Ryne Sandberg is going to be the next manager of the Phillies, right?
At least this was the general consensus when the Phillies promoted Ryno to third-base coach this winter after spending the last two seasons managing the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Lehigh Valley.
It only seems to make sense Sandberg will make a seamless transition to replace current manager Charlie Manuel, who’s 69-years-old (the second oldest manager in baseball behind 70-year-old Davey Johnson in Washington) and in the final season of his contract.
But Manuel recently offered a different view. ”I still want to manage,” Manuel told The Associated Press. ”I’m not ready for somebody to tell me to go home. I’m not ready to quit managing. I’m not ready to get out of the game.”
Manuel may be old in years, but his success with the Phils can’t be ignored. During his eight-year run he’s become the franchise’s all-time leader in wins, led the team to five consecutive NL East division titles, two pennants and one World Series championship.
That’s not a manager you push out the door easily.
However, the Phillies’ .500 finish last season was largely viewed as a disappointment, despite the fact several starters missed significant time due to injury (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, et al).
With the Phillies’ roster the fifth oldest in baseball entering the season, there’s speculation it’s time for Philly to hit the reset button and begin reloading their roster with younger talent–and with a fresh, younger manager like Sandberg to guide the ship.
But given Manuel’s desire to sign a contract extension, if offered one, and his past success, it’s very possible Manuel will be skippering the club next year, or for several more seasons.
Additionally, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has said Ryno was promoted without any guarantee of taking over as manager. ”The fact of the matter is he’s not the heir apparent. We made no promises to Ryne Sandberg.”
Considering Sandberg’s extended stay in the minor leagues and having been passed over numerous times for big-league manager positions, it’s hard to believe Sandberg will choose to wait in the wings for Manuel to walk away from the dugout on his own terms, whenever that may be.
Should the Phillies tank badly under Manuel in the early going it could prompt the club to dismiss him mid-season. Then perhaps, Ryno is awarded his major league managing opportunity. But such a scenario of cutting ties with Manuel before season’s end seems unlikely.
Instead, maybe it’s time to start thinking of Sandberg as a replacement for other big-league managers who are on the hot seat, or on the brink of retirement (*), which could include:
Colorado – Walt Weiss
New York – Terry Collins
Pittsburgh – Clint Hurdle
Los Angeles – Don Mattingly
Kansas City – Ned Yost
*Detroit – Jim Leyland
*Washington – Davey Johnson
I’m still slightly shocked Sandberg isn’t a major league manager. What more does the man have to prove?
What I do know is Sandberg will be a big-league manager some day. But the when and where, however, seems as unclear as ever.