With opening day officially here, we conclude our Phillies X-factors series with the boss, Ryne Sandberg.
Ryne Sandberg waited a long time to become a big-league manager. He did things most star players — let alone Hall of Famers — would never do for that shot.
In fact, Sandberg spent more time managing in the minors than he did playing.
So what does this tell you about Sandberg? To start, he really wants this. Sandberg could live the quiet life of a star athlete, soaking in cheers, signing autographs and collecting checks for just showing up to places. But spend five minutes with Sandberg and you will learn that Sandberg only wants things he’s worked for.
Sandberg put in the time to be the manager of the Phillies. Going into his first full season at the job he waited a long time for, don’t expect any shortcuts. More importantly, don’t expect the goal for Sandberg to be anything less than a trip to the World Series. Whether this team is built for it is debatable, but after spending 15 years with the Chicago Cubs, Sandberg knows a lot about perseverance.
The Phillies can expect a lot of hard work, big goals and a relentless ethic from Sandberg. In turn, he’ll expect the same things from them, too.
I'm definitely excited to see what a full season with Sandberg at the helm will bring. The Phillies showed some renewed energy after he took over for Charlie Manuel last summer, and Phils fans can only hope that carries over into 2014.
There's a thin line between being a no-nonsense manager and an overbearing one. Sandberg's bench coach, Larry Bowa, certainly learned that very lesson in this very city in the early-2000s.
If Sandberg can get Jimmy Rollins to take pitches, if he can get Ryan Howard to watch video and stop swinging at every pitch he sees, if he can get this team back to playing solid defense, then he's going to be successful.
If, if, if.
At the very least, Sandberg has shown he's willing to be creative with his lineups -- I, for one, really liked his batting Howard fifth against lefties this spring.
But he's going to need to be more than creative to have this team in contention in the late summer. Sandberg will need to push the right buttons with a bullpen that will make or break the season. Average offense + solid starting pitching = lots of one-run games. Close wins made Buck Showalter look like a genius in 2012, when the Orioles went 29-9 in one-run games and made the playoffs. Close losses made Showalter look inept in 2013, when the Orioles went 20-31 in one-run games and missed the playoffs.