Friday, June 26, 2015

Ryne Sandberg Resigns: What Next for Phillies?

"This is a difficult day, a challenging day, and a tough day for myself. But I am stepping down as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies."
With that fairly simple, straight-forward statement, Ryne Sandberg resigned his position as the skipper of the Phillies. 
He leaves the team having guided them to an overall 119-149 record in one full and parts of two other seasons.
Sandberg took over for previous manager Charlie Manuel in August of 2013, leading the club to a 20-22 record down the stretch of what became their first losing season in a decade. 
In his only full season a year ago, Sandberg's club went 73-89 and finished in last place in the NL East.
At the time of the resignation, Sandberg and the Phillies were 26-48 and buried in last place once again in the NL East. 
For the immediate future, such as the weekend series beginning tonight at Citizens Bank Park, the Phils will be led by Pete Mackanin, who was named the interim manager.
You have already seen many writers and media types step forward with their take on Sandberg's job performance, his approach, and the timing of this turn of events, some critical and some more supportive. 
My own take is that Sandberg was dealt a bad hand, and he played that bad hand poorly.
That said, I would caution anyone, and I have seen this opinion voiced, who thinks that Ryne Sandberg won't ever get another shot at a managerial job in Major League Baseball. 
Not only do I think that Sandberg could get a job, but I think there is a good chance that he will get a shot, and he just may succeed.
All Phillies fans have to do if considering why I feel this way is look into our franchise own somewhat recent past, remember a guy who fans were happy to see go by the name of Terry Francona
Tito managed the Phillies from 1997-2000, compiling a 285-363 record for a .440 win-loss percentage that was nearly as bad as the .428 managed by Sandberg.
We all know what happened after that. Francona took over the Boston Red Sox four years later. 
In his very first season at the helm, he guided Boston to their first World Series victory in 86 years. In 2007, Francona was at the helm as the Bosox then won yet another World Series crown.
From 2004 through last season, Terry Francona has managed in MLB with Boston and Cleveland in 10 of the last 11 years. He has yet to record a losing season, and his all-time managerial record now stands at 1239-1100, including those awful early Phillies clubs.
Ryne Sandberg was not only a player in the big leagues, like Francona, but even more, Sandberg was one of the best all-around players of his generation. He has been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and is considered one of the greatest 2nd basemen of all-time.
He earned industry-wide praise when, wanting to manage following his playing career, Sandberg was willing to go down to the minor leagues and learn his craft. He earned his shot at the Phillies job with hard work and success there.
In six minor league seasons, his clubs went a combined 512-498. His first season team, the Peoria club in the Cubs system, went to the Midwest League title game. 
In 2010, Sandberg was named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year after an 82-62 season.
Hired by the Phillies as skipper at AAA Lehigh Valley, Sandberg guided that club to its first-ever postseason appearance in 2011, and was named as the Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America. 
In short, after a Hall of Fame playing career, Sandberg paid his dues as a minor league manager where he was extremely successful. Clearly, there is something there.
Sandberg also highlighted during his resignation press conference that he saw himself as "old school" in style. Perhaps that style simply doesn't mesh well with today's professional athletes, almost all of whom are making multiple millions of dollars each season.
This particular Phillies clubhouse has been noted by many in the media as leaderless, from a players perspective. It is never a good thing when the locker room has no voice willing to stand up as a peer and call players to accountability.
Much of the problem with these Phillies is that they are either aging, or limited, or injured. But whatever their individual circumstances, the vast majority are not self-motivators. The proof is in the results.
Sandberg did not help his own case, making a number of baffling moves, both in-game and in lineup decisions. He may have had good reasons for making those decisions, but if so, he rarely was able to communicate those in his post-game pressers. 
The fact may simply be one of inexperience in this position, and that he was overwhelmed by this particular job at this particular time.
Sawyer
"I'm 49, and I want to live to be 50." ~ Sawyer, the last Phils skipper to resign in 1960.
That Sandberg was unable to motivate this particular group may not necessarily mean that he cannot motivate any group at all. 
Remember, this team was left for dead before it ever got out of the starting gates. Everyone inside and outside that clubhouse expected them to lose, probably big, and to see a number of key veterans traded away.
The longer the losing has droned on, and the longer that the situation with players having to live with constant trade rumors over their heads has dragged on, the more the morale seems to have deteriorated.
"I'm 49, and I want to live to be 50.
That was the statement made by the last Phillies manager to resign. That manager was Eddie Sawyer, all the way back in 1960. So this has not happened for over a half-century.
These Phillies have a lot of problems. The skipper was one of them, but he was not the only one, and he was far from the worst one. Those other problems remain, from the GM to the President to the players. 
Those other problems will need to be dealt with before this franchise can begin to seriously turn around, and regain the trust of its dwindling fan base.

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