Baker: 'Might as well be me' to take the blame

Updated: October 2, 2006, 2:27 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHICAGO -- The word will be official Monday, but Dusty Baker was already saying Sunday night what most people have suspected for weeks: His tenure as manager of the Chicago Cubs is over.

Dusty Baker
Baker

"I'm gone. I won't be back," Baker told the Chicago Tribune after the Cubs' 8-5 win over the Rockies on Sunday. "Somebody's got to take the blame, and it might as well be me."

Baker told the Tribune that he regards Monday's meeting with general manager Jim Hendry as merely a formality.

"If they wanted me back, I would have heard something by now," he told the paper.

Instead, Baker will exit after four years at the helm on the North Side.

Earlier Sunday, Baker stopped and signed autographs for 10 minutes for hundreds of fans near the tarp along the left field line at Wrigley Field.

"I don't have second thoughts about anything," Baker said. "I have no regrets about coming here or nothing. Again, I just wish we could have gotten it done. We were close and then since that time, things have gotten worse."

After a serious run at the World Series in Baker's first season of 2003 -- just five outs away -- the Cubs took an NL-worst 65-96 record into Sunday's meaningless season finale against the Colorado Rockies.

The Cubs' clubhouse was busy with boxes being packed for the start of vacation. Baker planned to address his team perhaps for the final time.

"I don't have second thoughts about anything. I have no regrets about coming here or nothing. Again, I just wish we could have gotten it done. We were close and then since that time, things have gotten worse."
-- Dusty Baker, on this tenure with the Cubs

"It's not easy to say goodbye if that's the case," catcher Michael Barrett said. "It was a weird feeling coming to the field and thinking this might be his last day. That's just the truth of it."

Injuries to key players, especially pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, and poor play have doomed the Cubs.

"Different circumstances, different things, just different stuff," Baker said. "You deal with it and you go forward. You do the best job you can do. Sometimes, your best isn't good enough."

Baker said he hadn't taken the time to dwell on what he'd accomplished -- he led the Cubs to their first back-to-back winning seasons in 32 years -- or what he could have done differently to stop the losing of the past two years.

"I am what I am, and I am who I am," he told the Tribune. "My dad taught me a long time ago, speak the truth and be yourself, with no regrets."

The Cubs have been losing for a long time. They haven't been in a World Series since 1945 or won one since 1908.

Baker thought he could be the one to stop that stretch.

"It's been 97 years, I guess 98 years," Baker said. "I wanted to be the one to change it."

But he couldn't. And his managing certainly wasn't the only reason, although many fans held him responsible. Hendry and chief executive officer Andy MacPhail have come under heavy criticism this week, as well.

MacPhail resigned Sunday as president and CEO after failing to get the team to the World Series during his 12-year tenure.

"There were a lot of things this season out of Dusty's control and it just didn't work out," said first baseman Derrek Lee, who's missed most of the season because of a wrist injury and his daughter's illness. "So the blame is unfair, but I don't feel bad for Dusty because Dusty is fine and he's going to be OK."

Juan Pierre agreed with Lee, telling the Tribune that Baker was being wrongly blamed for players' injuries and poor play on the field.

There's no justice," Pierre told the paper. "He gets blamed for guys' injuries, for the way we played on the field, doing the little things wrong. It doesn't reflect on him in any way. To hear fans booing him and things like that, it's sad. He shouldn't get blamed for it. If you had Joe Torre or whoever, [any of] the best managers, they probably would have lost with the way we played this year."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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