After leading the San Francisco Giants in 2002 to the World Series, where they were defeated by the Anaheim Angels, he guided the Chicago Cubs to the NLCS in 2003. Championship-starved Cubs fans immediately embraced Baker, and the shirts bearing the slogan "IN DUSTY WE TRUSTY" became best-sellers throughout the 2003 season. The Cubs came within 5 outs of reaching the Series before losing to the Florida Marlins in 7 games, following the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6; Baker would have become the first manager to lead different teams to the World Series in consecutive years. Although he faced increasing media and fan criticism during and following the disappointing 2004 and 2005 seasons, as of August 2005, he remains manager of the Cubs.
Baker also had an illustrious career as an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Oakland A's from 1968 to 1986, winning a World Series as a player with the Dodgers in 1981. Baker was on deck when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, breaking the record previously held by Babe Ruth.
Many people, including Cubs fans and sportswriters, have criticized Baker's performance and decision-making as a manager. In particular, some have criticized Baker for:
- handling rookie players poorly, putting them in positions to fail or unfairly passing them over in favor of older players
- ignoring statistics when filling out the lineups. For example, in a good portion of 2005 he put Corey Patterson and Neifi Pérez in the top of the batting order, despite having two of the worst on base percentages on the team
- lacking focus
While many Cubs fans have called for Baker's removal, it appears that a contract extension is in the works.
- Some players say that Baker is a player's manager
- Some say he focuses on winning.
- Some players are rumored to sign on a team Baker is managing, "just to play for Dusty".