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A very good Sun-Times piece about Ryne Sandberg has been making the rounds since yesterday (it must have been fact-checked). The article discusses Sandberg’s managerial tenure in the Chicago Cubs’ minor leagues, the circumstances of his departure from the organization, and his transition to a job with the Phillies’ AAA affiliate.

The whole thing is worth a read, not only for the first-hand candor from Sandberg (he says that, after he was told he didn’t get the job, Chicago Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry told Sandberg that he “wasn’t even the third or fourth guy in line” for the Cubs’ managerial opening this year), but also for the quotes from Darwin Barney, who played under Sandberg in parts of three different seasons.

But, as I’m wont to do, I’m going to pick on one small part of the article, which really took me aback. On the subject of the conversation Sandberg had with Hendry regarding Sandberg’s future with the Cubs’ organization after he was not chosen as the manager, Sandberg was more pointed than he’s been in the past.

In short: Sandberg says he was not invited back as the manager of the AAA Iowa Cubs, whom he had just led to the best record in their division, winning yet another manager of the year award along the way.

“There was no other job offering [from the Cubs for 2011] other than, ‘We’d like you to come to spring training, hit a couple of fungoes and walk around’,” Sandberg said. “At that point, I knew it was time to move on.

“I said I was talking to somebody else that has an appealing job for me to stay on the path I’ve chosen.”

That somebody else was the Phillies. And the rest is history.

If, in fact, this is how things played out, I am surprised, angered, and saddened.

Sandberg had hinted in the past that he wasn’t welcomed back, though Hendry has denied it. I chose to believe that the issue was nuanced, and would remain obscured from our view, probably forever.

But there’s no nuance in what Sandberg is now saying. The Cubs told him he didn’t get the big league job, and then flipped him the bird in the form of a proposed demotion to a Spring Training instructor job.

People openly wondered why Sandberg would leave the Cubs for a lateral move. Do you still wonder?

To be sure, the decision not to hire Sandberg as the Major League team’s manager not only made sense at the time, but also, in retrospect, it was probably a good thing for his relationship with Cubs fans. Although Sandberg had accumulated four years of minor league experience, he still had no experience at the big league level – even as a coach. If Sandberg weren’t a Hall of Fame legend, would he even have been considered? How many big league managers get their job on the strength of a handful of (admittedly very good) minor league seasons? Telling, I think, is the fact that Sandberg was not asked to interview for any other big league jobs.

Combine that with the value of hindsight, which tells me that Sandberg could not have salvaged this mess, and it’s fair to conclude that his not getting the big league job was probably a good thing. Moreover, it remains not-entirely-implausible that the Chicago Cubs’ front office foresaw the coming disaster, and looked to spare Sandberg from being held up as a failure. I tend to think it is actually just a happy coincidence, but it sure does make for a nice narrative.

The decision not to make Sandberg a bench coach on the big club also made a great deal of sense. While you’d certainly like to get him that experience before installing him as manager, can you imagine the daily sniping in the media every time Quade made a bad decision? Can you imagine the awkwardness – if not infighting – in the clubhouse? You can’t have the legend Hall of Famer who was passed over for the job sitting next to the unpopular manager.

But the decision not to welcome Sandberg back to AAA Iowa with open arms is absolutely baffling. Yes, maybe Hendry believed Sandberg would say no. Maybe Hendry even had very good reason to believe Sandberg would say no. But Sandberg had been one of the most successful managers the minor league system has seen in a long time. That, if for no other reason, is why the Cubs should have tried like hell to hang onto him.

Minor league records are subject to the vagaries of promotions, developmental pitch selection, and rehab stints, but, in case you’re wondering, Sandberg’s Iron Pigs are in first place, 15 games over .500. Last year, they finished 28 games under.

Not only could Sandberg’s continued presence at AAA have improved the Cubs’ minor league prospects (and I mean that in both senses of the word) this year, it would have left him happily in line for a promotion when/if Quade was broomed.

Ryne Sandberg deserved better.

No, his status as a Chicago legend and a Cubs’ Hall of Famer shouldn’t have been a reason to give him the big league job. And it wasn’t. But it certainly should have been a reason to do everything in the organization’s power to keep him around. They might say that they did just that.

