Baker refutes rumors, staying with Cubs

Baker refutes rumors, staying with Cubs

NEW YORK -- Dusty Baker is tired of hearing about where he will be managing next and wants to make it clear he's staying put with the Chicago Cubs.

In recent weeks, Baker has been rumored to be taking over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals. All false, he said Sunday, in what he wants to be the last discussion on the matter.

"There's always going to be some talk, especially when you're not winning and people think you should be winning," Baker said. "That doesn't bother me. I just do my job. I've got a job to do. It does bother me that I'm going places when I'm already at a place."

Baker, 56, can't even chuckle at the rumors.

"It's past funny now. It's not funny at all," he said. "The sad part about the whole thing is anybody can say anything. It's like a copycat crime guy. Once one starts, then who knows? They might copycat it from LA to Arizona to Washington.

"Nobody can find out who this 'close reliable associate' is," he said. "They're not my friends, whoever they are. That's just easy to say. Anybody can call in and say, 'I've got this story, boom, boom, boom,' and the more people you add that heard it, the more validity that seems to give it."

This is the third season of Baker's four-year contract, his longest managerial deal. He has posted back-to-back winning seasons in 2003 (88-74) and in 2004 (89-73), and is the first Cubs manager to do so since the 1971-72 seasons.

"One thing about the Cubs, they've had a lot of managers in a short period of time," Baker said. "You've got to have some consistency in leadership over a period of time or else you're starting over all the time."

The Cubs did start this season with high expectations, but entered Sunday's game against the New York Mets at 54-56, trailing six teams in the Wild Card race. The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. That's a long time to wait. It seems his critics have short memories and no patience.

"Especially patience, when every year there's focus that it has to be 'The Year,'" Baker said. "I can't do anything about the last 100 years. I can only do something about the years I've been here."

Baker doesn't want the Cubs to discuss a contract extension now because it's not his style. He did not negotiate a new deal during the season in his 10 years with the San Francisco Giants from 1993-2002.

"I was in the last year of my contract four times," Baker said about his stint with the Giants in which his longest deal was a two-year contract. "They asked a couple times, 'Do you want to talk about an extension?' and I said, 'No, I want to concentrate on what I'm doing.'

"I don't want to be a distraction to my team," he said. "I'd rather wait until the end and then win, and then you can parlay it to a better negotiating position. If you're not secure in your own abilities or yourself, you're going to jump on an extension."

If Baker and the Cubs agreed to an extension beyond the 2006 season, it might quiet some of the rumors that he wants to leave.

"What I would like to happen to quiet some people is to sign my coaches, so we have continuity of leadership going into next year. This year and next year are big years for all of us."
-- Dusty Baker

"I've never done that," Baker said. "My contract and [Cubs general manager Jim Hendry's] contract end at the same time."

There have been written reports that Baker doesn't want to come back to Chicago after his contract expires with the Cubs. Baker denies that.

"I never said that," he said. "What I would like to happen to quiet some people is to sign my coaches, so we have continuity of leadership going into next year. This year and next year are big years for all of us.

"Why would I go against what I've always done?" Baker said. "This is not anything new. Going into next year, I don't want to talk about it. Especially since I had [prostate] cancer [in 2001], you learn you don't look too far in the future. You prepare for the future and you learn from the past, but you live your life today. I manage today.

"To me, that's something that shouldn't even be discussed at this point what I'm going to do after next year," he said. "We're not even through this year yet. That's why [the rumors] don't make any sense to me."

Baker said when the time is right, he'll talk to the Cubs. But the team has to want him back, too. It's a "two-sided thing here. It's not a one-sided thing," he said.

Baker said he has never given the impression that he doesn't want to come back after his contract is over.

"Most people are guessing. They don't know me," he said. "They don't know how I think. If you look at my background and track record, you'll see it. This is in line and indicative of my personality and how I do things. Take it as face value and try not to see any more into it than it is."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.