Sunday, June 9, 2013

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies' Ryne Sandberg Completes 30-Year Odyssey

With the Philadelphia Phillies' 2013 season likely being one of continuing transition, I thought it would be worthwhile to review a piece that I wrote last fall about Ryne Sandberg. 

Hardcore fans loved that 'Ryno' returned to the organization a few years ago and that he was promoted to a coaching position with the big club last fall. Now, what's next?...

Sandberg has finally returned to the Phillies' infield.
(Photo credit - Sean O'Brien, 2012)

(This feature was originally published by Yahoo Sports on October 4, 2012.)

The Philadelphia Phillies' general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. knows that a number of targeted moves are needed to improve his club's chances of rebounding into the playoffs next season. One of those changes includes today's hiring of Ryne Sandberg as the team's new third base and infield coach.
Amaro announced at a press conference that the team will go without a bench coach next season and that Sandberg's hiring means that Juan Samuel will shift to the first base coaching box. Charlie Manuel also said that Sandberg would assume the managerial duties if he were to be thrown out of a game.
Slightly more than three decades after being traded to the Chicago Cubs, 'Ryno' is sure to receive a strong ovation from the fans at next season's home opener. Regardless of job titles, it's also now obvious that he'll be second-in-command and the clear managerial heir apparent.
Sandberg's return to Philadelphia finally realized
Long after retiring, fellow Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt decided that he would like to try his hand at managing. So, he agreed to become the Clearwater Threshers' skipper in 2004. Schmidt lasted one season (59-77) with the Phillies' Single-A team and then decided to resign.
It's hardly appealing to lurch through the minor leagues for an indefinite period of time. But, that's exactly what Sandberg chose to do when the Chicago Cubs hired him to manage their Single-A Peoria Chiefs team in 2007. Deposed Phillies' bench coach Pete Mackanin also managed that team in 1985 and 1986, leading the Chiefs to the League finals in those successive seasons.
While Sandberg's 2007 and 2008 teams didn't fare well, he did lead the Double-A Tennessee Smokies to the League finals in 2009 and finished tied for first in the division while managing the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2010. Sandberg's 2011 Triple-A Lehigh Valley team advanced to the League Finals. While his 2012 squad finished above .500 (75-68), the Iron Pigs didn't qualify for the playoffs.
Ryno earned his second major league break
This 53-year-old doesn't need a job and didn't toil in the bushes for the past six years to boost his ego. Sandberg decided to learn his managerial craft step-by-step, which enabled him to earn this second major league opportunity.
Manuel seems likely to complete the final year of his contract next season unless his team truly falters. That scenario sets up well for the team's newest coach to then take over.
As a long-time Phillies' loyalist, I was happy to see Sandberg return to the fold when he was hired in November 2010. Today fully marks the completion of a thirty-plus year odyssey for one of the team's most lamented alumni. Welcome home 'Ryno'.
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