Nats’ Dusty Baker on Cubs title, Aroldis Chapman, Bryce Harper
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — So close, Dusty Baker came to managing the Cubs to the 2003 World Series. So tantalizingly close, yet so cruelly far.
Perhaps some of you even remember it.
The Cubs were the second of four major-league franchises that have gotten to the postseason with Baker — now in Year 2 with the Washington Nationals — at the helm. Alas, the 67-year-old has yet to win it all since he was a player with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Did watching the Cubs break a 108-year title drought in 2016 take him back to his four seasons on the North Side?
“I try not to go back,” he said, “because it doesn’t do any good to try to go back, you know? I was happy for the city of Chicago, but I did wish it was us.
“The thing I liked the most is that it was a great series. I watch every World Series, and some are better than others. That was one of the best and most exciting.”
Baker, who managed Aroldis Chapman in Cincinnati, hoped to get him in Washington last season before the closer eventually was dealt to the Cubs. But, as Baker put it, Chapman had “leprosy” after being suspended for 30 games for violating baseball’s domestic-violence policy.
“I’d still like to have Chapman,” he said, “but it’s too late. And I was happy for [his success with the Cubs]. I saw that smile on his face. I was very happy for him.”
Some who were around the Nationals last season weren’t so sure how well Baker and outfielder Bryce Harper got along with each other.
Nonsense, Baker said over the weekend.
“I liked him from the beginning,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s a pretty cool little dude. He’s pretty hip on a lot of fronts. I haven’t had any trouble with Bryce. He’s very easy to get along with and very respectful, and very respectful of authority. And he’s very respectful of guys that came before him, as knowledgeable about the history of baseball as any guy out there. That surprised me.”
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.