If there are any brilliant GMs left in baseball, Ryne Sandberg will be a hot commodity this offseason. Surely, somebody will be smart enough to realize that Sandberg not only has the credentials as a Hall of Fame player, but has paid his dues and done well as a minor league manager, readying himself to manage at the major league level.
So far, the Houston Astros haven't been smart enough. Sandberg would have been the perfect fit for a bunch of young players who need someone not just to manage them, but to literally continue to coach them and show them the ropes of what it takes to succeed in the majors. Unless everything has been conducted fully behind the scenes in an extremely stealth manner, Sandberg is not on the list of candidates to manage Houston in their first run in the American League next season. Of course, the Phillies were in Houston for a dreadful series over the weekend, so if they were going to keep things quiet, there would have been the opportunity to do so. There would have been no need to sneak Sandberg into town; Instead, they could have just snuck him up the freight elevator to the front office for a quick interview.
Where will the jobs be this fall?
Well, figure on an opening in Boston. Bobby Valentine will likely head back to the broadcast booth after a rough return to managing in the majors. Sometimes, going old school just doesn't work. Jim Leyland is apparently not in the most secure situation with the Detroit Tigers, so that could be another opening waiting to happen. Staying right in the American League Central, Manny Acta may be stopping at a local store to see if they have any empty boxes they can spare to pack the things in his office in Cleveland. Not that they gave him a lot to work with, but hey, somebody's got to go.
There are a couple other jobs that could be longshots to open, but need to be mentioned.
Will the blame roll downhill in Florida - sorry, Miami - and find Ozzie Guillen unemployed? If George Steinbrenner were still alive, Joe Girardi would have been fired and rehired a couple of times by now. Could his office be vacated? How about Mike Scioscia in Anaheim? They were expecting a lot more out of that club this season.
Those would seem to be the best bets for managerial job openings. So, who wants Sandberg?
As stated, Houston, a young team with some players who simply need a lot of discipline and help to get better, would have been a logical team to look at Sandberg. Keep in mind though, that Sandberg might not have wanted that job. There won't be anything easy about managing the Astros over the next few seasons and whoever gets the job there may not be able to truly show what they can do as a manager, since they'll be so handicapped by the quality of players there. While the situation screams for someone of Sandberg's background and caliber, it just might be a situation he would be better off avoiding.
Miami isn't exactly a great situation either, since their front office doesn't have the best minds in baseball running things. They made a lot of high-profile, high-cost moves over the winter, but they didn't make a whole lot of smart moves. They've got a new logo and a new stadium, but it's the same-old, same-old in Miami. The Yankees job likely won't open up; they're a little too smart for that. If it does, Joe Girardi jumps to the front of the class of job candidates, since he's one of the best around. Ditto for Mike Scioscia and the Angels. If either the Yankees or Angels jobs do open up, Sandberg would be a smart fit. The players might be the ones making the money, but as a Hall of Famer, it's going to be hard for even elite players to question someone like Sandberg. And as far as the Marlins go, maybe someone with the pedigree of Sandberg could get more out of the players there. It would be a better opportunity than in Houston, but there will likely be better situations for Sandberg to explore.
Cleveland is hit-and-miss. They've got some nice players, but can't ever seem to put together anything long-lasting in terms of winning ball clubs. There are some young players that Sandberg could likely help, but will the Indians front office be able to provide the players to put around them to make it all work? There are a lot of people around baseball who see Cleveland as an underachieving team, so it might be somewhere that a smart enough manager could make a difference.
Detroit would be a nice situation for Sandberg. He's very popular in that neck-of-the-woods because of his playing days with the Cubs and they've already got a decent team to work with. One problem that they might encounter is whether or not they're going to be able to spend enough money to improve the club after what they spent last offseason on Prince Fielder.
The best situation out there for Sandberg, also turns out to be the most likely. The Boston Red Sox. The players ran amok under Terry Francona, so the team went the other way and hired disciplinarian Bobby Valentine, who not only found managing on the field tough, but the players all but mounted a mutiny, holding a closed-door meeting with team owner John Henry. It got ugly and uglier in Boston this season and Valentine - who was hand-picked by team president Larry Lucchino - will have to go. Odds are that Lucchino will now back off and let GM Ben Cherington have more of a say in who the next manager is, right after he gets done telling Lucchino "I told you so!"
The Red Sox have been interested in the past. They almost hired Sandberg to manage at Triple-A Pawtucket prior to the 2011 season when Sandberg took over at Lehigh Valley in the Phillies organization. They also interviewed him last season after they fired Francona. Surely, they'll talk to him again, and if they're smart, they'll put him at the top of the list. Keep in mind though that Sandberg doesn't take disrespect well. The Cubs overlooked him for a couple of jobs and that organization is now dead to him.
Best scenario for Phillies fans?
Ruben Amaro Jr. goes to Sandberg and explains how much the organization loves and respects him. He then tells him to pick his job assignment for 2013 - anything other than major league manager - and after just one more season with the organization, the big league club is his to manage. At that point, Charlie Manuel's contract will be up and he'll likely be stepping aside anyway, so the job would be free and clear. Sandberg could choose to either manage at Lehigh Valley for a third season or perhaps join Manuel's coaching staff in Philadelphia as a bench coach or hitting coach as he gets ready to take over in 2014.
Would Sandberg accept that idea? It's very possible. He would need assurances not just from Amaro, but from ownership that the deal would stand, even if Amaro were to exit prior to 2014. He would also need to feel that it's the best possible spot for him to land for his first job as a major league manager. It would be hard for Sandberg to turn down Boston, Detroit, the Yankees or other jobs that could potentially be his, but it also might be worth waiting for. Sandberg has talked glowingly of his respect for the Phillies organization and how much he values being a part of the organization that drafted him - even though they did screw up big time and traded him to the Cubs - and how he feels welcomed and comfortable in the organization.
If Sandberg views Philadelphia as the perfect job, which he might, it could very well be worth waiting one more year to manage in a great baseball city and have a bunch of players that he managed at the upper level of the organization over three seasons. Stay tuned. It could be an interesting offseason for Mr. Sandberg and the Phillies, who want to keep him as part of the organization.