By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The postseason presents many challenges for Nationals manager Dusty Baker, a veteran who’s been directing clubs to great success since 1993 without accomplishing his ultimate goal.
Winning a championship.
The manager of the Cubs from 2003-’06, the 68-year-old Baker has some baseball debts that he would like to pay off. One of those that he hasn’t been shy about is his desire to beat the Cubs, and that motivation comes from his unfulfilled dreams in four years in Chicago and the ensuing fallout.
Without a doubt, Baker has taken some developments and comments personally. So as his Nationals prepare to host the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday night, there’s more at stake for him than just taking the next step in the postseason.
“Yeah, there is always extra emotion involved,” Baker said Thursday. “I have a couple of former teams in the way. If I get to the World Series, I have extra motivation against the Yankees too. The Yankees beat my team, the Dodgers, when I was a kid and beat me when I was a man with the Dodgers. Oh yeah, I got motivation with a few teams.”
Baker acknowledged his Nationals, who have lost to the Dodgers in the NLDS last season, are in a different situation than the defending champion Cubs, who enter with supreme confidence despite an at-times rocky regular season.
“No, it does matter,” Baker said of the Cubs’ swagger. “I have been on clubs that repeated before. The feeling of confidence and not to panic is real. That is an advantage for them. We have been close ourselves. So I think this will be a heck of a postseason. You have some quality teams in both leagues.”
Like Cubs counterpart Joe Maddon, Baker has garnered a reputation for being a player’s manager.
Baker and Joe Maddon have been singled out at times as being the ultimate player’s manager, though he’s not certain what that even means.
“I would just like to think there are the right way and the wrong way,” Baker said of handling players’ differing personalities. “I manage people the way my dad managed me and my family. I have really not ever figured out what the opposite of what a players manager is. What would that be? A management’s manager? I played for a few guys like that. It is not just about Xs and Os. It is called the manager because you are managing people. I don’t know how Joe runs it or anybody runs it. I just stay myself.”
And with the playoffs upon us, Baker also believes fate is on his side.
“There is not much I have missed in life, period,” he said. “I know a championship is coming. I believe it is already written. Now all I have to do is believe it and enact it. If I win one, I will win two. That is how I look at it.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.