Ryne Sandberg likes overt overtures of affection. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
The final pitch of the Phils’ 81st loss of the season, Wednesday’s season finale 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals, had barely nestled into the catcher’s mitt before the Phillies made an announcement that surprised many, if only for its timing.
They announced that bench coach Pete Mackanin, hitting coach Greg Gross and first base coach Sam Perlozzo would not be invited back to coach the team in 2013.
It’s a move that spoke not only to Charlie Manuel’s frustration with his team’s attitude and play in 2012, but also to their desire to woo AAA manager Ryne Sandberg to stick with the team, even if for just one more year.
Somewhere out in the world, pitching coach Rich Dubee and third base coach Juan Samuel are breathing a sigh of relief, but should probably run the spell check on their resumes just to be safe.
One would assume the firings mean Sandberg would be Manuel’s bench coach next year, in an effort to eventually hand the team over to Sandberg once Manuel or the Phillies decide it’s time to end Cholly’s tenure in Philadelphia.
However, Sandberg is a highly sought after commodity, perhaps the most attractive managerial candidate in baseball. Teams will probably be asking the Phillies for permission to interview Sandberg for a manager’s job, and the Phils will probably allow Ryne to have every opportunity to interview somewhere else.
But it’s pretty obvious they’re letting Sandberg know that they not only like him, they like him like him.
The subtext to the firings, of course is, whose call was this?
Was this move ordered by the general manager? Was it Ruben Amaro’s way of telling Manuel that he was not happy with how the players progressed this season, and that Manuel is now on notice? After all, the Phillies finished 81-81 this year with a payroll that reached near $174 million. Comments Manuel made about first base coach Sam Perlozzo after the announcement were confusing in their vagueness.
"“It’s definitely not what he did,” Manuel said, speaking specifically of Perlozzo. “I look at him as a tremendous teacher and a great coach. When you have to do some things and people become involved, some people on your staff have to be moved. I think that’s just the position we’re in. That’s how the organization feels.”"
What did Manuel mean by “have to do some things” and “how the organization feels?” It kind of sounds like Manuel’s hand was forced.
Or were these moves Charlie’s idea? Was this his way of saying he’s not going to tolerate mental errors, physical errors and unfocused play at the levels he saw this year?
"“I look at this year and I kinda get irritated. You’ll never hear me cry or anything about talent,” Manuel said earlier this week. “As far as the mental things and the mental mistakes we make in the game, I take that on myself.”“You’re gonna see a lot of changes,” Manuel said. “You’re gonna see me walking around into everything. I want us to play right.”"
And then there is the question of how long Manuel plans to manage the Phils. His contract is up after next season. Will the Phillies offer him an extension? Would he sign one of they did? Or is he ready to retire?
There may already be a handshake deal between the Phillies, Manuel and Sandberg that Charlie is going to step down after next year and hand the reigns to Ryne. If that’s the case, it’s possible Sandberg may have a real say in who the Phils hire as the new hitting coach and first base coach, as a way of setting him up with a partial staff for 2014.
In any case, there a lot of unanswered questions. What seems obvious is that these moves were clearly designed to keep Ryne Sandberg with the organization.
Hey, it’s always good to have a plan.