NL Central 2012: Ryne Sandberg Versus The Cubs?

Fascinating that the St. Louis Cardinals have asked the Phillies for permission to interview their AAA manager Ryne Sandberg – and received it.

For the second consecutive year, Sandberg will not get the managing job with the team for which he starred. When new Cubs’ President Theo Epstein outlined his minimum standards for the next manager (experience as a major league skipper or coach) it essentially eliminated Ryno from consideration because his stints with the Phils last spring and last September do not formally rise to that level.

Yet oddly, the Cardinals are happy to at least kick the Sandberg tires. I’m not sure what it proves, but it would seem to suggest that the division of thought on Sandberg’s managerial potential may now split into those who have seen him, the Hall of Famer, willing to ride the buses of the Midwest League, and those who have actually employed him to manage their bush leaguers. Everything I heard as of March, 2010, was that the Wrigley Field job was likely to be Sandberg’s whenever Lou Piniella left. But by August, when Piniella really did leave, the Cubs had soured on Sandberg and no longer thought him viable. Off he went to the Phillies, and now they are willing to let him talk to a National League rival, and there hasn’t been a peep about Sandberg even getting a promotion to the Phillies’ major league coaching staff. Even stranger, is that before he took the Phils’ offer last winter, Sandberg interviewed for the equivalent job in the Boston system – with Theo Epstein, the same man who’s ruled him out in Chicago.

I’m reminded of Babe Ruth’s quixotic hope that the Yankees would make him their manager (they’d seen him do that with his teammate, Bob Shawkey, who had only one season managing in the minors before he got the job in New York in 1930). Perhaps the more apt comparison is Gary Carter’s campaign to get the Mets to consider him for any of their last few managerial openings.

If Sandberg doesn’t get the St. Louis job, the Cubs-Cards rivalry might still be ratcheted up by the inclusion of Terry Francona in the mix. While Epstein has said a few polite things about possible Chicago interest in Tito, the Cardinals are scheduled to interview him tomorrow. I still think St. Louis is leaning towards LaRussa’s third base coach Jose Oquendo (although I would have considered it more than “leaning” if they had brought Oquendo back into the dugout as bench coach), but it would be a fascinating dynamic if Francona got the Cardinal job and was pitted against his old cohort Epstein in Chicago.

Besides the headline names, the Cards and/or Cubs seem interested in a lot of the same men the Red Sox are interested in: Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux, former Brewers’ interim skipper Dale Sveum, and Phils’ bench coach and ex-Reds and Pirates’ interim manager Pete Mackanin. If you want to follow all this on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis, your best resource is the terrific MLBTradeRumors.Com site, which is a clearinghouse for every local newspaper story, every significant radio interview, and every last damn tweet on anything moving in the majors. It puts the ESPN’s and SI’s sites to shame.

So stay tuned to the prospect of Sandberg or Francona in St. Louis, and if you’re a Cub fan again tearing out your hair about Ryno, consider this Cooperstown fact. These are the Hall of Fame players who, since 1900, went on to manage “their” team: Honus Wagner (Pirates), Ty Cobb (Tigers), Walter Johnson (Senators), Tris Speaker (Indians), Nap Lajoie (Indians), Eddie Collins (White Sox), George Sisler (Browns), Rogers Hornsby (Cards and Cubs), Fred Clarke (Pirates), Jimmy Collins (Red Sox), Frank Chance (Cubs), Johnny Evers (Cubs), Joe Tinker (Cubs), Frank Frisch (Cardinals), Pie Traynor (Pirates), Mel Ott (Giants), Bill Terry (Giants), Gabby Hartnett (Cubs), Ted Lyons (White Sox), Joe Cronin (Senators and Red Sox), Lou Boudreau (Indians), Dave Bancroft (Braves), Yogi Berra (Yankees), Eddie Mathews (Braves), Red Schoendienst (Cardinals), and Tony Perez (Reds). That’s 26 guys, who managed a lot of years, yet won only 18 pennants among them — and 13 of the 18 were as player-managers and four of those were by Frank Chance. In other words, of the other 25 hometown heroes who later managed, they could collectively amass only five pennants as non-playing skippers.


  1. ellen

    You forgot Joe Torre’s short and sad managerial tenure with the Cardinals! P.S. Remember when the Cards won the World Series? That was AWESOME!

  2. Jeff

    Imagine opening day 2012 in St. Louis. The Cubs watch as the Cardinals get yet another ring and raise yet another pennant. Then Ryne Sandberg rides in on the beer wagon, pulled by Clydesdales. The first pitch is thrown by Bruce Sutter to Leon Durham (who lets it roll between his legs). Then Lou Brock and Ernie Broglio deliver the game ball to the mound (but Broglio is injured and needs help off the field). During the 7th inning stretch, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is led by Steve Bartman. A Cubs nightmare on Friday the 13th of April.

