After 849 games managing in the minors and 120 games served as the Phillies’ third base coach, Ryne Sandberg finally landed a manager’s job.
His hard work over the span of 849 games (439-409-1 record in the Cubs and Phillies minor league systems) has finally paid off. And today, he’ll make his first trip to Wrigley Field managing against the franchise for which he had a Hall of Fame career.
Now, he’ll need a little bit of luck to keep his gig.
Sandberg lost his debut to the Dodgers on August 17. It was the first of a 42-game audition with a Phillies group that was 5-20 after the All-Star Break with a pitching staff that had a MLB-worst 5.27 ERA. After losing his managerial debut, Sandberg needed to guide Philadelphia to a 28-13 record just to reach .500.
Even if Sandberg (who is 8-6 in his first 14 games) is successful down the stretch, it’s not as if he is still in an ideal situation. Anyone remember how good the Cubs performed when Mike Quade took over? And how did that turn out for everyone?
(Actually, good if you think about it. The result was Tom Ricketts spending in the draft, firing Jim Hendry and hiring Theo Epstein to run baseball operations. I digress.)
Unfortunately, the 2008 Phillies aren’t walking through that door.
Sure, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee have been good. But the rest of the rotation is in shambles — and that includes an injury riddled Roy Halladay.
Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are 34, but only Utley (123 OPS+) has been a useful player in 2013. Even then, he’s only had 375 plate appearances. Jimmy Rollins has been on the decline for a while now and his 78 OPS+ is doing nothing for anybody at this point. Ryan Howard’s career has fallen into a black hole of injury and struggle since the end of 2011. Michael Young is having a decent year, but he’s 36 and the furthest thing from a long-term solution.
Speaking of long-term solutions, it’s not as if they are waiting in the wings in the system. Baseball America ranked the Phillies 24th on its preseason Organization Talent Rankings list, as did Baseball Prospectus.
Lefty starter Jesse Biddle checks in as the 45th best prospect in baseball and third baseman Maikel Franco ranks 77th on MLB’s list of top 100 prospects.
It’s almost as if Ruben Amaro Jr. should’ve been given his walking papers instead of Charlie Manuel.
Sandberg will return to Wrigley and fans will applaud. They’ll cheer because a long-time fan favorite who took the grinder’s route to becoming a big league manager, has returned for the first time.
And for that, I wish Sandberg luck in the future. Just when his team isn’t facing the Cubs.