When the Philadelphia Phillies fired Charlie Manuel and promoted Ryne Sandberg to manager in mid-August, they added an awkward "interim" status to Sandberg's new job. The Phillies scraped off that tag Sunday, announcing a three-year contract extension at a press conference for Sandberg, one that includes a club option for 2017.
The Phillies made the right choice — not that they had a better alternative. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer said Sandberg getting the job full-time was considered a "formality":
The Phillies do not believe an outside search is necessary, not with the feedback from players and improved clubhouse atmosphere that has resulted from Sandberg's regimented schedule.
[A] lack of drama with regard to the managerial vacancy will allow the Phillies to prioritize more important business, like filling the countless holes on their roster.
Roster maintenance, of course, is the most important part of any baseball team. It's about talent. The manager always will be secondary. Regardless, his promotion culminates the long journey Sandberg has taken — from minor league manager, to major league coach — on the way to Phillies skipper.
Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago produced a great shorthand version of Sandberg's rise back in August:
Sandberg wanted the Cubs job bad enough that he managed four seasons in their minor-league system, imagining he would one day take over at Clark and Addison. What almost sounded like a dare in 2007 – Sure, go to Class-A Peoria – turned into his passion.
Sandberg has been politically correct, measuring his words after getting rejected by two different front offices. No matter what feelings of estrangement may exist now, there is still a deep connection to the fan base that should give him a standing ovation during Friday’s homecoming. Forget the initial sting, it’s time to try to rip the interim label from his new job.
“My goal was to get back to the major leagues,” Sandberg told reporters this week in New York. “There is no guarantee to have a chance to manage in the major leagues with the number of teams that’s out there. My goal was to get back to the major leagues at some capacity.
“I wanted to play during a championship season, have a chance to get back to the postseason at the major league level and have the chance to win a World Series.”
Now, all Sandberg needs is Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro to put him in position by giving him the right players. But, as Gelb wrote, Philly has many holes to fill.