With a victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Ryne Sandberg put the finishing touches on a pretty solid first 10 games as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. And with what he has done despite the small sample size, it is very clear that Ruben Amaro Jr. needs to forget about a managerial search at the end of the season. Sandberg needs to be given the job.
When Sandberg took over for the fired Charlie Manuel, there were a lot of mixed emotions that cast a cloud over the Hall of Famer’s first-ever game as a major league manager. Fans wanted to see him succeed, but it was difficult for some to cheer on Sandberg at Manuel’s expense.
This cloud seemed to affect the players, many of whom loved Manuel. The team lost Sandberg’s first two games, failing to score even a run. But after that stretch, something about the players seemed to change. The Phillies played inspired and determined baseball over the next eight games, giving Sandberg a record of 6-2 during that stretch and 6-4 in his first 10 games.
While this is more an indictment of how bad the Phillies are (or at least were), Sandberg’s six wins in 10 games, matched the number of games that the Phillies had won in the entire second half before he took over. Maybe it is the law of averages, or maybe it is something else entirely, but whatever the case, something about the Phillies has been completely different in a good way since Sandberg took over.
In 10 games, Sandberg has used 10 different lineups, four of which Jimmy Rollins notably did not lead off, with three of those coming in the last three games. Sandberg, who has made fixing Rollins’ swing a priority, has done in 10 games what it took Manuel years to do, and that is take Rollins out of the leadoff spot. Sandberg has also shown he is not afraid to bench the slumping superstar, doing so twice in the last 10 games.
Sandberg’s philosophy for using different lineups is simple: it keeps players from getting complacent and forces them to realize what their roles are depending on where they bat in the order.
And for the Phillies, this really seems to be having an impact. In the last eight games, the team has come back in the ninth inning three times, and almost nearly did it four time. They have scored 40 runs in that span, a solid average of five per game. Prior to that stretch, the Phillies had scored just 45 runs in the month’s first 15 games, an average of three runs a game.
Sandberg is also a firm believer in using his bench and has done so with success so far. He believed keeping players fresh at all times and ready to step in whenever is a big part of the game.
In addition to what he has seemingly fixed offensively, Sandberg has also made an impact when it comes to the pitchers. Unlike Manuel, who may have been persuaded to leave a starter in just a little too long, Sandberg seems to have a quick trigger finger. In his first 10 games, he has pulled pitchers as soon as they start to struggle, even if the pitch count is still low.
And considering how bad the bullpen is, this is quite risky for Sandberg. But, it has worked out so far.
Overall, Sandberg is showing this team and their fans something new and something exciting. And considering the lackluster play the Phillies had all season, all of that is completely welcome. He brings a new style and new energy to the table, and that is exactly what the Phillies need.
10 games won’t decide if he stays next year, but Sandberg has certainly shown that he can manage this team to success, flaws and all.