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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ryne Sandberg is Now a Phillie

Okay, so it's about 26 years too late.

In the early 1980's, the Phillies wanted to get younger, so they traded their shortstop, Larry
Bowa, to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus. But Cubs' GM Dallas Green, who managed the Phillies to their first World Series win in 1980, asked for a throw-in. Bowa was the bigger name, and Green knew from his days with the Phillies. He knew that they had an excellent minor-league third baseman whom the Phillies believed couldn't play any other infield position. The Phillies agreed to the throw-in, and you know the rest of the story. His name? Ryne Sandberg.

Green figured that Sandberg could play second base and put him there. What resulted was a Hall of Fame career. DeJesus played okay, but he was no Derek Jeter. Heck, he was no Omar Vizquel, either.

Fast forward to this year. Cubs' skipper Lou Piniella had enough, and he resigned in September. The Cubs appointed Mike Quade, once a Phillies' minor-league manager, as interim manager. Sandberg had several years under his belt managing in the Cubs' system, and he let it be known that he was interested in the top job. Sounded like a good match -- All-American guy, Hall of Famer comes home. Except for one thing -- the Cubs decided to hire Quade. Sandberg was left out in the cold.

That is, until the Phillies decided not to renew the contract of their AAA manager, Dave Huppert. That left an opening for Sandberg to return to the Phillies' organization, this time as the manager of the AAA Iron Pigs. He took it, and perhaps at some point down the road could succeed Charlie Manuel (who, last time I checked, took a page out of Joe Paterno's book and offered that he wanted to manage for a long time).

Don't know whether this is symmetry or irony or whether there's symmetry to the irony or irony in the symmetry. What I do know is that when he was with the Phillies' organization as a player, Ryne Sandberg had trouble emerging from AAA. Will he have the same trouble this time? And, if so, will he go on and have a great career as a manager elsewhere, or, if he does get the Phillies' job in the future and excels, will the Cubs regret it?

Or, does it really matter beyond the notion that this makes for an amusing story? Why? Because the last time any of us checked, it's the players who win (and lose) games much more than the managers. So, if you were to ask any Phillies' fan whether they'd rather have Sandberg the player or Sandberg the manager, they'd say the former in a heartbeat every time. Now, if you phrased the question would you rather have Sandberg the Hall of Famer or Sandberg the manager of world champion Phillies teams? They'd opt for the latter, and not because Sandberg was such a good manager, but because of the inference that Sandberg was blessed with sufficient talent to win championship and that he did win them. And that's what any fan is looking for.

The Phillies already have brought back Juan Samuel to coach third base (Sam Perlozzo will move to first base and run the Phillies' running game). They now have Ryne Sandberg, another former second baseman, managing at AAA. Does that mean that we can look for Manny Trillo to manage the AA Reading club anytime soon? And what about Ted Sizemore and Mickey Morandini? Can they be far behind?


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