Ryne Sandberg: Phillies Manager


Today at TBOH, I’ll be wrapping up my 9-part series on the Phillies uniformed coaching staff with a look at the Manager, Ryne Sandberg.

Sandberg is often thought of by Phillies fans as “the one that got away.” They wouldn’t be wrong. The Phillies drafted Sandberg in 1978. By 1981, he arrived in the big leagues as a September call-up to go just 1-6 in 13 games for the Phillies in the 2nd half of that year’s work stoppage-caused split-season format

Unfortunately, long-time Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa became involved with the team in a messy contract dispute. The General Manager of the Chicago Cubs at the time, former Phillies skipper Dallas Green, looked to take advantage of the Phillies dire situation. 

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A deal was reached to swap the two team’s shortstops, with Bowa to Chicago and Ivan De Jesus to Philly. But since De Jesus was younger, Green said he needed a prospect tossed in to make it work from his side. After much discussion, he got the Phillies to toss in Sandberg.

De Jesus would about equal Bowa’s production for the Cubs, only batting .249 with 139 RBI and 7 home runs in 3 mediocre seasons for the Phillies, though he did field his position well, and helped the team to an NL Pennant in 1983.

Meanwhile, Sandberg would go on to have a brilliant Hall of Fame career with the Cubs that spanned 15 seasons. The 10-time NL All-Star hit .285 with 282 homeruns and 1,061 RBI. Sandberg brought in some heavy hardware with a 1984 NL MVP award, 9 Gold Gloves, and 7 Silver Slugger awards.

After Sandberg’s second and final retirement as a player, he served as a Spring Training instructor for the Cubs from 1998-2006. From 2007-10, Sandberg managed the Cubs minor league affiliates at Peoria (A), Tennessee (AA), and Iowa (AAA).

In 2011, Sandberg returned to the Phillies’ organization to manage Triple-A Lehigh Valley for two seasons. Ryno won Baseball America’s 2011 Minor League Manager of the Year award for leading the IronPigs to an International League playoff berth and their first-ever winning season.

All of these minor league managing accomplishments finally earned him a major league job. Sandberg joined the Phillies as the Third Base Coach and infield instructor for the 2013 season.

As the long stretch of winning seasons crashed to a sudden end, Phillies fans first began clamoring for Sandberg to take over as manager during the 2012 season, but the Phillies stuck with Charlie Manuel into 2013.

By mid-August, the Phils struggles were mounting and there appeared to be no recovery coming. They finally said goodbye to the man who had guided the club to the 2008 World Series title, and Sandberg was called in as the club’s interim manager. That position was made permanent on September 22nd when the Phillies gave him a 3-year contract.

Sandberg’s responsibilities as the Manager now include constructing, working with, and evaluating his coaching staff, setting the lineup, making in-game decisions and substitutions, and overseeing team functions and practices.

2014 was a difficult season for Sandberg and his squad. Players such as Domonic Brown and David Buchanan were openly critical of the way they were handled in games. Brown and Buchanan had their points, but it was unnecessary for such young and inexperienced players to sound-off on their manager, making his job more difficult. These issues were apparently later resolved in meetings between the manager and the players.

Sandberg has been publicly critical of the way the Phillies players handled themselves in the clubhouse. At the 2015 Phillies Winter Banquet, he discussed a potential rift between some of the veterans and younger players, and suggested that may have translated to a poorer product on the field.

Sandberg (L) and Bowa (R) will lead the 2015 Phillies coaching staff.

With the lessons of 2014 stowed away, Sandberg set a new tone for the season by putting his team through a grueling workout on the first day of practice. Pitchers were throwing live BP, and hitters were running and taking grounders or fly balls until they were sore, according to a Yahoo Sports report.

Beforehand, the usual manager’s speech was given. Sandberg is quoted in the article for saying, “I set some parameters with things I’ll be looking for in spring training. That was loud and clear.” Ryno is obviously not willing to fool around and let the trouble stir this season.

With a fresh start and some changes to the roster in 2015, Sandberg is looking to build on his experience by leading the Phillies to a surprising season in what everyone has pinned as a “rebuilding year” for his club. He will work with his right-hand man, Larry Bowa, and the rest of the coaching staff to pull off that surprise.