Nice move: Ryne Sandberg has looked a lot like a robot this season. Everything about him, from his cliché, seemingly auto-prepared answers, to his actions in the dugout and even being around him he just seems very robotic. Well on Tuesday, he made a nice gesture that showed a more human side of him, and proof that he does not go with just lefty-righty platoon splits or go with the numbers on who is best for the lineup. With the team making a trip to Petco Park in San Diego, where a giant Tony Gwynn statue looms, Sandberg gave little-used reserve outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. a chance to start in his hometown. It’s been a very difficult season for Gwynn, not just off the field with his father passing. On the field, he’s hit only .157 heading into the series. Obviously, he was not in the lineup for his bat, so with the season lost, it was a nice move by Sandberg to let Gwynn get a chance to play in his old backyard, in the city where he used to shag fly balls in batting practice. He even had a chance to text him mother saying, “I’m in the lineup!” for her to come watch.
Player’s manager?: The Jonathan Papelbon situation was a difficult one for everyone involved. He put his own manager, Ryne Sandberg, in a very difficult position, having to get involved in the spat between his ace closer and “Cowboy” Joe West. Essentially, it came down to Sandberg having to say Papelbon is not lying when he said he made “an adjustment”, something that doesn’t seem very truthful. Ultimately, Sandberg didn’t really back his player, nor did the organization. It’s a situation where it is tough to predict what anyone would do, as it ultimately comes down to defending a guy many assume to just be lying. While it probably would not hurt Sandberg to blindly back his player saying, “He absolutely did not do that to the fans, it was an adjustment,” it still is an understandably difficult spot for a manager to be in, to back a liar. Instead of taking a real stand and attempting to win the clubhouse by backing the guy (while also risking look like a blind buffoon), Sandberg did not make any judgment.
Play the unknowns: Sandberg recently has eased up on playing the veterans in whom he knows what he has, including Marlon Byrd, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley—even Carlos Ruiz to a smaller degree. Some would say that he waited too soon to do that, as it would not hurt to take a look at Makiel Franco, Darin Ruf or either Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis. Ruf has looked like he still has a place on a major league roster as a reserve player, and Franco looks like a rookie. So there would be no harm in getting him more experience and getting him more comfortable in a major league uniform.