Sooner than later, the Charlie Manuel era will end in Philadelphia.
With a contract that expires after the season, a mediocre roster, expectations out of whack in a city clinging to former greatness and the specter of a fire sale between now and July 31, the last few months of the 2013 Phillies season may be ugly.
Of course, that would be the exception for this group in Philadelphia considering how well the team has played in the second half of seasons under Manuel.
Yet, it's time to accept the exception to the rule coming to fruition for a team that is heading backwards fast.
When Ruben Amaro and the ownership group in Philadelphia decide to move in a different direction, one candidate seems to stand out above the rest, but the interviews and process will be riveting for a franchise trying to replace the most successful manager in their history.
Here are the top candidates for the job to replace Charlie Manuel as the next manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The logical choice is likely the best bet to be the next on-field leader in Philadelphia.
Not only has Sandberg paid his dues during coaching stops in the Cubs' system, Phillies Triple-A affiliate and, now, as the third base coach on Charlie Manuel's staff, but he's viewed in the industry as a future manager in the very near future.
If Philadelphia continues to make Sandberg wait, it's likely that another team will come calling with his first opportunity to be a major league manager, costing the Phillies a shot at the brilliance of Sandberg for the second time in history.
The team famously traded away the Hall of Fame second baseman when he was just a prospect, failing to hold on to a player that eventually became one of the most prolific hitters at his position in history.
Odds are, the franchise won't let him get away twice, placing him in the dugout to replace Manuel.
Twenty years as a major league backstop, experience as an interim manager for the 2012 Cleveland Indians and a family heritage of baseball excellence have vaulted Sandy Alomar Jr. into the discussion for future managerial openings.
In fact, he interviewed so well with Indians executives last offseason to be considered the runner-up to a manager with two World Series rings, Terry Francona.
Aside from the resume needed to garner an interview anywhere around the league, Alomar has a relationship with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. dating back to their time together in the early 90's on the rising Cleveland Indians.
While Amaro departed before Cleveland went from laughing stock to AL royalty, he saw Alomar's progression from young backup to All-Star and defensive stalwart for the class of the American League Central.
Sandberg is the favorite, but Alomar could seriously push for the job if given a legitimate interview.
Much like Alomar, this former Indians great was a part of winning teams, always possessed an innate knowledge of the game and aspires to be a future manager.
Unlike Sandy, the former slick fielding shortstop doesn't have extensive experience on the bench, holding on to very, very long playing career through the end of last season.
Now, after over two decades on the field, Vizquel has taken his first step towards a managerial seat, acting as an on-field instructor for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
In years past, Vizquel's name wouldn't be on a list like this due to his lack of experience, but times have changed. If Walt Weiss, Robin Ventura and Mike Matheny can survive and thrive amidst little or no experience, a team like Philadelphia may not hesitate to give Vizquel an interview.
From there, an opportunity may await.
This list wouldn't be complete without the token interview for a candidate on the staff, with experience, but, alas, not rumored to be a hot candidate around the league.
Samuel, a baseball lifer who has served as the Phillies first base coach and is the former interim manager of the Baltimore Orioles, could eventually become a big league skipper again but would likely have to blow away the Philadelphia brass in an interview to garner support around the organization.
If Ryne Sandberg wasn't part of this equation, Samuel would represent the lone internal candidate to replace Manuel, potentially giving him a leg up on the competition with a (mostly) veteran team hoping to compete at a higher level in 2014.
Yes, the same Wally Backman that was a World Series champion for the Mets, played across state for the Pittsburgh Pirates and has been in baseball purgatory since lasting a week as the Arizona Diamondbacks manager when revelations of a seedy and controversial past came to light in the aftermath of his hiring.
Along with those details that are sure to be red flags for Philadelphia Phillies supporters, come these potential boons for a Backman selection: he's a former Phillie, playing alongside Ruben Amaro Jr. in the early 90s, has revitalized himself as a successful Triple-A manager in the Met's system, and, maybe most importantly, would add fuel to the Mets-Phillies rivalry.
It's obvious that Backman wants to be the future manager in New York, but if he's passed up again (Terry Collins' contract is up after this season) for the position, jumping ship to Philadelphia would be compelling theater.
For a fan base that clamors for a manager to be more vocal and demonstrative with the roster, Backman would certainly fit the bill.
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