In a story by Cubs.com writer Carrie Muskrat, Aramis Ramirez is quoted as saying that, “[Dusty Baker] is a winner,” because of the back-to-back winning seasons that the Cubs posted during Baker’s first two years as manager. In the next breath, however, Ramirez said that Baker shouldn’t be booed by fans because he doesn’t “think that [the losing seasons in 2005 and 2006] were the manager’s fault.”
Even Piniella got in on the praise: “I don’t see any reason why Dusty should be booed. He came in here and won a division. He got the team to one game from going to a World Series. The next year, they had a nice run, and then things went a little backwards. Is that the manager’s fault? I don’t think so.”
So which is it? While a lot of players have expressed fond memories of Baker’s four years on the North Side, I don’t think you can cherry-pick what seasons best represent a manager influence. To say that Baker was responsible for the ’03 and ’04 winning seasons but not for the ’05 and ’06 seasons is faulty reasoning.
In a study by the Wall Street Journal, Baker ranked 11th out of 20 current MLB managers when using close games, wins above expectation, and player performance as measurements. (Lou Piniella ranked one spot lower.) It’s interesting to note that such “winning” managers as Clint Hurdle, Jim Leyland, Eric Wedge, Joe Torre, and Terry Francona took the bottom five spots in the study.
If the statistical analysis proves anything, it’s that managers’ impacts upon their teams wins-and-loss records are greatly exaggerated. Or, as the top-ranked Ron Gardenhire said, “I don’t know how you rate managers. They love you. They hate you. It just depends which inning.”
Dusty Baker rode into town,