In a move that had been anticipated for some time, the Phillies named Ryne Sandberg their 52nd manager on Sunday morning, removing the interim tag he’d held since he replaced Charlie Manuel on August 16. The club announced that Sandberg received a three-year contract that will run through 2016 and includes a club option for the 2017 season.
It has been a difficult season for the aging Phillies, who as of Sunday morning were 71-83 and 20 games behind the Braves in the NL East. But the club has played better since the affable Manuel – who compiled a 780-636 record over nine seasons, which included two World Series appearances (and a championship in 2008) – left Citizens Bank Park for the final time, toting a plastic Wawa bag.
Under Sandberg, the Phillies are 18-16. While that small sample size success might have helped Sandberg lock in the job for which he’d long been considered, his task will prove difficult in the years ahead. The core of regulars whom Manuel led to such success – Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, both 34, along with 33-year-old Ryan Howard – is now in decline, and with the exception of Domonic Brown the organization doesn’t appear to have many young talent. Prior to the season, Baseball America ranked the Phillies’ farm system as the league’s seventh worst.
Besides Brown, the Phillies’ organization’s best recent product might be Sandberg himself. Though Sandberg, who played 13 games for Philadelphia as a rookie in 1981 before being traded to the Cubs, was inducted to the Hall of Fame as a player in 2005, he has since then toiled away in the minor leagues for six years, awaiting his chance to manage in the big leagues. He worked at three levels for the Cubs – Single-A in 2008, Double-A in 2009 and Triple-A in 2010 – and then left to manage the Phillies’ Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs after the Cubs declined to make him Lou Piniella’s replacement. He has spent the last season and a half as the Phillies’ third base coach.
He is now the only active manager already to be a member of the Hall of Fame, and the first Hall of Famer to become a full-time manager since Frank Robinson led the Nationals from 2002 to 2006. "We are pleased to announce that Ryne Sandberg will be our major league manager," Phillies G.M. Ruben Amaro said in a statement released just after 11 AM on Sunday morning. "We feel that Ryne has the qualities and leadership skills that are essential to move our club and our organization forward. Ryne's six years as a minor league manager, Hall of Fame credentials and work ethic warrant this opportunity."