Philadelphia Phillies: Can Ryne Sandberg right the ship?

The Philadelphia Phillies will be opening the season with a new manager for the first time since 2005 after Charlie Manuel was let go last August.  Ryne Sandberg, Manuel’s replacement-in-waiting the past few years, now serves as the team’s manager.  He got his start last season after Manuel was let go, leading the team to a 20-22 record to finish this season.  Sandberg is not the only new coach for the Phillies, as Larry Bowa has returned to Philadelphia as the team’s bench coach, and Bob McClure has joined as the team’s new pitching coach. The new manager will now doubt need the help of his coaching staff during his first full season as a manager in the MLB.

One of the things that Sandberg brings to the table as manager is a needed fresh perspective.  The team has been following Manuel’s philosophy of hitting for the past nine years, and lately their offense has not been as strong as it once was.  As difficult as it may be for Sandberg to change the habits of the older veterans, his new perspective will help.  After all, who better to take pointers from than a Hall of Fame player?  In terms of the younger players on the team, Sandberg has the advantage of having worked with some of them before when he was the Lehigh Valley manager.  He may know how to get the best out of these younger players, helping them to develop into major league players.

Jimmy Rollins, Charlie Manuel

Manuel was intensely loyal to his players during his time in Philly.

Sandberg also does not have as deep of a connection with the team’s veterans as Manuel did.  Manuel is well known for being intensely loyal to his players, rarely benching them if they struggle.  His players often reward him for his faith, but other times it was frustrating watching a struggling player continue to struggle when a day off or two may have helped better.  Sandberg’s 42 game stint last season was not enough to determine if he will stubbornly back his players as Manuel did, or if he will be more willing bench a struggling player.

The first year manager will also benefit from the veteran presence of Bowa as his bench coach.  When he last coached in Philadelphia, Bowa led the team to a 337-308 record, but failed to make the playoffs in all four years.  Since then Bowa has served as the third base coach for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as serving as an analyst for the MLB Network.  His well-known fiery personality will be something to keep an eye on this season, as how it meshes with the rest of the staff is important.  Although it is entirely possible that in the ten years since his departure as Phillies’ manager, Bowa may have mellowed out.  In the end, Sandberg will have the knowledge of someone who has been a part of the major leagues since 1970 to aid him in his first year as manager.

McClure is a big question mark after his tumultuous season in Boston.

McClure is a big question mark after his tumultuous season in Boston.

McClure, however, is a bigger question mark.  His last job was as Red Sox pitching coach in 2012, where the staff had a 4.70 ERA, which ranked 12th in the American League.  During his short tenure with the Red Sox, then manager Bobby Valentine publicly criticized McClure, although that speaks more for Valentine’s character than McClure’s. However, McClure was also the pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals when Zack Greinke became a Cy Young Award winner.  While there is the fact that McClure was not the Phillies’ first choice as pitching coach there should be no issues.  He is in a more stable clubhouse than in Boston, and has plenty of talent to work with, no doubt receiving help from veterans.

In the end, Sandberg has some big shoes to fill after Manuel, the franchise’s leader in wins.  However, he will be up to the challenge of trying to get the Phillies back to the playoffs after missing them the last two years.  He won’t do it alone and will rely on his coaching staff, from the returning Juan Samuel and Pete Mackanin as the first and third base coaches, and Bowa and McClure as the new bench and pitching coaches respectively.  His new perspective to things is a much needed change to a team that was set in their ways.  This will help Sandberg to have success as a manager with the Phillies, but it is not going be easy.