Sandberg returns to Phillies roots
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All Ryne Sandberg ever wanted from the Cubs was a fair shake.
That never happened, so now he has shaken hands with the Philadelphia Phillies on a deal to become their Triple-A manager for 2011.
In an expected move, Sandberg chose the Phillies over the Red Sox and Tigers, and rejoins the organization that got his pro career started in 1978.
"When I heard the Phillies talking about family and team concept and respect, I knew this was a perfect fit for me,'' Sandberg said. "I knew this was the right time for me to join the Phillies.
"I really look forward to communicating with the parent club and doing everything I can to help (Phillies manager) Charlie Manuel with any needs they have at Triple-A, and helping his staff with anything they need."
Sandberg apparently didn't have that communication in Chicago and looks forward to being a part of something bigger than just one team.
"Coordinating our play with the Phillies' way of baseball, so the players know what's expected of them at the major league level when they get there, is important,'' Sandberg said. "That's a big part of the job at Triple-A.''
Sandberg left the Cubs after coming to the realization that he would never get a shot at a major league job under current Cubs management.
On a conference call Monday, Sandberg was offered the chance to suggest the process had been fair, but he bypassed that opportunity and said only that he had been interviewed and didn't get the job.
Speaking by phone later in the afternoon, Sandberg said of his talks with the Phillies that, "The interview process in Philly was top-notch. Very professional, very thorough and it had a real family feel to it, like we're all in this together. I noticed that part of it right away.''
So with this lateral move to the Triple-A club in Allentown, PA., Sandberg gets away from a situation in which he believes he had no future, and moves to an organization that already values his input.
And by leaving Iowa (AAA) he saves both himself and Mike Quade from having to answer questions about the Cubs' big league managing job should the Cubs and Quade struggle at any point in 2011.
"I didn't think it would be fair to everyone involved, from the fans to the new manager,'' Sandberg said. "I wish Mike Quade and the ownership of the Cubs and Cubs fans the best of luck.''
No, no mention of Cubs management there.
"This felt a lot like coming home, to go back to what I know,'' Sandberg said of joining forces with the Phillies.
"There's a lot of people in the organization that know me well. People like (senior advisor) Dallas Green and (GM) Ruben Amaro Jr. His dad, Ruben Sr., was one of my teachers and mentors when I was a young player.''
Sandberg spoke with several teams about jobs, but there was a great draw to returning to his roots with the Phillies.
The Phillies drafted Sandberg in the 20th round in 1978, and he played at every level of the Phillies' minor league system before his trade to the Cubs in 1981.
"We gathered an extremely good field of candidates, but Ryne impressed us in so many different ways,'' said Chuck LaMar, Phillies scouting and development director. "I told him he had paid his dues, and he stopped me and said he hadn't paid his dues at all, that it's been four years and people have spent a lot longer than that in the minors.
"He said he's still learning and wants to learn. He's a perfect fit for us. His communication skills are excellent and he's got a real humble approach.
"For someone who's done what he's done, accomplished what he's accomplished, he doesn't come off as though he feels he's owed something.
"He always reminds you of all the people who helped him get to the big leagues, and he wants to be that kind of teacher.''
LaMar said the Phillies did plenty of homework on Sandberg ahead of time.
"His work ethic stands out, watching him the last four years,'' LaMar said. "He demands a lot from his players but they respect him and play hard for him.
"Some guys have a knack for getting players to play hard and that was the thing we heard about him.
"We were looking for the best baseball man we could find, not just for Triple-A, but to add to the organization.''
Sandberg will manage the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (AAA), who reside in Allentown, about 75 minutes north of Philadelphia. Last season they were the top draw in Triple-A baseball.
"I demand hustle and I demand effort and respect for the game at all times,'' Sandberg said. "But we also have a lot of fun. You can play the game right and have fun.
"I try to get the most out of a player's ability, and I remind them that someone might be watching.''
Sandberg told the story of being so far down the totem pole during his minor league years that he couldn't get off the bench in winter ball.
"But you never know when another team is watching,'' Sandberg said. "I got traded and it worked out for me. So you play hard and maybe if it doesn't work out here, someone else wants you.''
And Sandberg, like he was some 32 years ago, is in the Phillies organization trying to get to the big leagues.
"I don't have a time frame,'' Sandberg said. "I take this job in Lehigh Valley with no expectations, no guarantees, no promises. I'm grateful for this job and I'll do the best job I can.
"If I could one day get to the majors as a coach or manager, that would be great. That's what everyone in the minors wants and I'm no different.''
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