  3. Michael Duffy

    God I hate the Cubs. Leave Sandberg right in Allentown where he is now as skipper of the “Iron Pigs”. We will gladly take him in when Charlie Manuel retires. I do like Jeff’s comment above or below, however this is stacked up or down. Hey 2045 is right around the corner, a hundred years, think they’ll celebrate? Mabye if they dynamite Wrigley and put in a dome. Heck they could have Billy the goat year round. I’m just saying.

  4. Nick C.

    And two of those 5 were back to back (1967-68) by Red Schoendienst. Two more were by recently retired players (Cronin 1946 Red Sox; Berra 1964 Yankees)

  5. LVHistoryMike

    Also, Schoendienst was with the Braves for a few years, so his wasn’t, if I recall, an immediate move within the Cardinal family. All of which reminds me of Veeck’s classic description of the situation with Boudreau. Veeck wanted to replace him with Casey Stengel or Al Lopez–and this was when most still considered Casey a clown, before George Weiss brought him to the Yankees–but he knew that he couldn’t keep him as a player after firing him as manager, so he sought to trade him and nearly had his head handed to him.

  6. Jim Eggers

    As a native of Sandberg’s home town ( there are many stories not to be told here) I wouldn’t hire him to manage a T-ball team

  7. Sam

    If Dale Sveum was passed over for Ken Macha despite managing the Brewers for a few minutes at the end of 2008 I don’t see why the Red Sox or Cardinals would be interested in him. I’m still not a fan of pitching coaches and/or former pitchers as managers (in reference to ex-Brewer coach Mike Maddux). It’s probably no coincidence that Bud Black was part of two September collapses in San Diego– unless it was all on Adrian Gonzalez who took his collaspeyness to Boston. In all seriousness (and Tommy Lasorda, ex-pitcher, to one side) I think pitching coaches and hitting coaches get too much credit or blame– the pitching was really bad in Milwaukee when Maddux was there and the struggles of Ogando, CJ Wilson, etc, etc in the World Series weren’t his fault. And when Rudy Jaramillo took his hitting genius from Texas to the Cubs his hitters suddenly couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position. All you have to do is look at Tony La Russa’s wacky moves during the game and head games later (is a Verizon commercial gig in his future?) and you see that being a great manager takes a very mysterious concoction of attributes.

  8. Patricia Ellyn Powell

    Today is Tito’s birthday (Nov. 4) and I put a pic of an old baseball card of his up at my facebook. Someone literally wrote “Phillies” across his forehead. I know he used to manage there…but this could be a Carnac-type thing. Me and my ESP. heehee

  9. Tom

    As a Cubs fan growing up, Ryno was one of my idols. Later in life, I had the chance to see him manage with the Cubs AA affiliate Peoria Chiefs. Sandburg threw Pinella-esque tantrums at the minor league level, and I think that’s why the Cubs have passed on him. If I had to put money on this sort of thing, I would bet that it will be Mike Maddux, especially since brother Greg is a special assistant to the Cubs and Maddux is still a popular name in Chicago. And I think Tito is a shoe-in for the Cardinals.

  10. Cheyl

    This really will make for an interesting twist in the rivalry. Good analysis. I always look forward to your point of view. – Cheryl H. AZ

  11. Fred Wilder

    Just a little suggestion rather than a reply to the blog. Remember that Ugandan Little League Team that was denied visas to enter the US to play in the LLWS, well it seems their scheduled opponents, Canada, are going to Uganda to play the game. Rogers Communications is going to broadcast it in Canada. Might make an interesting human interest/sports story in the right hands.

  12. cordaro9418

    What I can’t understand… and it might just be me… is why so many guys with no major league experience are such hot commodities. Not every one of these guys will be a Joe Maddon or Joe Girardi (Marlin’s version of Girardi as compared to the later Yankees Girardi) and you might be lucky to find another Lou Pinella or Davey Johnson in the bunch (greatly touted guys with what.. 40 years and 2 WS titles between them?) Let’s remember, when Tito came to Boston (because it made Curt Schilling happy) he was a failed big league skipper who gained from a few more years as a bench coach to season him for a spotlight career. Like say.. a Tony Pena? Where is his name?
    Why can’t these guys be ‘bench coaches’ before becoming managers. Not just a 3B coach or pitching coach… but the technical 2nd in command. The minors aren’t the majors. Rick Pitino and John Calipari couldn’t coach for sh!t in the big league but are college ‘legends’. Bill Bellichek has had a lot of great cooridnators who will never grow-up to be him. Is a $140 to $160 million dollar team the place to take the training wheels off? People look at former managers of teams in places like Pittsburgh, KC, San Diego (remember Bruce Bochey) and think they must suck… sure they did, the whole team did, but what might they do with a talented team and a GM with the ability to follow through on a shared vision? Like Joe Torre (failed manager) when he got to New York or Tito Francona (aforementioned failure) going to Boston.
    I dunno’, maybe I’m just having Butch Hobson flashbacks. Or Joe Kerrigan flashbacks….

  13. Edog

    Just realized that this blog is from Keith Oberman… the biggest douche there is… Oberman you suck and anything you say is basically a lie so I’m not sure I believe any of this blog

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