The Philadelphia Phillies took a big step toward their future Thursday by adding Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg to their coaching staff. Only a day after the Phillies fired first-base coach Sam Perlozzo, hitting coach Greg Gross and bench coach Pete Mackanin, it appears they are not only looking to improve immediately, but they also are planning for the future.
Sandberg had spent the past two season managing the Phillies’ triple-A ball club and is viewed by many to be the heir-apparent to Phillies current manager Charlie Manual. However, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was quick to shoot down that perception.
“The fact of the matter is, he’s not the heir-apparent. We made no promises to Ryne Sandberg,” Amaro said. “Ryne Sandberg is part of this coaching staff and we’re happy to have him. I think Ryne is going to get an opportunity to be a major-league manager at some point. Whether it’s with the Phillies or with another club, we don’t know.”
From my perspective, it is hard to believe Amaro is not slowly moving Sandberg in to take over for Manuel, who has one year remaining on his contract. It is reasonable to think the Phillies will go with a younger, up-and-coming candidate after the 2013 season to lead them into the next chapter of the franchise’s history. It has been a great run for Manuel, but he and his players both seemed content at many points this season and a change may be what is needed to re-energize the club. However, Manuel deserves one last year to try to bring another championship to Philadelphia. Having all of his players for a season may be all that he needs to get the Phillies back to where they have been for most of the past decade.
Sandberg will serve as the Phillies third-base coach and infield instructor. Along with Sandberg, the Phillies also promoted Steve Henderson to hitting coach and Ron Nichols to bullpen coach. Juan Samuel will make the move from coaching third base to first base/base running coach, and Mick Billmeyer will go from bullpen coach to catching coach. The Phils also retained Rich Dubee as pitching coach.
The clear headline in all of these coaching moves is the addition of Sandberg, and even though Amaro wants us to believe Sandberg’s presence on the coaching staff means nothing, I do believe the writing is on the wall. For now we should sit back, relax, and hope these changes will bring the Phillies back to where they were, because for Manuel’s sake, a slow start next year may cost him his job.