Ryne Sandberg is the new manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Congrats to Ryno, who’s getting the chance to manage in the bigs, something he wanted to do in Chicago with the Cubs.
But if he had waited he could have done so much better than these Phillies.
In case you haven’t noticed, these Phillies aren’t the team that won five straight NL East titles, back-to-back pennants, and the 2008 World Series. This is an old, creaky, geriatric team on the cusp of a major fall.
After going 81-81 last season, they are 53-67 and out of playoff contention. There were rumors they’d be broken up before last year’s trade deadline but mostly stayed together. They should have been blown up over the winter, but instead over-the-hill Michael Young and the regrettable Delmon Young arrived.
Young, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley were all possible trade candidates before last month’s deadline and could have brought back youth or at least some payroll flexibility. But no, all are staying in a vain effort to keep a declining team together.
Even though baseball is shifting away from throwing big money at closers, before 2012 the Phillies threw four years and $50 million at Jonathan Papelbon.
So, it turns out Ryno is getting his chance to manage the Cubs. If this is 2010.
Under general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phillies have been baseball’s ultimate win-now team. Except for the studly Domonic Brown and the surprising Darin Ruf, the 2013 Phillies are pretty much a collection of veteran (old) players well past their collective prime.
This lineup is plain old. Ryan Howard is 33 and well into his decline phase. Utley and Jimmy Rollins are 34 and both have seen better days. Carlos Ruiz (34) and Erik Kratz (33) have gotten the majority of the starts behind the plate, and for whatever reason the 36-year-old Young has played 111 games.
Save for Cole Hamels, the rotation’s stalwarts are either aging (Lee) or aging and injured (Roy Halladay).
To make matters worse, there isn’t any help on the way. Baseball America ranked the Phillies’ organization 24th in talent, a sign of neglect, years of drafting low, and then dealing away any good prospects for veteran talent. John Sickels put them 20th, and that’s the area they’re in pretty much everywhere.
To be fair, the Phillies have become one of baseball’s powerhouse franchises. They did it by drafting well (Hamels, Howard, Rollins, Utley) and adding big names through trade or free agency. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t Amaro that did that and the baseball landscape is changing completely, where few premium free agents are hitting the market. Developing players is more important than ever, and except for Brown the Phillies haven’t done that in a while.
That’s what Ryno’s walking into. He’s now the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, an aging and bad team about to crash and burn. It’s a franchise that seems to have little use for new-school statistical data, rebuilding, or patience.
None of that bodes well for Sandberg. It seemed like the Phillies were eager to get rid of Charlie Manuel, even though he was hit with a sliding team that’s won three more games (53-50) than its expected total.
Save for a complete change in organizational philosophy, the Phillies will try to ‘win now’ and expect Sandberg to deliver the wins. When that doesn’t happen they’ll mindlessly blame the manager.
Best of luck, Ryno. You will need it.