After waiting patiently, Ryne Sandberg is officially a big-league manager.
He had been the Philadelphia Phillies’ interim skipper after Charlie Manuel stepped down -- read: was fired -- in mid-August. But now, Sandberg will be managing the Phillies moving forward on a three-year deal, and he could be just the guy for the job.
After winning five consecutive division titles from 2007-2011, the Phillies have suffered through two painful seasons. Sure, injuries have played a role, but it was more a matter of a collection of underachieving superstars.
It was that same first year, 2007, that Sandberg began managing in the minor leagues. Despite his Hall of Fame credentials, he paid his dues and seemed like the favorite to land the managerial position of the Chicago Cubs -- the team for which he played 15 seasons -- prior to the 2012 season.
However, the Cubs went with Dale Sveum, and that move has since lit a fire under Sandberg to the point where if he ever got his chance, he’d make the most of it.
Well, Sandberg now has the chance, and the Phillies are very excited for their new skipper.
Chase Utley said he likes that Ryno is positive and always talking during the game. Roy Halladay commented that Sandberg sets the tone early, and he expects that continue.
Sandberg will have to set the tone early next season in order to get the most out of his team. Philadelphia has limped out of the gate the past two seasons, and while the team’s overall play improved both years later in the summer, it was too late for any thoughts of the postseason.
Sandberg said that communication is one of his strengths. He’s actually considered a quiet guy, but when he needs to get a point across, he’s not afraid to do so.
For example, in one of his first memorable quotes as Phillies manager, he said that he’d like Phillies slugger Ryan Howard to get in shape. Howard has had two surgeries within the past two years -- Achilles rupture repair (October 2011) and torn meniscus surgery (July 2013). These injuries have limited the former NL MVP to just 151 games the past two seasons.
Sandberg said that it would be much easier for Howard to get into proper baseball shape if he is healthy overall. He said he would be in contact often with Howard to make sure the slugger is keeping up with his workouts.
Sandberg could easily use his Hall of Fame status to rule the Phillies like a dictator. But Kevin Frandsen said that Ryno instead goes out of his way to work with individual players to tailor their strengths and improve their weaknesses rather than implement one firm set of rules.
With the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals appearing to be the crop of the NL East, the Phillies have no easy road ahead of them, especially with the possibility of losing free agents Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz.
But at least the team now has captain in Sandberg to lead the ship -- no matter where that ship is headed.
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