In baseball, there are many times moves that turn the game into a game of dominoes. That pretty well sums up the situation right now with the Chicago Cubs hiring - or on the verge of hiring - Theo Epstein to be their general manager. First, in Boston, it means a promotion for Ben Cherington, one of Epstein's top lieutenants. That takes Cherington out of any discussion for the jobs in Baltimore or with the LA Angels. It also comes around to potentially kick the Phillies in the pants.
The Cubs and Red Sox need just to work out compensation for Epstein to leave Boston to enable him to become the next Cubs GM. Once that happens word is that Epstein's first move will be to dismiss manager Mike Quade, who was chosen for the job just one year ago over Ryne Sandberg. Without that job in hand, Sandberg chose becoming the manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs over becoming manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox. Seeing the link here, aren't you? Epstein reportedly wanted Sandberg to take over in Pawtucket, but Sandberg chose Lehigh Valley. You have to figure that if Epstein wanted Sandberg a year ago, he will certainly want him this year and a return to Chicago for Sandberg would be a big first move for Epstein to make with his new job.
On the other hand, keep in mind that Epstein was in the midst of hiring a new manager in Boston after Terry Francona departed and one name on his short list there was Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, while Sandberg was mentioned, but not a serious candidate. What remains to be seen is if Epstein will keep his initial list of managers intact when he arrives in Chicago or if Sandberg's popularity in Chicago will push his name to the top of the list. It could even play out with the Phillies losing Mackanin to Boston and Sandberg to the Cubs. Of course, they've already lost Double-A Reading manager Mark Parent to the Chicago White Sox where he will serve as bench coach under new manager Robin Ventura.
Ideally, the Phillies would prefer to keep Sandberg in the organization as the heir apparent to their manager's job. There are no guarantees on how much longer Charlie Manuel is going to want to manage and there are signs that Manuel may pay the price if the Phillies get off to a slow start in 2012. The Phillies view Sandberg as a potential major league manager and they also had the same thoughts regarding Mark Parent, who is actually thought by many to be a potential major league manager somewhere down the road. The Phillies are also high on Clearwater manager Dusty Wathan as a potential major league manager and Wathan will most likely jump either to Double-A Reading to replace Parent or move all the way to Triple-A Lehigh Valley should Sandberg be working elsewhere in 2012.