The ultimate irony? Cardinals to interview Hall of Famer and former Cubs player, Ryne Sandberg
Rumors are swirling around baseball today that the Cardinals are interviewing Phillies AAA manager Ryne Sandberg to replace Tony La Russa as field manager. Sandberg was a longtime Chicago Cub, in which he played nearly his entire career and later entered Cooperstown. Sandberg managed the Iowa Cubs for several years before he was interviewed for the position of Cubs manager. The Cubs instead chose Mike Quade, and Sandberg went on to manage the Phillies AAA affiliate. Sandberg may just be one of the greatest Cubs of all time, which makes it ironic that the Cardinals chose to interview a former star of their arch-rivals. However, it is just an interview, and doesn’t necessarily mean that Sandberg could be named as the Cardinals new manager. I feel we should take a look at the pros and cons of the former Chicago Cubs superstar infielder:
Even though Sandberg has no experience at managing a major league baseball team, he has managed for the Cubs and, more recently, the Phillies minor league system since 2007 and served as a spring training assistant before that. Plus, Sandberg has experience in the game of baseball playing the game in the major’s from 1981 to 1997 a career which led to the Hall of Fame, Sandberg a ten time All Star, nine time Gold Glover, seven time Silver Slugger, and the 1984 NL MVP award winner has his number 23 retired by the Chicago Cubs in which he played all but one of his 16 seasons.
Sandberg was a very skilled player, he was a tremendous defender at second base in which he won nine Gold Glove awards. With his great knowledge of the game and especially at the infield, Sandberg could bring similar knowledge that Tony La Russa brought to the Cardinals, La Russa was a former infielder as well. The Cardinals major weakness in the past few seasons has been the middle infield, and with Sandberg’s expertise he could help the infield and maybe convince John Mozeliak to get quality infielders instead of Tony’s favorite kinds of gritty, slap hitting, not so good guys. Sandberg also knows a thing or two about hitting(.2,386 hits, .283 average, 282 home runs, 1,061 RBI’s) which is another valuable thing to have in a manager. A manager should be knowledgeable in all aspects of the game and Sandberg seems to have that knowledge.
The Cardinals have seen Tony La Russa for the past sixteen years and over that span he went from 51 years old to 67, not a very young manager which led him to have some old school qualities, though that is not always a bad thing, baseball is a moving game which changes throughout the years and it is nice to have a fresh face. Sandberg is 52 year’s old around the same age as TLR when he came to St. Louis, he is young for a manager and has plenty of time to grow with the organization. Though he didn’t play in the same time frame in which the majority of the current Cardinals have played in, he still is much closer in the age of the current players than La Russa was and might be able to connect in some aspects better, not to say that this is true in all areas, but La Russa struggled to maintain relationships with younger players like Brendan Ryan, Anthony Reyes, Colby Rasmus, and others that another manager may have been able to deal with.
No Major League managing experience:
As I previously mentioned, Sandberg has only managed in the minor leagues and has no experiencing managing a big league club with much more pressure and responsibilities. Not to say that he wouldn’t be able to do the job, he just hasn’t been tested. The Cardinals might want to get a manager with some big league experience which is why we have seen names like Terry Francona, Joe Maddon, and Jim Riggleman on nearly all lists made of potential suitors for the position.
He was and always will be a Cub:
Though, I think it would be kind of funny and ironic to have one of the Cubs greatest players manage the Cardinals, it just wouldn’t seem right. I mean imagine Bob Gibson or Red Schoendienst managing the Cubs, it is just a crazy thought. Sandberg may be the second greatest Cub of all time behind Ernie Banks which would make it all the weirder to have him manage the Cardinals. But, the Cubs did interview Sandberg and gave the position to Mike Quade, which was a gigantic slap in the face to him. So, it might be a little payback for Sandberg to want to manage the Cardinals and stick it to the Cubs!
There are better options other than him:
The Cardinals might have a realistic shot at Joe Maddon who is in my mind the best manager in all of baseball and the best fit for the Cardinals. If the Rays give permission for the Cardinals to interview Maddon, forget about it he will be the Cardinals manager for 2012 and beyond. But, if the Rays deny there are still some great choices available like Terry Francona, Jim Riggleman, and even someone like Terry Pendleton. All of the above except for Pendleton have MLB experience at managing and Riggleman and Pendleton have ties with the organization while Maddon grew up loving the Cardinals. Sandberg on the other hand has no MLB experience, no ties to the organization and he was a Cub.
Though he is not my first choice, Sandberg could still be a quality big league manager. It would be fun to see the Cubs get stuck watching their legendary player managing for the Cardinals. Joe Maddon is still my first choice but if the Cardinals fail to work something out for Maddon or another more experienced manager, I would take Sandberg over Oquendo any day.