Ryne Sandberg says no hard feelings, but don’t be so sure
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Sports reporter August 6, 2013 10:34PM
Philadelphia Phillies v Colorado Rockies
Updated: August 16, 2013 4:55PM
PHILADELPHIA — Ryne Sandberg said he has no regrets about the four years he spent toiling as a manager in the Cubs’ minor-league system without getting a sniff at the big-league job he sought any of the three times it was open in that span.
“None at all,” he said.
But sources close to the Philadelphia Phillies’ third-base coach say what the Hall of Famer won’t admit: that his experience getting continually denied by the franchise he helped revive a generation ago has left him with a “bitter taste.”
Don’t look now, but the Cubs might be about to find out — maybe next season — whether they’ll have any regrets of their own for letting the North Side icon get away.
Sandberg, who left the organization after Mike Quade beat him out for the managing job before the 2011 season, has been treated since then like a prized addition to the Phillies organization that originally drafted him in 1978.
After two years managing the Phillies’ Class AAA team, Sandberg joined the big-league staff this season, and many expect him to succeed manager Charlie Manuel, who’s in the final year of his contract.
Along the way, he was bypassed again by the Cubs’ new regime when Dale Sveum replaced Quade — after Cubs president Theo Epstein said he’d been impressed with Sandberg during a previous interview for Boston’s Class AAA job.
“There’s no guarantees that come with anything,” Sandberg said when asked about being on the brink of the long-sought manager’s job, saying he’s focusing only on his job at hand, which on Tuesday meant grabbing a couple of young players for early infield practice as the rain came down a few hours before the Cubs and Phillies opened a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park.
“We’re taking ground balls? Nice,” one of the players said.
“I like what I do. I’ve enjoyed myself,” Sandberg said of sticking out six years of minor-league managing to reach his first big goal of getting back to the majors. “I really didn’t put a timetable on it.”
Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney, one of Sandberg’s biggest supporters and success stories from their minor-league stops together, measured his words carefully when asked whether Sandberg could make the Cubs regret letting him become a manager for somebody else.
“It’s hard to say,” said Barney, who last year became the Cubs’ first second baseman since Sandberg to win a Gold Glove. “That’s almost unfair to Quade and Ryno, as well.”
But, he added, “I think Ryno would be a great fit for any big-league ballclub, especially a team like [Philadelphia] that has the veterans that they have.”
Would that help get the Phillies back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011?
Would the retooling Phillies get there before the rebuilding Cubs?
And would any of that help sweeten any lingering “bitter taste” for the Cubs’ estranged legend?
“I got a fair shake,” said Sandberg, who makes his Wrigley return in a Phillies uniform Aug. 30. “[The Cubs] gave me a job for four years that led me down the path of where I’m at today, in the big leagues.
“There’s no unfairness in baseball. I’ve been around long enough to know that things aren’t handed to anybody, whether you’re a player, whether you’re a batboy, a clubhouse guy.
“What I wanted to do, after going into the Hall of Fame in 2005, was to get back into the game full-time. The Cubs gave me that opportunity, and I was able to do it up to Triple-A. . . . Quade was the guy for the job [in 2011]. That’s baseball.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that.”