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Notes: Crazy in Chicago?
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10/01/2003  7:15 PM ET 
Notes: Crazy in Chicago?
Baker warns of 'crazy' in-game moves
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Dusty Baker pinch-hit for Alex Gonzalez in the sixth inning of Game 1 because he "liked the matchup." (Dave Martin/AP)
ATLANTA -- In the postseason, every managerial move is studied, criticized and analyzed. Some would say over-analyzed, but that's another story. Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker warned his players he may do some things that could seem a little crazy.

"I told everybody before we started here that we have to do everything we can to win every game," Baker said.

Take the sixth inning of Game 1 Tuesday. Baker decided to lift shortstop Alex Gonzalez for pinch-hitter Randall Simon. The bases were loaded, nobody out, and the Cubs already had stranded six. Simon struck out -- which was not what Baker had in mind, obviously -- and Paul Bako grounded out, allowing a run to score. Pitcher Kerry Wood followed with his tie-breaking two-run double.

"I liked the matchup better, that's all," Baker said of replacing Gonzalez with Simon.

Moves like that reinforce that this is a different time of year, baseball-wise.

"It depends on who you're facing," Baker said. "If you're facing Jason Schmidt and the bases are loaded, I might have done the same thing. (Atlanta starter Russ Ortiz) struck 'Gonzo' out looking the time before that (in the fourth). The fourth is too early to make that kind of move. In that situation (in the sixth), I need a guy like Simon who doesn't strike out. And then he strikes out anyway."

Then Baker chuckled.

So it's a different thought process in a short series or just because it's the postseason?

"Both," Baker said. "At that time of the game, 1-0, and the bottom of the order coming up (for the Cubs), I just felt it was the only decision. That was the inning of decision. We'd had plenty of opportunities and hadn't gotten anybody home and especially with a guy who doesn't strike out."

Dress code: In case you're keeping score, Baker's Game 2 outfit included the same gray wristbands with red stripes that he wore in Game 1. Remember, the Cubs won the first game of this best-of-five series, 4-2.

Media darlings: Tuesday night's Cubs-Braves primetime telecast registered an 8.9 rating in the metered markets. The rating represents the best performance for a Division Series opener since 1998 when the Texas Rangers played at the New York Yankees. It's an increase of 11 percent over the first Division Series game in prime time last year.

The telecast out-performed last year's deciding NLDS Game 5 between the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves as well as Game 5 of the 2000 ALDS between the Yankees and Athletics.

Experience counts: The Cubs have not played in the postseason since 1998 and are making only their third trip since 1945 which is quite a contrast to the Braves who have won 12 consecutive division titles.

"I think talent is the key," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said when asked about the importance of experience at this time of year. "I don't think experience has that much to do with it."

The Cubs do have playoff experience. Just not with Chicago. Antonio Alfonseca and Moises Alou both won World Series rings with Florida in 1997. Mark Guthrie won a World Series ring with Minnesota in 1991 and Damian Miller won his in 2001 with Arizona.

Kenny Lofton is playing in the postseason for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons, including trips to the World Series with Cleveland in 1995 and San Francisco last year.

Mike Remlinger pitched in 19 postseason games for Atlanta from 1999-2002, including a trip to the World Series in '99.

Kerry Wood started in 1998, his rookie year, when the Cubs advanced as the NL Wild Card winner. Does postseason experience really matter?

"It's like coming out of college without experience -- you graduate from college and everybody asks you how much experience you have," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "You've got to start somewhere. You don't come out of college with the experience for that job.

"This is a learning process," he said. "There is really nothing to be concerned about. Look at the Braves over there. They didn't start with postseason experience. Some point in time, every guy in there, it was their first time in the postseason. So, we are in a position where they were already."

Baker delivered a light and very positive message to the team before Game 1 Tuesday.

"We had a meeting and we had laughter," Baker said. "Any time you can laugh, it cuts the edge on everything. I'm sure I said something crazy, didn't make a whole bunch of sense, but I got some laughs on it."

Survey says: Mark Prior is the Cubs' MVP according to a poll on the Cubs website. Of the 148,928 votes cast, Prior received 116,115, or 78 percent.

Closer Joe Borowski was a distant second, receiving 8,646 votes, followed by Sammy Sosa (7,570), Moises Alou (7,112), Kerry Wood (5,821) and Carlos Zambrano (3,664).

Home, sweet home: Baker was not a fan of Wrigley Field when he played there and for selfish reasons.

"I didn't hit well there," Baker said. "My depth perception was off there. I was too close to the pitcher and the grass was too thick and it was hard to go to sleep in that town.

"Some guys like it," he said of the Cubs' home park. "I didn't see the ball well. I could never get comfortable in the box. It seemed like it was off center and the pitcher's mound was off to the right and it should've been off to the left."

And now as a manager?

"I'm not crazy when the wind is blowing out," Baker said. "I like when the wind is blowing in. It changes. I like it a lot now. It's my home."

Wrigley is the second oldest ballpark in the Majors behind Boston's Fenway Park. Can it survive another 50 years?

"I don't know. In 50 years, I'll be 104," Baker said.

Math is hard: Carlos Zambrano was asked if what the Cubs did in Game 1 would affect him in any way in Game 2.

"No," Zambrano said. "In a game, you have to make 27 outs to get the victory and then you can say we won. You have to make 27 plus 27 plus 27 to win three games. I don't know what that is. My math is bad. You have to make 27 and 27 and 27 to go to the next step to face Florida or San Francisco. So if they win (Tuesday), they still have to make 27 more outs and 27 more outs for the next two games."

You do the math.

Bear weather: Friday's forecast for Game 3 of the NLDS, to be played at Wrigley Field, calls for highs in the upper 50s but lows in the mid 40s and a chance of showers. Be prepared.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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