- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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Although Baker lives in the present, like so many successful leaders he still contemplates his disappointing exit in 2006 after four years as Cubs manager. After a near-miss National League pennant in 2003 and a meltdown in 2004 when his club lost control of a playoff berth by losing seven of its last nine games, a change of philosophy took place.
“One of my disappointments in life was I wanted to be the manager that took [the Cubs] to the World Series and win,” Baker said. “The next year [in 2004] we had a couple of injuries and after that we didn’t reload. When we lost Moises Alou and Sammy [Sosa] we gave up 65 or 70 home runs and 250 RBIs.”
Baker continues to reinvent himself and prove to doubters inside and outside the game he is a winner. No matter how successful he is in Cincinnati, the Chicago experience still sticks in the craw of the ultra-competitive 63-year-old leader. Baker is watching the rebuilding of the Cubs organization as an interested outsider who has a pulse for what drives the Chicago fan base.
“I don’t know how [Cubs fans] are going to react now because when I was here they did not want to hear patience and they didn’t want to hear wait,” Baker said. “I was a bit surprised when they said they were giving the new regime a five-year plan. When I was here we were on a week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year plan. You can’t control the minds of others, you just control what you do.”
Baker disliked the way he went out with the Cubs, losing 96 games in 2006. He will have a better sense of himself and his Chicago time if he wins a championship with the Reds.
“I don’t feel [exonerated] yet. I will feel better when we win the world championship,” Baker said. “I’m not sure it will ever be [enough] because after we win one I will want two.”
Baker has won 1,550 games, ranking 20th on the all time list.
2dJohn Jackson, Special to ESPN.com