The old Dustbag, Johnnie B. Baker Jr. sat down (presumably without his large adult son Darren sitting on his lap) with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal to talk about…well, let’s just say Dusty’s nothing if not consistent. Everything is always everybody’s else’s fault, and he’s just a pawn in the game of life.
You need to read the whole thing, and if you don’t have a subscription to The Athletic you are a cheap bastard, and you don’t deserve nice things. But I can’t help but not hit some of the unexpected highlights.
Dusty complains about not getting paid when he’s not managing
One of his big gripes is that in between his years with the Cubs and Reds and then between his time with the Reds and Nationals he didn’t get paid.
Yeah, this is how this works. I know it’s tough to get by on the millions of dollars you made in one job before you get that next job that pays you millions of dollars. Of course, this is the same guy who had to take the Cub job in the winter of 2002-2003 to pay off the IRS.
He also complains that going to manage the Nationals stunted the growth of his private enterprises in the wine and energy businesses. This is a new one for Dusty, complaining about taking a job that pays him millions of dollars and how it’s cutting into his solar panel business.
Dusty complains that Cubs’ fans turned on him
You know, it’s almost like while he was the manager his inability to manage the pitching staff caused irreparable damage to the arms and careers of two of the best young pitchers in the game. It’s also almost like he routinely played washed up veterans because they had “earned it” over younger, better players. It’s almost like he had no idea how to construct a coherent batting order or run a bullpen. It’s almost like after he botched not one, but two games where a win would have meant the pennant, that he turned completely defensive and resided over a toxic clubhouse where the poor Cubs and him were the victims of unfair criticism.
Yes. Dusty gave Cubs’ fans no reason at all to want him to leave.
One of the worst tips I got was when I first got into managing. A guy who was a good friend of mine told me, “If you’ve got a left-hander warming up in the ’pen, and you’ve got a left-handed hitter at the plate, even if the left-hander can’t get left-handed hitters out, bring him anyway because you won’t be second-guessed.” I said, “Man, I can’t do that.” I put myself in position to be second-guessed because I think that’s the right move. I’m not worrying about you second-guessing me.
I always remembered that: You do what you think is right.
This sounds good, but does it sound at all like how Dusty managed? Was there ever a more inside the box manager than him? The advice he claims he got about making the obvious move to avoid criticism doesn’t sound like terrible advice that he rejected, it sounds like terrible advice that he absolutely took to heart.
Dusty says he went ‘to the school of life’ and seems to think Cornell is a big deal
I don’t think anybody doesn’t think Dusty is smart, in fact, I think that’s the root of the problems a lot of people have with his managing. He’s a smart guy who consistently made dumb decisions in big spots. I love that he holds up Cornell as the bastion of education, when in fact it’s like a Mid-American Conference school somehow snuck into the Ivy League.
Dusty immediately gives us an example of a smart guy with a really dumb take on something
We all make “clog the bases” jokes in Dusty’s honor when somebody walks to the point where it feels like we’re exaggerating about his disdain for the usefulness of getting on base without a hit. Well, enjoy this, then:
And a walk is valuable, to put the pitcher in the stretch, especially if you can run. And sometimes I’d rather walk you, if you get on base and can’t go first to third, can’t score from first on a double.
Oh, for fuck’s sake. You can’t even make this shit up.
There’s a long passage in this interview that is Dusty complaining about the terrible approach to the game the minor leaguers he’s been watching are taking. This seems more like a window into why the Giants (the team he now works for) can’t develop talent, than anything. And, it ends with this gem:
But that’s the mindset. I saw the best hitters in the world. Ted Williams has to be turning over in his grave.
I really don’t want to think about Ted’s headless corpse turning over in a grave.
Dusty played with a famous guy
I played with Hank.
Did you know he played with Hank Aaron? He should really talk about this more.
Dusty says the Nats miss Jayson Werth
Dusty’s a terrible scout
Here’s Dusty on Bobby Bonds in his youth:
Bobby Bonds, they would say, “Don’t smoke.” He’d be in the bathroom smoking and then go run for five touchdowns. Bobby would throw a no-hitter and hit two home runs. I ain’t lying.
Yeah, you probably are.
Maybe it’s comforting that Dusty’s never going to change.
But I really wish Rosenthal had asked him about this photo: