PHILADELPHIA (MCT) — The first step toward Ryne Sandberg becoming the next manager of the Philadelphia Phillies was put into motion Thursday when the Hall of Fame second baseman was named the team’s third-base coach and hitting instructor.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. denied that was the intent after he recited the myriad changes to the coaching staff following the .500 season that ended the Phillies’ run of five straight National League East titles.
“Obviously, that’s the sexy thing to think about,” Amaro said. “But the fact of the matter is he’s not the heir apparent. We’ve made no promises to Ryne Sandberg.”
Actually, it is almost inevitable that Sandberg is the next manager and it was current manager Charlie Manuel who made that loud and clear during a 43-minute question-and-answer session at Citizens Bank Park.
“If I get thrown out of a game, Sandberg will manage,” Manuel said, drawing laughter from a media crowd that had questions about the relationship between the manager and the man who many believe will succeed him.
History tells us Manuel will be ejected at some point in 2013, so the only thing that could possibly prevent Sandberg from being the Phillies’ next manager is if he lands a big-league managing job elsewhere.
“I have told Ryne that this will not preclude him from getting an opportunity if someone calls for him and asks for his services to be a major league manager,” Amaro said.
A Phillies spokesman said Sandberg was in Cooperstown, N.Y., and unavailable for comment Thursday. That’s unfortunate because this was a significant day for the man who started his big-league playing career in Philadelphia, but built his Hall of Fame resume with the Chicago Cubs after one of the most infamous trades in Phillies history more than three decades ago.
After six seasons as a minor-league manager, including the last two at triple-A Lehigh Valley, Sandberg is finally back in the big leagues for the first time since 1997 and that was the goal for a man who has worked every bit as hard at managing as he did at playing.
“One of my goals is to be at the major-league level,” Sandberg said in August. “Right now the Phillies are close to my heart as far as having this opportunity and going back to a place that originally drafted me. I enjoy the organization and the people I’ve been around the last two years going way back when. In a lot of ways, it would be the ultimate (to work in Philadelphia).”
Some managerial jobs will be vacant this offseason. In fact, Bobby Valentine’s job in Boston opened Thursday. Sandberg, 53, should refuse all offers and prepare for one season as the third-base coach in Philadelphia before ascending to the managerial job that Amaro insists is not guaranteed.
Given the fact that Sandberg the player got away from Philadelphia makes this potentially a great story, especially when you add in the fact that he was shunned by the Cubs when they needed a manager.
There is no doubt at least a few unhappy Phillies fans would love to see Sandberg become the manager in 2013, which is absurd. One .500 season after eight winning ones that included five division titles, two National League pennants and a World Series title is no grounds for dismissing Manuel.
Turbulent times are bound to arise in 2013 as they do over the course of any 162-game season, but Manuel should not have to worry about his job. He deserves to manage the entire 2013 season regardless of what happens. After that, he will turn 70 years old. He made reference to his age Thursday and he also talked about how much he likes and respects Sandberg.
“His responsibilities will be a lot more than coaching third base,” Manuel said. “In the dugout, he will be our defensive guy. He’ll work with the infielders and he’ll move the defenses and things like that. Also, we’re going to use his hitting expertise because he’s a Hall of Fame hitter. He’s got some real good ideas and he talks a lot about hitting the way that I like. I think he’s going to be very valuable to us.”
One of Amaro’s most interesting statements Thursday was about the people who work for good organizations.
“One of the things I think makes an organization stronger, frankly, is being able to hire people that may eventually take our jobs,” he said. “I hope there are people here that we’ve hired in our front office that when I’m let go or I move on they’re able to do that. That’s one of the beauties of hiring strong people. Give them opportunities to grow.”
Even without a guarantee, it seems like Ryne Sandberg is about to grow into the role of the next Phillies manager.