going to do that. Honestly, it’ll just be a very exhausting process.

And I know what the next question will be, which I won’t answer. I don’t think I’ll start with a 25-man list, OK? I’m just looking for the best possible person that I feel can lead us to where we want to go and to get back on track. Like I said, we got off the track the last couple of years. So it could be someone that’s already done it or it could just be what I think is the best person for the job.

Asked about what characteristics will appeal to him in a potential manager.

Well, obviously I think he will have characteristics that I think start with leadership. Just like anybody in this position, we’re choosing a manager, so like I said, to get specific or to get into names would be inappropriate now.

When asked if he would want a manager to help "recruit" players and/or ask for specific players.

Well, everybody – I mean, Dusty and I always had that relationship. Everybody always has a wish list. Sometimes you can’t get them; sometimes they stayed where they’re at, but Dusty and I worked together I’d say over 90 percent of the time on our rosters. I would expect to have a new manager involved in some decisions, but obviously there has to be that general manager-manager relationship where I would trust him to do the best he can on the field with the personnel he has, and he’d have to trust me that I’m giving him the best players I possibly can with the finances available.

On whether there was a specific time when he had decided Baker’s fate.

Not really. You know, there’s the normal fluctuation. Because of my relationship with Dusty and because of what I felt he did so well when he first got here the first couple of years, and because that was my first hire, I certainly wanted to and tried to give him every possibility and consideration to stay. So I really didn’t put a date on it. Obviously, I had a lot of long and tough nights, because of not only the way we were playing this year but our record and all the other injuries problems, and also because I knew I had to make a good decision and potentially a very tough decision. Like I said, I just kept putting it on myself to do in the end what has to be done, whether it feels good or not, for the good of the Cubs.

Asked if there was now added pressure following interim President John McDonough’s comments Sunday that he expects the Cubs to win a World Series soon.

Nah, not at all. I’ve known John for a long time. That always should be the goal and it certainly was a very realistic goal a few years ago. It’s certainly a goal that we have to get back to. I fully understand the importance of winning. I should not be – I’m the fortunate one that’s still sitting here, but I certainly understand that I have a job to do and that I have to do this job in very fine fashion the next few years.

When asked to describe what the last 24 hours have been like.

Not good. Nothing good about it, Fred. Like I said, it surprised me yesterday. Like I said, both people involved here are outstanding human beings. You know, forget about the wins and losses. You’ve got two outstanding human beings that their lives have now been affected in, whether you like to say it or not, somewhat of a negative form here in recent past. It’s not a good situation for me. I don’t feel good about it. I don’t take any solace in that they’re leaving and I’m staying. Like I said, I would be some kind of a shallow person not to think that maybe if I had done a lot better, it wouldn’t be this way.

On much of the payroll being on the disabled list.

It’s unfortunate, yeah. We’ve had a significant amount of payroll in the training room the last few years. I think the rest of the industry understands that you can’t have the pitching we had coming out of ’03 go down like we had and just snap your finger and say, “Why didn’t you get starting pitching to replace it?” Certainly it’s a tough obstacle to overcome. Some of the people that we might have counted on didn’t play well and I think every player to a man in there would tell you that they certainly had a hand in the decisions that are being made today. We could have played better baseball.

As I’ve read some of the players’ comments, it’s true. There was a lot of baseball that wasn’t played well even despite our injuries at times. In the end of the day, when you play like we did and you lose that many games, the injuries aren’t an excuse. It’s about winning. At the end of the day in November, it doesn’t say in the loss column, “Oh, gee, they had this amount of guys on the DL.” You either win the games or you don’t. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to stay as healthy in the areas where you need to play better.


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