Ryne Sandberg is perhaps baseball's most famous and most anticipated up and coming manager. Sandberg has his heart set on being a major league manager and has put his time in as a minor league manager both in the Cubs system and now two season with the Phillies. After being passed up by the Chicago Cubs in favor of Mike Quade prior to the 2011 season, Sandberg jumped over to the Phillies and has led strong seasons for the Iron Pigs each of his two years there. It seems obvious that something has to give.
In this week's Jim Salisbury interview of Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro on CSNPhilly.com, Amaro was commital about Charlie Manuel returning as Phillies manager next season. But, asked about the coaching staff, there was no commitment:
I like our coaching staff. I think guys have done a pretty good job. But, you know, we’re still evaluating everybody.
Hmm. There have been occasional whispers that the Phillies would try to get Sandberg at least a spot on the Phillies coaching staff next year should he not be picked up as someone's manager. But where would he go? Let's consider the options.
Rich Dubee, Pitching Coach; Mick Billmeyer, Bullpen Coach:
These are in a different category, so let's get these out of the way now. Dubee is highly respected for his work with the Phillies staff over the years. No offense to Mick Billmeyer, but the bullpen coach does not matter so much. He mainly answers the phone and tells people to get up, sometimes catching the pitchers. It's the most stable job on a staff.
Now for the ones where Sandberg could have a place:
Pete Mackanin, Bench Coach
I really thought that Mackanin would have had a real shot at managing the Red Sox this past offseason. I also thought they would be way better off having Mackanin than Bobby Valentine this year. Mackanin could indeed be a managerial candidate himself. He has experience managing two teams, but only on an interim basis. Mackanin managed the Cincinnati Reds most recently after the dismissal of Jerry Narron. Previously, Mackanin took over for Lloyd McLendon on an interim basis with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Those permanent jobs went to Dusty Baker and John Russell, respectively.
It would not seem like Mackanin would be a candidate to be let go. Since joining the Phillies in 2009 after Jimy Williams decided not to return, he has helped the Phillies along to three division titles.
Greg Gross, Hitting Coach
The hitting coach gets lots of the attention, but only can do as much as the players are willing to listen. I tend to believe that a lot of the recent success of some of the newer players to the Phillies such as Erik Kratz and Kevin Frandsen can attribute some of it to Greg Gross as they learn to adapt to the pitchers who adapted to them.
I don't think there is anything ANY hitting coach can do with Hunter Pence or Shane Victorino to improve. It's just not in their vocabulary. I think Gross could stay.
Juan Samuel, Third Base Coach
Samuel has the tough task of making snap judgments about potential plays at the plate. When he fails, everyone knows it. When runners slide in safely, we seldom think about whether or not the third base coach made the right call; we simply rejoice in the run scored.
Samuel, I think, has done a fine job. Part of his responsibilities include working with the outfielders. Again, Pence and Victorino are who they are, but he has helped Domonic Brown adapt to multiple positions in the outfield and John Mayberry into playing center field almost daily. I am very happy with Mayberry's performance and Brown seems to be getting better, no coincidence with the outfield coach.
Plus, consider that Samuel is the Phillies' lone minority coach in a Latin-heavy sport. I think Samuel stays.
Sam Perlozzo, First Base Coach
I saved who may be the weakest link for last. Perlozzo has been a coach with the Phillies. 2012 is Perlozzo's fourth season with the Phillies. After serving two seasons' as the Phillies' third base coach, Perlozzo switched to first base to accommodate Juan Samuel. As first base coach he supervises the infielders and works on baserunning.
What makes me think Perlozzo is the weakest link is that if indeed the Phillies are trying to make room, he has the least convincing case. Already removed from third base where many feel he did a less than stellar job, stolen bases are down about 20% from Davey Lopes' seasons as first base coach. If not for the addition of Juan Pierre there would be much less stealing. While Pierre is mainly a singles hitter, they become doubles with the stolen base. The Phillies need more of that.
I personally do not feel an overriding need to dismiss Perlozzo. The Phillies may simply wait and see if either Sandberg, Mackanin, or someone else on the Phillies coaching staff gets another job. Samuel and Perlozzo both have managing experience in the major leagues (both with the Baltimore Orioles) and could be candidates themselves.
Things have a way of working themselves out sometimes. This may be one of them.