Ryne Sandberg, Interim Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, made a dramatic return to Chicago last weekend where the Cubs took 2 of 3 from the Phillies at Wrigley. Although both teams have been out of contention for months, the interest of Cub fans was at season-long high as they were able to get a first-hand look at the managing chops of the man Chicagoans had prayed would be Theo Epstein’s first hire three years ago.
Although most Cubs fans felt a little uncomfortable seeing their beloved Ryno in the red, white, and blue Phillies uniform, most of the small crowd in attendance left the stadium after Friday’s 6-5 Phillies come-from-behind victory with a sense of redemption and confirmation. It was bad enough when the Cubs passed on him the first time after winning two minor-league (AAA) manager of the year awards, but now the Wrigley faithful have seen their far-from-forgotten hero get passed up for a second time only to be given his well-deserved opportunity with the enemy.
So, should Theo Epstein be regretting the decision he didn’t make? If you have followed the youthful and underachieving Cubs these past three seasons, you should take some solace in the fact that Sandberg was NOT hired. If anything, Cubs’ fans should be thankful to Epstein for retaining Mike Quade and then moving forward with Dale Sveum over Sandberg. Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been clear since taking over the team that 2015 was their competitive goal. They have done nothing organizationally to disprove that objective. In fact, it is clear that they have purposely put an inferior product on the field these past three seasons for the hope of creating an extremely athletic and skilled minor league system…which they have successfully done in a short amount of time.
As a diehard Cubs fan, I am not disappointed with Sandberg not being hired 3 years ago. I am saddened to see him in the Phillies uniform he started his career in some 30+ years ago, but I am confident that whoever the manager is next year (with this decreasingly younger and inexperienced Cubs roster) will be fighting to keep his job for the all-important 2015 season. I am thankful that Epstein chose Sveum to play the role of sacrificial lamb over the ever popular and mighty Ryno. I honestly believe Theo Epstein saw into the future and could not bring himself to be the guy that fired Ryne Sandberg and not worry about replacing slashed tires on his car for the rest of his career in the Windy City. Unfortunately, if the Phillies are smart, the window to bring Sandberg back to Chicago may have already passed.
Now, should Theo Epstein and Dale Sveum get a pass for the Cubs results these past two years because of these challenging circumstances they have put on themselves? I will tackle that gorilla aggressively in tomorrow’s post.