Is Ryne Sandberg really in danger of being fired?


While I was never a fan of how the Phillies got rid of Charlie Manuel last season, the move was never a surprise to me, because I knew once the Phillies made Ryne Sandberg the bench coach prior to 2013, he was set to be Manuel’s successor.

Sandberg had paid his dues at every level. He was obviously a hall of fame players, got passed up for the Cubs’ managerial job prior to the 2011 season after a great run in their farm system, and then latched on as the manager of the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. All he did in his first season there was take a team that had been 58-86 the season before his arrival, and turn them into an 80-64 team that reached the Governers Cup Finals. He did seemingly everything right on his way up.

Even once Sandberg got a chance as the interim manager of a team that was becoming unwatchable late last season, he led the team to an 18-17 record, en route to being named the club’s fulltime skipper.

“Ryno” was as qualified as anyone to be the Phillies manager. Things just haven’t panned out this year, and it’s left many wondering whether he actually has a long-term future with the team.

Let me be perfectly clear, Sandberg wasn’t thrown into a good situation. It isn’t is fault Ryan Howard is done and the organization keeps making him pencil him in every day. It isn’t his fault all Jimmy Rollins seems to care about anymore are personal achievements. He didn’t make Cliff Lee get hurt, or sign Jonathan Papelbon to a disastrous contract. None of that was his fault, and I am by no means blaming him for the Phillies being a 53-66 team that can’t compete in what may be the worst division in the MLB. But in year one of the Sandberg regime, I don’t put much stock in his time late last year, I’ve noticed these disturbing trends about Sandberg as a manager.

What I’ve learned about Sandberg so far

  • He seems to have this movie-like fascination with going out to the mound and talking to the pitcher in the seventh or eighth inning and letting them talk him to staying in the game. I always figured if you have to go out that late in the game, you should probobly take the pitcher out of the game. If the bullpen falters, and lord knows it did earlier in the year, then that goes on the front-office, not Sandberg himself.
  • I don’t get why he keeps playing Grady Sizemore. I get that Sizemore had a hot start when the Phillies called him up, but he’s an injury-riddled 32 year-old that has just about no chance of returning he next year. Darin Ruf does. Ben Revere does. Dom Brown does. Getting those three at-bats makes more sense for Sandberg, who appears to be caught up in winning meaningless games now, rather than trying to set himself up for some sort of turnaround next year.
  • He doesn’t grasp the whole pitch-count thing, does he? Sure, in 2014, having Cole Hamels throw over 125 pitches in a start hasn’t necessarily hurt him. But didn’t we learn from Roy Halladay? Halladay was a workhorse for his entire career, which ended up catching up to him in 2012 and 2013 and ending his career. Hamels isn’t a workhorse, although he’s pitched like one in 2014, and if I recall, he had some arm issues that caused him to miss the early parts of this season. If Sandberg is going to have a successful tenure in Philly, he needs Hamels to remain productive the next few years as either his ace or a trade chip, and I think there have been certain starts this year where he has pushed him too much.
  • We heard so much this spring training about how Sandberg was stressing fundamentals with this team. So why can’t Ben Revere ever lay down a bunt when the Phillies need him to?

I’ve noticed these trends all year, and haven’t said much just because I think Sandberg has been thrown into an extremely unenviable situation, without much control. But he may need the man who in the minds keeping him from having control or a good team, Ruben Amaro, to stay employed, just so he doesn’t lose his job as well.

Via Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal

"Much as it might pain Montgomery, fresh leadership is needed — and Amaro is not the only one who warrants scrutiny. Manager Ryne Sandberg, in the first year of a three-year contract, at times looks overmatched, struggling in his communications with veterans and with his in-game management.Charlie Manuel was a player’s manager, and perhaps it was inevitable that his successor would encounter friction. Sandberg inherited an old, bad team, and might simply need more time to grow. But considering that a new GM eventually would want his own man, the removal of Amaro would not bode well for the manager."

Via Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times

"But he almost seems unable to carve a niche for himself, either. He has managed to go out and alienate the veteran core of this team by the very public tiffs with both Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. He hasn’t yet connected to the younger guys, either, showing them faith in big spots or markedly increasing their playing time.Take the case of Darin Ruf, for example. Yes, there seems to be a split in the organization about what Ruf’s ultimate potential is and that could be well justified.But on a day when Ruf had gone 1-for-2 with a walk and a booming home run in the fourth inning to give the Phillies the lead, Sandberg decided that he wasn’t good enough to go in the ninth inning — instead sending 32-year-old mid-season free agent Grady Sizemore and his two bad knees to the plate to hit against Jeurys Familia with a 5-2 New York lead.Again, if these were all one-shot instances, you could chalk it up to a bad day. But instead, this has been a season-long epidemic of questionable moves and decisions. Think about the talk-radio backlash that would have taken place in this city had Manuel’s folksy Virginian drawl and choppy English made some of these moves instead of Sandberg’s flat-lined Pacific Northwest cadence.One year into his reign, nobody knows what Ryne Sandberg’s managerial strengths are. But we have a pretty good grasp on his weaknesses. And that’s something that has to be considered really alarming at this point."

I normally don’t like to repost that much of an article, but Cooney keeps it real, and deserves a lot more credit in this town. And he wrote a pretty good article on Sandberg yesterday evening, and those five paragraphs encompassed a lot of my thoughts on Sandberg.

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Right now, we may not have to worry about Sandberg being let go. It’s almost impossible to me to think that the organization could keep Amaro around and try to make him the scapegoat for this season. If Amaro goes, then maybe a new general manager would decide to give Sandberg his walking papers, but every indication that David Montgomery has given us would suggest that Amaro being fired is unlikely.

As the park continues to empty, and the fanbase discontent becomes more and more visible to the organization, maybe Montgomery and ownership decide that they have no choice but to make a change. So far, Montgomery hasn’t given that vibe, and any interview that Amaro has given makes it sounds like he still believes he is in the organization’s long-term plans.

We did just spend an entire weekend celebrating Charlie Manuel, who certainly had flaws of his own, but the bottom line was that he had his back up against the wall in 2007, and then the team rattled off the most successful five season run in team history. I understand that Sandberg isn’t in any sort of position to do that, regardless of whether he improves on the flaws that he has shown as manager. But is it worth giving him that shot?

I am not campaigning for the Phillies to fire Sandberg. To me, though, Sandberg hasn’t shown anything to give any new general manager any reason to keep him. And if it takes getting rid of Sandberg, or that being an option, to get an actual general manager in here, then sign me up.