Ryne Sandberg is back in the Major Leagues with the team that drafted him, and for the second time in his storied baseball life the 53 year old Hall of Famer stands poised to replace a beloved Phillies figure. In the fall of 1981, Sandberg made his debut as a shortstop for the Phillies but was blocked by Larry Bowa. The Phillies shipped Sandberg to Chicago where he went on to become one of the greatest second basemen of all time.
Now, in the second leg of his career as a manager, The Phillies
appear determined to make sure history does not repeat itself.
They have elevated Sandberg to third base coach and infield
instructor after purging the coaching staff surrounding manager
Charlie Manuel. Since Sandberg’s first foray into coaching in
2007 when he took The Cubs Class A team The Peoria Chiefs to the championship game he has been a winner everywhere he has gone. He has earned Manager of the Year honors in two stops, piling up winning seasons like he was born to manage a baseball team.
It is fairly safe to assume that Sandberg will eventually be the manager of The Phillies after Charlie’s time in Philadelphia comes to an end. But the situation is certainly more complicated than whether or not Sandberg is the heir apparent to Manuel. Several questions will need to be answered before or if that time comes.
First and most importantly is; after a dismal season that saw the Phillies finish a meager 81-81 good for third place in the N.L. East, is how long Manuel’s leash will be. At what point does General Manager Ruben Amaro make a change and install Sandberg as the Manager? Amaro has insisted that Sandberg is not the “heir apparent” or that Charlie is not in danger of losing his job, but one has to wonder how many games back it will take next season for that plan to change. Sandberg could be the stick that Amaro uses to make sure Charlie keeps the team on track in 2013.
At the same time, Amaro had to make a move to ensure he has a plan for manager for seasons to come. It was simply a matter of time before Sandberg got offered a Major League managing job. By promoting Sandberg, Amaro is holding out the carrot of a managing job that Sandberg is looking for and keeping him around, just in case.
Keeping Sandberg on the staff can certainly create problems though.
What happens if The Phillies falter out of the gate next season, or go
into one of their mid season slumps that drops them from playoff
contention? Would that mark the end of the Charlie Manuel era?
Would Amaro pin the expectations of a World Series run on an
untested Ryne Sandberg? Somehow, it seems highly unlikely.
If Charlie was in that kind of trouble, The Phillies would be looking
for a new manager now instead of planning for the future after the
season they just had. That doesn't necessarily mean Charlie should keep his job after what can only be described as a disaster of a season, but for now; he will. For now, Ryne Sandberg will wait in the wings until he gets his chance. Charlie has to have taken notice and will undoubtedly have to perform up to his standards.
No matter what happens, 2013 will be a season in which Phillies fans could see two men going in very different directions in their careers. If the Phillies struggle, Ryne Sandberg may get the opportunity to put his winning reputation on the line as Charlie Manuel bows out.