My measuring stick for Ryne Sandberg this season is Charlie Manuel in his last two seasons in Philadelphia. Manuel apparently needed to be fired so urgently the team sent him packing on the day it was scheduled to hire him, sending the message they need to get Sandberg at the helm as soon as possible. Also, Sandberg is working with a better roster than Manuel was dealt, after all. Marlon Byrd and Cody Asche are better than the Youngs of 2013, A.J. Burnett has been immensely more effective than Roy Halladay last year and the bullpen is night and day better. Yet, the team is no better, and may be destined to lose more often than it did in 2013.
The biggest knock on Charlie Manuel was that he sat around and waited for the three-run home run too often. I have to ask, what is Sandberg doing differently in this department? The Phillies are getting worse by the year offensively, and home runs are getting less and less likely as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley continue to age. This should be an opportunity for Sandberg to try and get more creative and active in trying to push across runs.
On Sunday, after the Phillies had scored only eight runs over the previous three games, they had a chance to push an early run across. Playing in Atlanta as the road team, especially knowing Kyle Kendrick’s first inning troubles, trying to get an early run would not be the worst approach in the world. The opportunity seemingly presented itself when Grady Sizemore led off the game with a single. Sizemore, who possesses good speed, presented Sandberg with a number of options: steal, hit and run or advance on a bunt by Jimmy Rollins. No, rather than that he sat back and waited to see three consecutive non-productive outs. In other words, he waited not only for another runner to get on base, but then seemingly waited for the three-run home run. How is this improvement over Manuel’s approach to his club offensively?
On a related note, wouldn't keeping Manuel, the hitting guru, stand a better chance of helping Howard than Sandberg, a manager that has yet to show any evidence of substantial contributions. As Howard's salary indicates, he is viewed as a high priority and very valuable. Maybe Manuel would have given him more of a prayer.
Big Piece on the Bench: Ryne Sandberg is not a good communicator, that is one thing that has been made apparent over the last calendar year. Never mind that he doesn’t really provide too insightful responses, but the fact he seems to not be very good at communicating with his players. That was evident the way he benched Jimmy Rollins—without telling Jimmy Rollins.
A similar situation came up Wednesday which called for Ryan Howard to take a seat on the bench for a period of time. However, Sandberg seemingly learned his lesson from the way he failed (or more accurately, ignored) to speak to his player and at least had a sit-down meeting with Howard to explain what was going to take place moving forward. In a frustrating situation, we at least saw growth from the new skipper.
The Pitching Staff: Sandberg got his ace and Opening Day starter back on Monday when Cliff Lee returned from the 60-day D.L. Turns out his left arm did not join him, as he struggled to the tune of 12 hits off him. It was clear early on that Lee did not have his best stuff and was clearly rusty—something Sandberg acknowledged. Lee himself said the fact he only threw four first inning strikes was a sign of how rusty he was and that he did not have his usual ace stuff. Yet, Sandberg watched him get hit all around the park instead of going to his bullpen, a strength of the team. But no, Sandberg waited until Lee gave up a hit too many, allowing a sixth run on the night after a hit by Hunter Pence.
If that wasn’t enough pitching mistakes for one evening, Sandberg also got his white flag back off the D.L. recently too, in getting Jeff Manship back. For some reason, Sandberg likes to use Manship when the team is already losing to fall behind to an insurmountable deficit. That was the case on Monday, making the game get out of hand by inserting Manship into the game.
Overall, what has Sandberg done to help the Phillies thus far?