Cubs dismiss manager Dusty Baker

CHICAGO (Ticker) - As expected, the Chicago Cubs on Monday dismissed manager Dusty Baker, whose four-year run began with another postseason disappointment and ended with a pair of losing seasons.

The announcement came at a news conference and one day after the resignation of Cubs president Andy MacPhail. Jim Hendry, who hired Baker prior to the 2003 season, will remain as vice president and general manager of baseball operations.

The Cubs went 66-96 and finished last in the weak National League Central Division. It was the franchise’s worst season since losing 97 games in 2000.

“I guess all things must come to an end,” said Baker, who spoke for about 90 seconds and did not take questions afterward. “With that being said, I gotta go finish packing. It’s very emotional.”

“It’s certainly an unfortunate day,” said Hendry, who did field questions from the media. “Being the general manager, I’ve had a very good relationship with Dusty. I think the world of him.”

The Cubs got off to a 13-10 start but endured injuries to slugger Derrek Lee and young pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. They were 34-54 at the All-Star break and sputtered home.

“I’m certainly not here to not share the blame,” Hendry said. “We had our share of injuries and nothing went right since the end of April.”

Baker was in the last year of a four-year, $14 million contract and did not receive an extension during the season, leading to speculation that he would not be retained after the season.

“I fully expect to stay in baseball in some capacity,” Baker said. “What that is, I’m not exactly sure yet. I’m gonna go home and be with my family for a few days.”

A strongly rumored replacement for Baker is Florida Marlins manager Joe Girardi, who has a meeting with Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest on Tuesday and is expected to be fired.

An Illinois native who attended Northwestern University and played for the Cubs, Girardi did a terrific job with the rookie-laden Marlins in his first year at the helm. However, he has been at odds with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and other members of management.

“Everybody’s been speculating who’s going to be the next manager since the All-Star break,” Hendry said. “I haven’t contacted anyone. I will begin to work on the process probably as early as (Tuesday).”

Hendry said he had no timetable for hiring a new manager. He also said he would meet with members of Baker’s coaching staff Monday and Tuesday.

During his tenure in Chicago, Baker oversaw the maturation of Prior, Wood and Carlos Zambrano, who has become the staff’s ace. At times he also was at odds with slugger Sammy Sosa, who left after the 2004 campaign.

“My time in Chicago was a very good time. I’ll remember a lot,” Baker said. “I wish we could have gotten it done.”

Baker went 322-326 with the Cubs and is 1,162-1,041 overall. Before arriving in Chicago, he spent 10 seasons with the San Francisco Giants, winning NL Manager of the Year in 1993, 1997 and 2000 and guiding the Giants to the World Series in 2002.

However, Baker was let go by the Giants and took over the Cubs, immediately guiding them to an 88-74 mark and the Central Division title. Chicago beat Atlanta in the Division Series and held a 3-1 lead in the NL Championship Series before dropping the last three games to the Florida Marlins.

The Cubs were actually better in 2004, going 89-73 but finishing a distant third in the Central behind St. Louis. They fell to 79-83 last season.

An original NL franchise, the Cubs have not been in a World Series since 1945 and not won a championship since 1908.

“History was almost changed for good in 2003,” Hendry said. “Unfortunately, it’s gone down a slippery slope since.”

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Updated Monday, Oct 2, 2006