|Sandberg became Hall of Famer with the Cubs|
Since replacing Charlie Manuel in August of 2013, Sandberg’s managerial record is 93-111. The team finished in last place in 2014, his first full season at the helm.
And in replacing the affable, down-home, World Series-winning “Uncle Charlie”, Sandberg’s more quiet intensity has been even more difficult for the fans to warm up to than were Manuel’s countrified stylings.
He was a 20th round selection of the Phillies in the 1978 baseball amateur draft, and he was a 20-year old shortstop at AA Reading in 1980 when the parent Phils won the World Series.
With Larry Bowa at shortstop, Manny Trillo at 2nd base, and future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt at 3rd, he was blocked in Philly. Opinions on his ultimate ceiling were split, but to some in the organization, he was definitely a middle infielder of the future.
Following the 1981 season, Green was lured away from the Phillies, where he had risen through the ranks to become manager. The Cubs offered Green the role of General Manager and Executive Vice-President. He would be in charge of bringing the Cubs back to contending status.
Sandberg appeared in 13 games through September and early October. He appeared 7 times as a pinch-runner, but also got into 5 as a shortstop, and even appeared in the season finale as a 2nd baseman against, of all teams, the Cubs.
Sandberg went in to play short, Luis Aguayo moved over from short to 2nd base, and Ramon Aviles moved from 2nd to 3rd. With 2 outs in the top of the 8th, Sandberg came to bat for the first time in the game. In just the 4th at-bat of his career, he blooped a single to right field for his first career hit.
But he had gotten a taste of life in the big leagues and yearned for a regular role. He wouldn’t have to wait any longer, but that role wouldn’t come in Philly.
In negotiating the deal with the Phillies’ GM Paul Owens, to off-set the age difference Green demanded a minor leaguer, and pushed for Sandberg.
Owens didn’t want to include the youngster, but Green wouldn’t yield. When a number of Phils scouts said that Sandberg was no more than a backup, Owens did the deal.
DeJesus played a solid shortstop in Philly for 3 years, and helped the team reach the 1983 World Series. But he never hit over .257, he homered just 7 times, and stole just 37 total bases. Bowa, thought to be nearly finished at the time of the deal, virtually matched DeJesus’ offensive and defensive performance over those 3 seasons.
In his first season of 1982, Green and the Cubs turned over 3rd base to him, and the kid responded by coming in 6th place in Rookie of the Year balloting. He played 156 games, registered 687 plate appearances, and hit .271 with 54 rbi and 103 runs scored.
The following year, while DeJesus and the Phils went to the World Series, Sandberg was moved to 2nd base, where he won his first Gold Glove Award.
The Phils finished a distant 4th, 15 games back. It was Chicago’s first playoff appearance since the 1945 World Series.
Sandberg was an NL All-Star for the first time, and won his 2nd Gold Glove and his first Silver Slugger. He also flashed power for the first time, drilling 19 homeruns while driving in 84, scoring 114 runs, and stealing 32 bases.
For this breakout season, Ryne Sandberg was voted the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
Chicago trailed the arch-rival Saint Louis Cardinals by 9-8 in the bottom of the 9th at Wrigley Field in what was the NBC ‘Game of the Week’ on TV. The Cards had ace closer Bruce Sutter on the mound. Sandberg, still known mostly for his glove at that point, drilled a game-tying homer.
In the top of the 10th, the Cards answered by scoring twice to take an 11-9 lead. In the bottom of the 10th, Sandberg again came up, this time with 2 outs and the tying run on 1st base. Again, Sandberg homered off Sutter to tie the game. The Cubs would ultimately win in the bottom of the 11th.
In both 1989 and 1990, Sandberg finished 4th in NL MVP voting. He became a 30-homerun hitter for the first time at age 29 in 1989, and then reached 40 for the only time in his career in 1990.
In 1985, Sandberg stole 54 bases, and he swiped 25 or more 7 times. He also eclipsed the 100-runs mark those same 7 times.
Just one win from the World Series, they saw it slip away. A rookie named Tony Gwynn helped the San Diego Padres rally to 3 straight wins.
In 1989, with the NLCS now a best-of-7, the Cubs were rolled out by the San Francisco Giants 4-1. Sandberg did his part, hitting .368 in 1984 and then .400 in 1989, when he also had a homer, 6 rbi, and 6 runs scored. In 1990, Sandberg won the Homerun Derby at the MLB All-Star Game.
When the work impasse was ended and baseball resumed in 1995, Sandberg decided to stay in retirement. However, he regained his desire, and decided to play again in 1996.
Returning as the regular 2nd baseman in Chicago, he showed rust with a .238 batting average, by far the worst of his career. But he still had pop, hitting 25 homers and driving in 92 runs at age 36.
On September 28th at Saint Louis, Sandberg came to bat with 2 outs in the top of the 3rd against Manny Aybar. He drove a deep fly to left-center that was hauled in by Phil Plantier. In the bottom of the inning, he was replaced at 2nd by Miguel Cairo. It would be Ryne Sandberg’s last appearance as a player.
Sandberg hit over .300 in five different seasons, was an MVP, a 10x All-Star and 9x Gold Glover. He led the league in Homeruns once and in Triples once, and led the league in Runs scored 3 times.
He is one of only 3 players in MLB history (Barry Bonds and Brady Anderson the others) to have registered both a 40-homer season and a 50-steal season at some point in their career.
It isn’t just that playing excellence they hired. Sandberg managed in the Cubs organization for 4 seasons from 2007-10, and in the Phillies system from 2011 onward.
In his first year as a manager at Class-A Peoria he took the team to the title game. At Class-AAA Iowa in 2010, Sandberg was named the International League Manager of the Year.
He led the Iron Pigs to the organziation’s first-ever postseason appearance, and to the International League championship series. Baseball America named him their Minor League Manager of the Year following the season.
After one more season at Lehigh Valley, Sandberg was promoted to the 3rd base coaching position in Philly. So he not only has put in coaching time, but has succeeded in that role.
Much as with Terry Francona a decade-and-a-half ago, it has the feel of an apprenticeship. However, after serving that apprenticeship, Francona went on to win the World Series in Boston.
The Phillies have already sold short on Sandberg once, three decades ago. Perhaps with that lesson and the lesson of Francona in their history, none of us should be impatient with the man this time around.