Baker gone due to feud with Giants ownership

Posted: Thursday, November 07, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO -- Not even a World Series trip was enough to patch up the problems between San Francisco manager Dusty Baker and Giants owner Peter Magowan.

So on Wednesday, the Giants said Baker would not be back. The announcement came several hours before his contract was set to expire and less than two weeks after he nearly led them to a title.

''I never thought it was going to come to this,'' general manager Brian Sabean said.

Baker became the first manager in nearly three decades to leave a team right after reaching the World Series. Dick Williams led Oakland to the 1973 championship and then retired -- he was hired by the California Angels during the 1974 season.

Chances are, Baker won't be out of work for long.

The Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners are likely to express interest in the three-time NL Manager of the Year. They are among 10 teams that will have new managers next season.

The Giants said Baker told them he would not be available to comment until next week. Baker said when the season ended he planned to spend some time alone to gather his thoughts.

Baker's differences with Magowan simmered all season, mainly about who deserved the most credit for the franchise's recent success. It even came up during the Giants' seven-game loss to the Anaheim Angels in the Series.

Baker was credited by many observers for his ability to handle a difficult clubhouse that included feuding stars Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent. One person who also will be missing from the Giants' dugout -- Baker's 3 1/2-year-old bat boy son, Darren.

''Any time a team gets to the seventh game of the World Series, a lot of things have to be working,'' Giants third baseman David Bell said Wednesday night. ''A lot of things have to be going in the right direction. Dusty was the leader of that. The biggest part of all that was Dusty.''

''I definitely wanted it to work out for Dusty,'' he said. ''I enjoyed playing for him, but maybe it will work out better for him now. I can't imagine what not only Dusty, but the people around him for 10 years, are feeling right now. To be one place for 10 years is a long time. I can't imagine what that would be like.''

Magowan and Sabean met with Baker last week, ''However, his public disparagement of the organization has continued,'' the owner said.

''As a result, Brian and I didn't believe we could reconcile the differences with Dusty and it wasn't practical to go forward,'' he said.

Sabean said he recommended to Magowan that negotiations end. Baker's contract expired at midnight Wednesday.

''It has become increasingly apparent that Dusty's interest in exploring opportunities elsewhere is paramount in his mind,'' Sabean said. ''There remained non-compensation issues that he seemed reluctant to embrace.''

''We were seemingly getting nowhere,'' said Sabean, who had several conversations with Baker's agent, Jeff Moorad.

Baker's public pursuit of other jobs angered the team.

''I was disappointed to read in the press how interested he was in jobs elsewhere,'' Magowan said.

''It was not a personal thing between me and Dusty,'' he said. ''I have the highest respect for Dusty as a person and a manager. He told me in our meeting last week that he had high respect for me. I don't think it was personalities. There were issues on both sides.''

Sabean will form a short list of candidates immediately.

Baker, with his trademark toothpick and friendly demeanor, will be missed by his players and fans.

''It's emotional. I don't know about sad,'' Sabean said. ''The guy's had a great career here. He's going to go off to greener pastures in his mind, a pot of gold.''

At 53, Baker just completed his 10th year with the Giants. He led San Francisco to its first World Series since 1989.

But Baker apparently felt slighted because Magowan always pointed out everybody else's contributions when asked what he thought of Baker's role in the team's success.

Baker also became angry when Magowan said in spring training that this was the best team the Giants had fielded in his 10 years of ownership. Baker thought that put too much pressure on the players.

Magowan said he regretted the timing of those comments. It came shortly after Baker's fight with prostate cancer.

''I think I should have been more sensitive with Dusty recovering in that situation,'' Magowan said. ''He might have taken it in a more personal way than it was meant.''

Baker is free to talk to other teams, and has expressed interest in the Cubs' vacancy. Chicago general manager Jim Hendry hasn't interviewed anyone to replace the fired Bruce Kimm since the World Series started.

The Mariners identified four finalists for their job Tuesday and Baker was not on the list to replace Lou Piniella, who left for Tampa Bay.

Baker said during the playoffs that he did not intend to ''break the bank'' -- meaning the $6 million a year Joe Torre got from the Yankees -- ''but I want to be near the bank'' on a new contract.

Baker has expressed his frustration that the Giants waited so long to discuss the possibility of him coming back -- making him feel unwanted.

In spring training, Magowan said he would wait until after the season to address new contracts with Baker and Sabean.

Sabean agreed to a multiyear deal Oct. 31, and Baker left the next day for a weekend trip to Indiana with his father.

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