(Bonds and Baker — can Wrigley hugs for LaTroy Walk-ins Hawkins be far off?)

No one will ever be able to prove if Baker helped to hasten the injury woes of Cubs pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood by running up pitch counts down the stretch in ’03 … Wood steadfastly refuses to blame Baker, and most likely a series of factors led to the injuries both promising pitchers suffered.Bruce Miles, The Daily Herald.

Yeah, the Mitchell Report is full of those reasons, Bruce. Chicago’s sporting press fell all over itself to defend Baker today, in lieu of any other drama in the Cubs-Reds season opener that favored the Cubes, 9-5. I’m surprised Baker didn’t boo Wood when he saw him. In the post-Buckner, post-Bartman, post-steroids, post-756 Bonds sign in SF, post-Banks statue era of baseball, when all that’s on the minds of Cub fans is how best to honor Kerry Wood’s near dozen injury free innings with the perfect intro song, even Jay Mariotti is offering Dusty Baker a pardon: “He isn’t fighting billy goats and black cats in Cincinnati, where the Reds have had their glory days and championship machine and still honor their tainted hometown icon via vomit-inducing Pete Rose Way.” Since I always liked Dusty, I’d argue that apologies were more in line from said writers instead of scolding Cub fans. I’ll add that post-steroids the careers of Wood, Prior, Sosa’s baffling decline (since he’s not in the Mitchell Report — what happened?) speak for themselves. Baker made the Cubs winners in consecutive seasons, brought in the first post-season win ever in How Long, and there’s one other record he broke, as pointed out by the The Sun-Times Gordon Wittenmeyer. Dusty’s working:

Regardless, Baker has beaten some of the greatest odds in Chicago just by taking a new team back to his old place. He’s the first manager since Lee Elia more than 20 years ago to be fired by the Cubs and be hired to manage again in the majors, breaking a streak of eight managers (not counting interim managers) whom the job finished.