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As Charlie Manuel Nears End, Ryne Sandberg Waits for Turn: Fan’s View
He made just six plate appearances as a Philadelphia Phillie, at the tail end of a strike-shortened 1981 season. It was about as short a hello and goodbye as a player can have. A few months later, the Phillies traded prospect Ryne Sandberg to the Chicago Cubs along with Larry Bowa for Ivan de Jesus. Blocked at second and third base, Sandberg, a shortstop by trade, was dealt along with Bowa for de Jesus, who seemed a sure bet to help the Phillies.
By now, all Phillies fans know that turned about to be one of the worst trades in team history. Sandberg went on to produce a storied Hall of Fame career on the North Side of Chicago, and the Phillies were left with egg on their face. Fast forward about thirty years later, and the tune has changed.
With Charlie Manuel's contract set to expire after the 2013 season, and the aging skipper turning 69 next winter, many have thought about what is next for the Phillies when Chuck steps away from the game. Many have speculated that time will come after next season, and the Phillies will be on the search for a new manager. That manager could come in the form of Sandberg, who guided the Phillies' AAA affiliate in Lehigh Valley to an 80-64 record and a playoff spot for the first time in the team's short history. For his efforts, Sandberg was named 2011 Manager of the Year by Baseball America.
It's possible that when all is said and done after this season, Manuel decides to hang it up after 2013 and the Phillies name Sandberg as the team's manager-in-waiting. It doesn't seem like a foreign idea to General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., who this past off-season said about Sandberg's job prospects: "For his sake, I hope he (gets an opportunity to coach or manage in the big leagues. For our sake, I hope he doesn't."
Surprisingly enough, Sandberg, who had a long history with the Cubs and had managed in their minor league system for four years, was passed over the past two off-seasons. After Lou Piniella's retirement, the Cubs went with interim manager Mike Quade for 2011. With a new regime in charge for 2012, new GM Theo Epstein hired Dale Sveum away from the Milwaukee Brewers. It certainly surprised Sandberg.
"They didn't hire me two years in a row. I was out there. For whatever reason, I don't have the answer", Sandberg said.
So following his successful 2011 in Lehigh Valley, which brought the Iron Pigs to the post-season, Sandberg elected to stay on for 2012. The White Sox had an opening, but hired Robin Ventura, who has no managerial experience at any level. Ditto for the St. Louis Cardinals, who brought Mike Matheny to center stage as manager despite, again, no managerial experience at any level. Sandberg was certainly qualified for both jobs, and he is qualified for any managerial or coaching job in the Majors.
At this point, it would almost appear that Sandberg has received a handshake deal from Amaro to become the Phillies' manager in 2014, with Manuel stepping down and retiring after next season. Otherwise, there is no reason for Sandberg to still be in the minor leagues as a manager. He has put his work in, and he has succeeded. It's anybody's guess as to where he will get a chance to succeed as a manager in the Majors, but go ahead and put some heavy money that the man who was given away 30 years ago by the Phillies returns home to manage in the city that never should have said goodbye to him.
Sources: Allentown Morning Call, WIP-FM
Victor Filoromo is a born and bred Philadelphia sports fan, and has been through the best and worst of Philadelphia sports. He is a regular contributor to the Yahoo! Contributor Network's NHL and MLB coverage.
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