After a storied run in Philadelphia, one that included a World Series title, Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is out, according to ESPN.com. In a joint press conference with general manager Ruben Amaro Friday, the franchise's most highly decorated manager gave his goodbyes to the fans and city he has known since 2005.
"I did not resign and I did not quit," Manuel said at the news conference. "I think it was an agreement."
In Manuel's place: onetime Phillies farmhand and Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg.
Although the timing was curious and the "interim" tag on Sandberg suggests an organization that is not sure about its short- or long-term future, the candidate tabbed to take over immediately is the perfect fit for the organization.
Simply put, the Phillies' current third base coach has earned a chance at a managerial gig. After Sandberg spent years working his way up through the Chicago Cubs system from Single-A Peoria to Triple-A Iowa, the franchise bypassed him for the managerial gig when the team transitioned top-level management.
Keith Moreland, a teammate of Sandberg's in Chicago, credited Sandberg in an interview with Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune on Friday for taking the steps necessary to transition from Hall of Fame player to bottom-of-the-totem-poll manager in the Chicago minor league system. He also cited how the new Phillies manager persevered through the difficult news of missing out on the Cubs' managerial job in 2010.
“He went back and started at the lowest level you can start and worked his way back,” said Moreland. “I think it was really important for him to get back in the big leagues as a coach. I think that really helped him get into this position to be a big league manager. Now the work comes. I wish him all the best of luck except when they play against the Cubs.”
In Philadelphia, Sandberg will be awarded the final 42 games of the 2013 season to show his mettle in the dugout, but expecting big results would be foolish. With a roster that is sorely lacking sufficient talent, wins and losses cannot be the only way to evaluate "Ryno" over the next six-plus weeks.
Considering that the blazing-hot Dodgers are Sandberg's first managerial test, the ability to coax wins out of an overmatched group would be impressive but far from imperative.
In order to compete atop the NL East quickly, the Phillies must look to move in a new direction, infuse young talent into the big league roster, revamp the minor league system and update their player evaluation tactics.
Sandberg has done more than enough on the field and minor league manager to earn his shot. His dedication to giving his "very best effort and very top performance" will serve him well on the bench—much like it did during his playing days.
Now comes the harder part: proving he can handle the other aspects of the job like the fans, media, expectations and a growing trend toward high acumen in the dugout. With instant replay set to expand—slated to include manager challenges and possible replays on everything besides the strike zone—Sandberg's challenges won't be small.
As you can tell from the comments here, it's safe to say many in the Philly fanbase expected Sandberg to get the call when Charlie Manuel's day was up. On Friday, that moment occurred.
Although an interim tag suggests that a long, thorough process may take place in the offseason, Sandberg's work and familiarity with the team will certainly give him a major leg up in the search for the long-term Manuel successor.
Considering the other possible managerial candidates out there for Philadelphia (Sandy Alomar, Omar Vizquel, Juan Samuel, Wally Backman), Sandberg's ascension and promotion make the most sense. If he's viewed as a future managerial star, the future should start now.
Although Manuel's departure signals an end of, arguably, the greatest era of Phillies baseball, it can allow the franchise to move on with a fresh start. Ironically, one of the best players the organization allowed to get away is now the on-field leader.
If Ryne Sandberg is half as strong in the dugout as he was at second base, the future of the Phillies will be secure from a coaching, teaching and strategy perspective.
The next impending issue for the franchise: putting productive players on the field for Sandberg to motivate and mold.
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