MILWAUKEE—No matter what he does or says, Dusty Baker can't seem to dodge speculation about his future.
But before the Cubs' 6-3 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday night, Baker hinted for the first time that even if he's asked to return, he's not sure he would say yes.
Baker was asked if he would accept a one-year deal to manage in 2007 if the Cubs offered one.
"I don't know, dude. I'll worry about that later," Baker replied. "That's my attitude. I have a choice too, you know. Both sides have a choice."
Hasn't Baker said all along he wants to return?
"Yeah," he said, "but I still have a choice."
General manager Jim Hendry already gave Baker a reprieve for the rest of the season, saying he would make a decision on whether to re-hire Baker shortly after the final game. And while Florida manager Joe Girardi has shot down rumors he'd leave the Marlins if the Cubs' job became available, the idea that Girardi could succeed Baker has become talk-show fodder.
"You can't control what other people say," Baker said. "All I know is that it seems like all of a sudden, a lot of people have gotten smarter and more knowledgeable than me in a short period of time. I don't say what I've done or where I've been or where I'm going. All I know is what I know."
The Cubs have a 17-11 record since July 24, their best stretch of the season. But on Wednesday they were no-hit for 51/3 innings by Brewers right-hander Dave Bush (8-8), while Carlos Zambrano lasted only 42/3 innings, allowing six runs on five hits and four walks.
Baker called it a "series of unfortunate events" for Zambrano, referring to a passed ball by Michael Barrett on a strikeout that preceded Brady Clark's two-out, two-run homer in the second; and first-base umpire Gary Darling's ruling that Zambrano missed the bag on a toss from Phil Nevin on Geoff Jenkins' grounder in the third.
David Bell followed with a two-run single and Jenkins singled home two more in the fifth after Zambrano loaded the bases with a pair of two-out walks, prompting his early exit. Since his 123-pitch outing against Houston on July 20, Zambrano has a 6.09 earned-run average in four starts.
"I'm not tired," Zambrano said. "I still have some gas in my tank. I have 10 more starts to go. I'll just get a new streak."
Other than Aramis Ramirez's three-run homer in the sixth, Bush dominated the Cubs. He had plunked Ramirez in the shoulder in the fourth, leading to warnings for both teams. Ramirez absolved Bush afterward, saying he was just coming inside on him.
As the Cubs try to regroup, Baker insisted he's not pondering his future.
"I don't think about it, I'm telling you," Baker said. "Jim [Hendry] said he's going to wait until the end, so it is what it is. You go out and play, and you manage and try to win as many games as you can and try to have some fun while you're doing it. We basically have the same team. It's just that we have some guys who have gotten hot and performed well."