The team Don Baylor really wanted to manage was the Chicago Cubs.
"There's not that many times you're going to have the chance to manage a franchise with great tradition like the Chicago Cubs," Baylor said Monday after he was introduced as the Cubs' new manager. "It grabbed me right away because I really never envisioned managing this team. They're not that many guys that they ask that."
The Atlanta Braves hitting coach replaces Jim Riggleman, who was fired last month. Baylor is the Cubs' 46th manager and the first black to lead the team.
Baylor, who managed Colorado from 1993-98 and led the Rockies to their only postseason berth, was mentioned for virtually every opening in baseball. He also had an offer from the Milwaukee Brewers, but he was the Cubs' choice all along.
Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Williams and Minnesota Twins third-base coach Ron Gardenhire also were interviewed by the Cubs.
"We got some really glowing reports," said Cubs president Andy MacPhail, whose relationship with Baylor dates to the 1987 Minnesota Twins, who won the World Series with Baylor as a player and MacPhail as general manager. "The scouting reports we were getting were just outstanding."
Baylor said he and general manager Ed Lynch "probably could have had a handshake deal" after their first interview, but he had to wait until the Braves were done with the postseason.
The morning after the Braves were swept by the New York Yankees, Baylor's first phone call was from Lynch.
"Andy and Ed were relentless in their persistence.
Baylor's deal is said to be worth $5.2 million for four years.
Baylor inherits a team that went from the 1998 NL wild card to last in the NL Central. Despite a $60 million payroll, the Cubs went 67-95 in 1999, third-worst in baseball ahead of only the Florida Marlins (64-98) and Minnesota Twins (63-97).
And history isn't on Chicago's side, either. The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908 and have made the playoffs only three times since 1945, their last World Series appearance.
Since 1945, the Cubs have had only 15 seasons at .500 or better.
But Baylor said he thinks the Cubs can wn. Though he hasn't been told what type of players the Cubs will go after, he's certain the team will be competitive.
"Once you start talking about winning, guys start believing in what you want to do and make it happen," said Baylor, who wore the World Series championship and AL MVP rings he won as a player.
"It's going to be a challenge," he added. "There are Cubs fans all over the world. Just think if we ever won. I want to be a part of that."
Baylor, 50, spent 19 years in the majors as a player, playing for six different teams. He was the AL MVP in 1979, hitting .296 with 36 home runs for the California Angels. He also led the AL with 139 RBIs and 120 runs that year.
He made three straight trips to the World Series from 1986-88, winning the Fall Classic with the Twins in 1987.
Baylor is one of 10 players to hit at least 250 home runs and steal 250 bases. He also holds the major league record for being hit by the most pitches (267).
After stints as the hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, Baylor was hired as the first manager for the expansion Rockies. The Rockies won 67 games in 1993, then the most for a first-year NL team. They earned the NL wild-card playoff berth in 1995, the quickest any expansion team has made it to the postseason.
The Rockies also had two batting champions (Andres Galarraga, 1993; Larry Walker, 1998) under Baylor.
Baylor was fired after the Rockies went 77-85 in 1998, their first losing season in four years. He had a 440-469 record in his six seasons in Colorado.
Baylor then went to the Braves, where he's credited with turning Chipper Jones into a near-certain MVP. Jones batted a career-high .319 and also had career highs in home runs (45), walks (126) and stolen bases (25).
Baylor's hiring increases the number of minority managers. He joins Felipe Alou of the Montreal Expos, Dusty Baker of the San Francisco Giants and Jerry Manuel of the Chicago White Sox.
Baseball has been criticized by some for not hiring more minority executives.
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