Dusty Baker told reporters this summer, after the Washington Nationals wrapped up their season series with the Cubs with a win that left them 2-5 against the eventual World Series champs, that he didn’t know Chicago’s skipper, Joe Maddon, that well.
He was getting to know the Cubs and their manager with each game, Baker explained.
“You can learn a lot,” he said. “Learn how Maddon manages. I didn't know much about Maddon. A couple games, you can certainly tell. 'This guy likes to throw sliders when he's in trouble,' or, 'This guy hits the first pitch with runners in scoring position.'
“There's a lot of stuff that you can take with you. I mean, I keep all of my notes from April to October, you know."
Before the three-game set with the Cubs in D.C. in June, Baker told reporters, including Chicago Tribune writer Paul Sullivan, he learned that Maddon definitely had a different approach to managing his team, “inside and outside the lines,” as Sullivan wrote:
Maddon was regarded by some as an old hippie. Baker once smoked a joint with Jimi Hendrix.
"I'm kind of old hippie, too," [Maddon] said.
But the two had different approaches inside and outside the lines. Maddon's mantra was "If you think you look hot, wear it." Baker believed you should dress for success.
"Joe manages more like a college guy scene, with the backpacks, how college kids dress," Baker said, referring to the [Cubs’] costumed road trips.
"I've been more of a professional guy. I was taught a different way how to conduct yourself as a professional. I was taught by Hank Aaron. Not to say one is more right than the other. That's Joe's thing."
Maddon’s Cubs went on to win their NLDS matchup, their NLCS matchup and the World Series, ending Chicago’s 108-year championship drought. Baker and the Nationals were knocked out in the NLDS, so they never got another shot at the Cubs in 2016.
The Nats lost to the Dodgers in the Division Series. Baker talked before the start of the NLDS with Los Angeles about facing Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts, who was in his first season as LA’s manager and his first postseason series on the bench.
“He’s where I was twenty years ago,” Baker said. “I’m happy for him, big time. I know him, but I don’t really know him. I know him from across the field.
“I know him from one of my players, Rich Aurilia, and he and Rich Aurilia, are wine owners like I am. They don’t grow grapes, but we both made wine.
“He’s always a pleasant guy, he’s a very bright young man, but he’s in the way.”
Baker and the Nationals were in the Dodgers’ way in the end. Roberts and Maddon met up in the NLCS, expressing their mutual admiration before the start of the series.
Maddon said he had heard good things about Roberts from Bud Black, who managed in San Diego where Roberts was Black’s bench coach in 2014-15.
“I've just gotten -- I'm late to the party there also getting to know Dave,” Maddon said.
“But I do know he's very bright. He knows his wine much better than I do. Don't even consider me a wine expert compared to this guy. Very bright, engaging, gregarious, he's got all those different qualities, and he's obviously a quick study, too, the way he's picked up this managerial thing. So I'm a big fan. He and I have great conversation, when we have the opportunity, and I'm very happy for his success.”
“ I do know a few things about wine,” Roberts joked. “Joe and I definitely share that appreciation. But I've just had a lot of great people around me and for me it's about coaching and teaching and being -- I just pride myself on being a life-long learner.
“I think that Joe is a guy that, obviously, we all know and respect as an outside of the box thinker, forward thinker, and loves to teach players and people.
“We're aligned a lot in certain things and certainly have a lot of respect for him.”
Before Baker and Roberts and then Roberts and Maddon met up in the postseason, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s members voted to select one of the three as the 2016 NL Manager of the Year.
We’ll find out who won NL MOY (it’s totally going to be Maddon) tonight when the winner is announced at 6:00 PM EDT on the MLB Network.