Next in Line?

Ryne Sandberg Smile
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While most of the chatter pertaining to the Phillies consists of the bodies on the field or in the batter's box, there is occasionally some chatter about members of the organizations whose contributions to the team are far less important, in the general scheme of things.

One such individual is Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Fame second baseman, former Phillie (before he was  famously traded to the Chicago Cubs for Ivan DeJesus) and current manager of the club's Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. In his first season as the skipper, Sandberg led the team to an 80-64 record -- the best in the team's brief four-year history -- and wild card berth.

Given Ryno's success in the lower levels of the organization, as well as the fact that Charlie Manuel isn't necessarily getting any younger (he'll be 68 in January), many thought, and some hoped, that Sandberg is being groomed to take over the managerial seat when Manuel's current contract is up after the 2013 season.

I'm not one to get too giddy over news of a managerial change, because, to me, the guy filling out the lineup card isn't nearly as important as the nine guys on the field, which is why I'm always baffled when a manager is fired because a team (usually one without a lot of talent) is underperforming. However, given the kind of reputation that Sandberg brings with him, I must say that I would very much anticipate the day that he takes the reigns of the team.

However, in light of the news that former Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein is set to take over the Chicago Cubs, it seems that the possibility of having one of the greatest players of the last few decades at the helm just got a lot more remote, as Epstein has quite an affinity for Sandberg.


But almost as soon as Epstein was mentioned as a possibility for the Cubs, the fact he wanted Sandberg to manage the Boston Red Sox's Triple-A team in Pawtucket had people connecting dots that would lead Sandberg to replace [Mike] Quade. The Cubs' 71-91 record also fueled that speculation.

This move, while certainly disruptive to the notion that Charlie's replacement could be managing the Triple-A team for the next two years, certainly makes a fair bit of sense. After all, Sandberg is a Cub legend and a fan favorite, so the sentimentality would be off the charts for Cubs fans.

Not only that, it allows the team to install a manager as they are going to be overhauling the team under Epstein's watchful eye. With Sandberg in place as they begin the process of rebuilding, he can establish his presence and coaching style with relatively low expectations as the team goes through a few more lean years.

Although nothing is official and while this is just speculation, it makes for interesting fodder on a slowish baseball news day. Is it a slam dunk that Sandberg will manage the Cubs? Not at all, but it's about as likely as anything else to happen.

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