Seldom does a baseball team enjoy the luxury of having a National Baseball Hall of Fame player coaching hitters and base-runners from the third base coach’s box. In 2013, the Philadelphia Phillies will welcome that advantage in Ryne Sandberg.
Sandberg’s credentials as a coach and player are exceptional. As a player, he is a Hall of Famer and one of only six Chicago Cubs players to have their numbers retired. He shares that honor with Cub legends Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Ferguson Jenkins, and Greg Maddux.
He made his major-league debut with the Phillies in 1981 as a shortstop. After one year, Sandberg was traded to the Cubs for Ivan DeJesus. Many consider this deal to be the worst trade in Phillies history and likewise, the best trade in Cubs history.
While Sandberg went on to establish himself with the Cubs as a premier player, DeJesus spent three lackluster years with the Phillies. He was out of baseball by 1988.
Sandberg’s baseball accomplishments include ten All-Star selections, nine Gold Glove awards, and seven Silver Slugger awards. In 1984, he was selected as the National League MVP.
Since retiring from baseball as a player in 1994, Sandberg’s rise through the coaching ranks has been a steady upward progression. He was promoted yearly in the Cubs organizations from 2007 until 2010 when he was named the Pacific Coast League’s Manager of the Year.
Following the 2010 season, Sandberg was assured he would be the next Cubs manager when then-Cubs manager, Lou Piniella, retired. Instead, interim manager Mike Quade got the job.
Late in 2010, Sandberg left the Cubs and returned to his first major league club, the Phillies, and became manager of their Triple-A team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. In 2011, he promptly led them to the International League playoffs.
For his efforts, Sandberg was named 2011 Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America. Then, in October of last year, he was elevated to the position of third base coach and infield instructor. All indications are that he’s being groomed to replace incumbent manager Charlie Manuel at the end of 2013, when Manuel’s current contract expires.
Based on Sandberg’s success, the Phillies can’t lose.