Taking scant pleasure from yesterday’s Marmol/Murton-fest (ie. a 3-1 win at Milwaukee), Ben Schwartz surveys the increasingly ugly scene surrounding Cubs manager Dusty Baker.

Unnamed Trib executives are throwing knives at Dusty and they are all aimed from behind him. While Jim Hendry says publicly that he’s thinking over Dusty’s future during the All-Star break, anonymous Trib execs say Dusty was already given an extension offer and He Turned Them Down. Jon Heyman, following up on an SI.com report on this, adds little of his own to it on CNN today:

That it got anywhere close to this point is a shocker to the entire Cubs hierarchy, which went into the season assuming Baker would be coming back for 2007 and beyond. When the year began, “They were just looking for the right time” to finish the deal and make the announcement, one Cubs official said.

In fact, multiple baseball executives say that at some point Baker had the chance to sign an extension but passed it up. Those execs say that within the last few months Cubs management put a deal worth $4-4.5 million a year on the table. For whatever reason, Baker declined to sign.

At that point, the Cubs were wondering whether Baker had something else in mind. Seattle? Back to San Francisco? More money?

To which Dusty replied on the Cubs’ site :

“I’ll go on the record right now to tell you that’s a lie,” Baker said on Friday of the story. “A big lie. A bald-faced lie, like my dad used to say. Never. Never. Never came up, never offered, never said, never declined. The answer to all of the above is never.”

Hendry™s public line has been that Baker never got to play with his team on the field (Wood, Prior, Lee, Sosa a few years ago, Nomar, etc) but now with news that Kerry Wood is done for the season, it™s a moot point. He™s not going to have that team on the field in 2007, ever. Either the problem of Wood and Prior has to be dealt away or Baker, whose contract ends this year. No one leaves the Tribune Corporation happy, and Baker looks to be the least happy of all.

The Arizona Republic’s Joseph A. Reeves helpfully runs through a list of potential candidats to replace Dusty, amongst them, Lou Piniella, Gene Lamont, former Twins manager Tom Kelly, and current Charlotte Knights skipper Razor Shines.