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Cubs lose marathon game, Baker next?
Dusty Baker's fate may have been decided long ago, but the Cubs manager finally will get the official word Monday during a meeting with general manager Jim Hendry.
Several hours before the Cubs suffered an 11-9, 14-inning loss to Colorado, Baker gave a vague, one-word response Saturday when asked if Hendry had handled his situation well.
"Maybe," Baker said, declining to elaborate.
Hendry argued there was no better way to handle it. He told Baker in July that he would make a decision after the regular season, which ends Sunday.
"It has been difficult for all of us," Hendry said. "And when you've been in the situation we've been in
Dusty was in the last year of his contract, and I did tell him a long time ago he would be here the rest of the year and then I would try to make my decision moving forward for the organization quickly after that.
"I don't know any other way we could have handled it. I was always upfront with him and there hadn't been any reason to keep him posted on anything different since July, once it was decided he was going to stay."
After Hendry's announcement, the Cubs played an entertaining game that resulted in their 96th loss. They trailed the Rockies 8-0 after three innings before storming back to tie it 9-9 on Jacque Jones' two-out, infield single off Todd Helton's glove in the ninth.
Jeff Baker's two-run single off Jae Kuk Ryu gave the Rockies a two-run lead in the 14th before Carlos Zambrano came in to pinch-hit with a man on and two outs in the bottom of the inning. Zambrano lofted a fly to medium right, where Brad Hawpe slipped on the grass but made an acrobatic catch to end the game.
While Hendry and Baker may be at odds over the handling of the managerial situation, both were disturbed by back-page graphic in Saturday's Sun-Times that superimposed Baker's face on a piece of toast.
Hendry felt the mockery of Baker was over the top.
"He has been involved in the game in a positive way for a long time, and he has a great track record as a player," Hendry said. "He has been a good manager for a long time, and I would hate to see a lot of the negativity in any way, shape or form.
"We've all had a hand in the bad season. I certainly don't like to see anybody who has treated people wellfrom myself on down to the playersand [considering] what he has done in the game, being treated poorly."
Baker said he was more disappointed than angry:
"It disappoints me that somebody would waste that much time and space when there's so much other important stuff in the world going on that's newsworthy.
"It doesn't anger me. It doesn't affect me at all now. A couple of years ago it probably would have, but I have some calluses now that I didn't have before. To me, why would you even waste your time or your space to do that? It just makes no sense."
With all the speculation on Baker's future this season, he said he felt like the decision was made "a couple of months ago, maybe even last year."
He later vowed "nobody is going to take my joy away from my life."
Baker credited his "strong roots" for helping him to deal with speculation. He always tried to shrug it off and come to the ballpark with a smile. Most of the time, he did.
"The only problem with that," Baker said, "is sometimes there's a thin line between strength and stubbornness."