10/15/2002 02:10 am ET
Pennant win sweet for Baker
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Whether the Giants win the World Series or not, and whether he returns next season or not, Dusty Baker knows he has given everything he can.
After 10 years of leading the Giants, Baker is the second-longest tenured manager in the Major Leagues. But he may not be with the Giants in 2003. His contract runs out after this season.
Whenever it ends.
"Dusty has done a wonderful job this season," said Giants president and managing general partner Peter Magowan.
Before this season, the farthest Baker had been able to take the Giants was to the Division Series in 1997 and 2000. His record in those series, both losses, was 1-6.
Then, last winter, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had surgery in December and struggled with his energy levels even into Spring Training.
It was during that time that he realized that things such as contracts, wins and losses are not what life is all about.
"You see life differently, definitely," Baker said. "You're appreciative of things. You don't worry so much, and you realize things aren't in your control so much. They're in the hands of God. Life's beautiful. It was beautiful before, but it's even more beautiful now. I think you don't begin living sometimes until you see death."
That approach served Baker, a very private man, well throughout the year. The Giants started the season slowly and dealt with inconsistent performances before finishing the season on a roll, including eight wins in a row at the end.
The Giants came back from being down two games to one against the Braves to win in five games. They beat the Cardinals in five games in the NLCS but, throughout the postseason, Baker was asked more questions about his future than he was about his team.
Baker handled the situation deftly, by being honest and forthright. But the Giants' win on Monday night made him reflect on the past, not ponder the future.
"Right this minute, I just thank God, really, for life and everything that's happened this year and everything that's happening for a reason and a purpose," Baker said. "Boy, that's what I'm thinking right this minute. I'm just so happy for the players here.
"I'm in a state of shock and disbelief. I'm just happy, very happy, very content and very tired. We really didn't want to go all the way to St. Louis. We haven't had a really bona fide off day, it seems like, in about a month. So that's what this team needs, a little rest before we start the next series."
"I'm just so happy for the players here. I'm in a state of shock and disbelief. I'm just happy, very happy, very content and very tired. We really didn't want to go all the way to St. Louis."
-- Dusty Baker
Baker said he is looking forward to playing the Angels because he is familiar with so many of them.
"They have some of my former teammates over there that really know me," Baker said. "I played with Mike Scioscia. I played with Alfredo Griffin. I played with Mickey Hatcher. I played with Ron Roenicke. Buddy Black was my teammate here when I was a coach and a manager.
"They have a very good staff, and I'm sure their team is going to be well prepared when the World Series starts. I talked to Buddy Black today, and he wouldn't tell me too much. I was congratulating him on getting there, but it's time to do a little spying work, too, at the same time. He wasn't falling for it."
For now, Dusty Baker has a World Series to worry about.
That's where he is right now.
The future, and all it holds, can wait.
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.