10/12/2003 3:53 PM ET
Baker relaxed, motivated to win
Could be third to take second team to World Series
MIAMI -- When Dusty Baker took over the Chicago Cubs after a 95-loss season in 2002, his goals in his first season were not as lofty as getting to the World Series.
In Baker's inaugural year in Chicago, the Cubs won the Central Division, beat high-powered Atlanta in the National League Division Series and are on the verge of advancing to the World Series. A win Tuesday in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins and the Cubs would get to the World Series for the first time since 1945.
"No. 1, I wanted to have a winning season," Baker said Sunday prior to Game 5, which the Marlins won 4-0. "How much winning, I don't know and nobody knew because I really didn't know, other than a few guys here, what the personnel was that we had here.
"My main thing was to come here and win, No. 1, and not put any realistic numbers or goals on it," Baker said. "If you play hard every day and play good, hard baseball every day, you have a chance to win more games than most teams because most teams I've found won't play hard every day.
"I came here to win," he said. "And I wanted to win two years in a row."
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Baker is on the brink of a milestone. No manager in Major League history has ever led two different teams to the World Series in back-to-back years. He guided the San Francisco Giants to the championship last year, only to lose to Anaheim in seven games.
He also could be the third manager ever to lead two different teams into the World Series. The others are Dick Williams, who did so with San Diego and Oakland, and Sparky Anderson, who led Cincinnati and Detroit to the championship.
Getting to the World Series last year motivated Baker to want to be there again.
"Last year gave me more motivation and drive than ever to get there and to win," he said. "And then after we lost last year, Tommy Lasorda came to me and reminded me that his first two Dodger teams lost to the Yankees in the World Series so don't feel bad about it.
"That's what he told me and that relieved a little bit," Baker said. "It didn't ease the pain. But the main thing is we've got to win here -- we have to win the NLCS before we can get to the World Series."
Baker isn't wearing any leftover good-luck charms from last season. He does have his championship ring but said he quit wearing it. As long as he has fresh toothpicks -- he's very meticulous about that -- and his good-luck wristbands, he's fine.
If you've been watching, you'll know he's been wearing the same blue wristbands in each of the Cubs' three wins in the NLCS.
Baker may be one of the most prepared managers in the game. He's also one of the most unique.
"I think away from just managing the game, he's an awesome guy," Cubs pitcher Mark Prior said. "I think he's a good person. He's a positive guy, no matter if it's baseball or it's life. That's the first thing.
"He's just a good person," Prior said. "I think that's the first plus for him right off the bat before we even get to how he manages guys in the dugout. I think he does a great job managing egos, different backgrounds, different types of people, which I think is a pretty big requirement for a manager in the game of baseball."
Two scented candles were lit on Baker's desk before the game. An NFL game was on the TV. It was business as usual.
"I'm relaxed," Baker said. "The main thing is you can't be in a hurry. You've got to play the same game, you've got to get 27 outs. You've got nine innings. You can't be in a hurry to get this thing over with. You've got to play and let it happen."
The Cubs were in third place in late July, early August. A 19-8 record in September saved the season. The Cubs seem to be peaking at the right time. Was there ever a moment when Baker thought they wouldn't win the division?
"Some of it was hope. Faith. I can't say I knew it," he said. "Some of it's hope and faith. That's what most of this is anyway."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
"When things are going good, you just let it roll."
-- Dusty Baker