Cubs GM Hendry says Baker's job not in danger

Updated: May 27, 2006, 2:52 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Saturday manager Dusty Baker's job was safe in the wake of the team's jaw-dropping slump.

The Cubs had lost 19 of their last 23 games before facing Atlanta on Saturday.

After losing three straight to the last-place Marlins, the Cubs suffered perhaps their worst loss of the season Friday when closer Ryan Dempster gave up three ninth-inning runs as second baseman Neifi Perez made two errors on the same play in a gut-wrenching 6-5 loss.

But Hendry said Baker, who is in the final year of a four-year contract, will get a chance to haul the team out of its slump and then manage it once injured players Mark Prior, Derrek Lee and Wade Miller are back on the roster.

"I'm hearing a lot every day, every time we lose a ballgame Dusty is going to get fired," Hendry said. "If we lose three to the White Sox ... and people are reporting the other day that Dusty was going to get fired after the last Marlins game. That's not going to happen, OK?

"Dusty is going to get every opportunity to manage the club and get us out of this hole, and he's going to get an opportunity to manage this club when we get healthy the next couple of weeks also," he said.

Hendry, who got a two-year contract extension in early April, will be the one who decides if and when Baker gets one.

"I'm the one in charge of that situation. Dusty knows the process I'm going to take, it will be obviously a continual process, but I'll do it at the pace I choose," Hendry said.

"But speculation that he would go because we lost three games in Florida or if we lost last Sunday to the White Sox is certainly not true and was never given any thought," Hendry added.

In his first season in Chicago, Baker led the Cubs within five outs of their first World Series appearance since 1945 before an eighth-inning collapse in Game 6 of the NLCS undid them. And they led the NL wild card in 2004 until another collapse, this one during the final homestand of the season.

But last season, again battling key injuries and some poor fundamentals, they slumped to 79-83. And after starting 13-8 with Prior and Kerry Wood on the disabled list to start the season, they have gone into a mammoth slump without Lee, who broke his wrist April 19.

Despite the struggles, Hendry said he and Baker have a good relationship.

"Speculation in the past that Dusty wanted out last year and was going to the Dodgers and was going to the Nationals, that was all totally untrue," Hendry said. "His and my relationship has been very solid from the time he got here."

One of Hendry's major offseason moves, the acquisition of leadoff hitter Juan Pierre, hasn't worked out so far. Pierre was struggling with a .230 average before Saturday.

And the fans are growing restless. Another offseason acquisition, Jacque Jones, has been booed often and was nearly hit with a baseball thrown by a fan from the stands earlier this month.

"I feel certainly responsible and I feel we are going to keep working as hard as we can until we get it right," Hendry said. "No fans in the world deserve to win more than we have. And when it doesn't happen, I look at myself first."

But many of the fans are looking at Baker, a three-time manager of the year while with the Giants, who took San Francisco to the World Series in 2002 and then nearly got the Cubs there the next season.

No one is taking the Cubs' troubled times harder than Baker.

"This is not a man who sits on his laurels. He was a heck of a player and has been a heck of a manager for a long time," Hendry said.

"I think people need to understand it's bothering him just as much as anybody who works here. ... It's a very tough time. He's got it in him to help pull us out."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press