Baker gets warm welcome from Cubs

Baker gets warm welcome

NEW YORK -- Dusty Baker received lots of hugs and handshakes from his former players on Monday night at Shea Stadium, but that may be as close as the ex-Cubs manager gets to the team this season.

Baker, one of the color commentators on ESPN's broadcast, said he's not ready to return to Wrigley Field, where he managed the Cubs for four seasons. Baker's contract was not renewed after 2006, when the Cubs finished in last place at 66-96.

"Not yet," Baker said about broadcasting a game at Wrigley Field. "I just don't need the jeers and the stuff. It's OK. It's enough. Let time heal things, you know what I mean? That's all."

Baker did lead the Cubs to within five outs of reaching the World Series in 2003, but says it's time to move on.

"I try not to look back on things," Baker said. "I try to look forward. If I look back on things, you look back on possibly the fact that we lost [Moises Alou] and Sammy [Sosa], and we could've reloaded better, or 'what if' when guys get hurt. You've got to look forward. Life's good, life's real good."

Baker is able to spend more time with his family, including son Darren. He's had to deal with regular guy stuff, like handling his own luggage and making his flights to cover games for ESPN.

"Dusty's a good man," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "He'll have a good time up there [in the broadcast booth]."

There are some perks.

"I enjoyed it," Piniella said about the TV work. "After the ballgame, not turning a double play or an error or a strikeout with the bases loaded didn't bother me a bit. I like the competition. I was afforded an opportunity over here, and we're going to make the best of it."

However, Baker can't shake some of the problems the Cubs have had to deal with. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior are sidelined because of arm injuries, and Baker has been criticized for overworking the pitchers.

"I was the manager, I was the boss," Baker said. "I got blamed for a lot of stuff, most stuff. If they want to pin that on me, that's OK. You look at my record over 14 years, and I had very few guys come up hurt.

"I feel bad about [Wood and Prior]," he said. "I tried to preserve them as best I could and win ballgames at the same time. What is enough and what is too much? That's a universal question forever and ever."

Any regrets?

"No -- it's life," Baker said. "That's how life is. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not fair."

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