There is just such a man, and he is so obviously right for the job, Billy Beane should pick up the phone and hire him on the spot. Call collect, Billy, if necessary.
Dusty Baker is your man.
"I'd be interested," Baker said by phone Monday. "In the Bay Area, oh, yeah. It would be nice for me and my family."
It would be even nicer for the A's.
Discussing leaders of men in baseball, you can put Baker right in there with Jim Leyland, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox.
These men truly care about their players. They communicate, which Ken Macha apparently didn't do enough of in the A's clubhouse. Communication is Baker's strong suit. He is the consummate player's manager, a natural leader.
"My best is yet to come," he said. "Whoever gets me is gonna get amanager who's on a mission to win. I'm a better manager because of what happened the last couple of years."
The Chicago Cubs went down the tubes. Ace pitchers Kerry Wood and Mark Prior couldn't throw. Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett missed significant playing time because of injuries. So the Cubs didn't win, and Baker was fired.
"You hate to see it happen to a colleague," he said of Macha. "But it happens in baseball. Nobody knows the problem. Most of the time, they have only part of the information. If I come out and say it, you're slighting
So you shut your mouth and accept your walking papers like a man. Good luck with the Cubbies, Lou Piniella, if you're the next fall guy.
But Baker's fired up to manage again. He'd be an ideal fit in Oakland.
Baker guided the San Francisco Giants into the 2002 World Series. If not for Scott Spiezio, the Giants likely would have beaten Anaheim.
Baker led the Cubs into the 2003 National League Championship Series. If not for the infamous Steve Bartman, the Cubs might have beaten Florida.
Twenty years ago, Baker wound up a splendid playing career in Oakland. So he has an understanding of how the A's organization works.
"I do know him," he said of Beane, "though not that well."
Does Baker believe Beane thinks kindly of him?
"Yeah, yeah," he said, "as far as I know. But you can't hire yourself."
Baker won't pick up the phone and call Beane.
"That's not protocol," he said. "The agent calls. Everyone knows I'm out here."
Baker was in Los Angeles on Monday to appear on Roy Firestone's television show. Baker still has a home on the Peninsula.
He hasn't seen these A's play much. He signed up for the TV package that shows the A's, Giants and Padres. But if they played at 10 p.m. Chicago time, and with the Cubs playing mostly day games, Baker had to sleep sometime.
"You want it to be the right time, the right place, the right team," he said of his next job. "These last couple of years of losing is like a nightmare. That's not me at all. I was bringing it pretty good until then."
Beane could make the easy move and hire organization men Ron Washington, Bob Geren or Sacramento manager Tony DeFrancesco to succeed Macha, a good man who did manage the A's to the final four of the postseason.
Macha's success mustn't be overlooked, but neither should his awful handling of A's pitching against Detroit. Letting Esteban Loaiza give up seven runs? Letting Huston Street, who's not himself, go two-plus innings? Maybe against Kansas City in July, but not in American League Championship Series.
If Beane hires Baker, maybe Barry Zito would take a few million less to play for this thoughtful man, who brings food to his players.
If Beane hires Baker, Peter Magowan might destroy his owner's office across the drink at AT&T Park. For who could Magowan hire as Giants manager to compete with Baker's presence back in the Bay Area? Agreed, Lew Wolff?
If Beane makes Baker the A's first African-American manager, this will boost attendance among black baseball fans. And who knows what this would mean to Oakland's chances of choking off Fremont.
Beane and Baker have strong personalities. Beane prefers managers who are acquiescent. However, if Beane truly wants to get to the World Series, he needs to bend from form.
Bend toward Dusty Baker.
Dave Newhouse can be reached at
(510) 208-6466 or by e-mail at