Theo Epstein is coming to Chicago, and Tom Ricketts deserves all of the credit for making this happen. Now, I hope that Cubs fans can offer Epstein something that they usually possess in short supply. Patience. We need to understand that it will take years for all of the bad Jim Hendry contracts to come off of the books, and likewise, many years for Epstein to have an impact on minor league talent development. However, there is one decision on the horizon that will have a major impact on next year’s team. There is some evidence that Epstein may correct one of Jim Hendry’s last administrative blunders, the exile of Ryne Sandberg.
It was Hendry’s lack of respect and communication with Sandberg that led to his departure to Philadelphia. After learning the news, Sandberg said the following, “There was no other job offering [from the Cubs for 2011] other than, ‘We’d like you to come to spring training, hit a couple of fungoes and walk around.’ “At that point, I knew it was time to move on.” No offer of a bench coaching position, not even a clarification that he was still welcome to return to the Iowa Cubs. Hendry completely snubbed the most popular Cub of the last 30 years.
Now Hendry is gone and Epstein is here; it’s time to bring Ryno back into the fold.
Sandberg won more games than he lost during his four years managing in the Cubs minor league system, but records don’t really matter in the minors. What does matter is that he won his League’s Manager of the Year title twice, once in single A and once in AAA. What matters even more than that is the fact that he went down to single A in the first place and spent years working his way up through the system. Name another Hall of Famer who rode the bus for four years to become his team’s manager.
Sandberg has managed many of the players that will play large roles during the rebuilding process in next few years. He knows their strengths, weaknesses, potential, and what holes still need to be filled. A Sandberg managed team would fill more seats at the ball park as fans come to support Ryne Sandberg’s Chicago Cubs. Those fans will have much more patience with him as the team is rebuilding, than they would with any other candidate.
Plus he’s good at it. Theo Epstein thought so; he offered Sandberg the managerial position at the Red Sox’s AAA affiliate last season. The Phillies think so too; Sandberg’s rumored to become a bench coach for the 2012 season with the possibility of ultimately replacing Charlie Manuel when he retires.
There’s no time for hesitation. We need to bring Ryne Sandberg back to the north side while we still have the option.