But I can’t help feeling like they all but packed his bags for him. And, as long as the current regime stays around, I think you can assume his bags will stay that way.

  • Internet Random

    “Ryne Sandberg deserved better.”

    That’s the long and short of it right there.

  • Sam

    Hate doesnt even begin to describe my attitude towards Hendry.

  • Fishin Phil

    Like you, I was happy he did not get the Cubs manager job, no good was going to come of that. I loved Sandberg as a player, and didn’t want to see impatient fans dragging his name through the mud.

    The decision not to at least offer him the return to AAA spot is horrible, and once again proves what idiots dwell in the front office of the Cubs.

    Perhaps someone should drill Hendry in the ribs with a fastball, I know it would improve my Chemistry.

  • Glenallen Hill’s One Home Run

    Man, that is just a punch in the gut (and, moments after I professed my hatred for the Sun-Times, it’s an admittedly great piece). Brett, what are your thoughts on the potential for Sandberg ever coming back? Do you think that if the Cubs fielded a decent team in the next few years that they’d ask him? More importantly, would he say yes?

    • Sam

      I think in order for Sandberg to come back Jim Hendry would have to be gone. But that being said I think that were he offered a job with the Cubs he would be calling the Phillies to let them know he was leaving their organization from the terminal in O’Hare.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      My guess is – and it’s nothing more than that – Sandberg would come back for a job on the big league team (manager or coach), but only after Hendry’s gone.

  • EQ

    They could have just said “Hey, Quade finished so strong next year and has put in so much time for this so bear with us, he’ll get his chance now, you’ll be next in line”.. how could Ryno not have understood that? instead JH just pushed him out the door? wow.. hope this isn’t all true and I surely hope that the next GM reaches out to one of our best players ever and at least makes him feel welcome back and wanted.

  • RY

    HENDRY SUCKS ASS, it is just that simple!

  • Larry

    Brett, excellent article. I couldn’t agree more.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Larry. I’m pleased with the way this one turned out. Feel free to tell your friends…

  • CubFan Paul

    And again Sandberg takes another jab at Ricketts:

    “Great communication. Family-oriented. Everyone in the organization feels part of what’s going on at the major-league level.”

    everytime someone speaks to Sandberg, he mentions “family oriented” ..i doesnt take a genius to know he’s pissed at Cricketts & family too

  • Polar Bear

    This was a nice piece. Great analysis too, Brett. Ryno would have had to endure a ton of mud-slinging if he was the manager this year. This team lacks exactly what Hendry showed he had none of by letting Ryno walk away…heart. His loyalty to “his” people is only trumped by the stupidity he shows everytime he lets his pride get in the way. Maybe in a few years (hopefully a couple of months), once JH is gone, they will welcome Ryno back and give him the opportunity that he will rightfully deserve.

    • hardtop

      I don’t know. I feel that true baseball fans, like most on BN, would not hold Ryne responsible for the bad hand he’d been dealt. Quade has cost this team at least a half dozen wins with terrible decisions or non-moves. He’s publicly criticized our best player (and worked him over in the dugout too), and mishandle pitchers and young players alike. That’s why Q’s on the shit list, not because the Cubs are losing. I think Ryne would have survived the situation, and we’d only probably be 14 games under 500 ;)

  • dreese

    That makes me so angry! Not only because of the way they treated Sandberg but also because it was such a bad idea to just banish him! Yes maybe the organization foresaw this train wreck of a season and didn’t want to destroy Ryno but at least hint this to him or something and KEEP HIM IN THE ORGANIZATION!

    “Hey Ryne listen, next year were gonna be God awful. So were gonna hire this scrub to run this team for 2 years until were ready to make a run again. We want you to lead that run in 2 years”

    GRR ANGER!

  • RoughRiider

    Bret, I’ve been a fan of Sandberg from the day they traded for him and always will be. I don’t think that he is ready to be a manager in the major leagues and needs to be a coach on a major league team for a couple of seasons at least. Your take on how things would have gone if Sandberg had been a coach with the Cubs was spot on. I don’t know how he could have gotten major league coaching experience with the Cubs under the circumstances. Sandberg would have been a great choice as manager of Iowa. He’s not just a manager but a teacher, something that the Cubs apparently are lacking in. However, I think he is better off being with another organization. I agree, under the circumstances as long as the current regime stays around he won’t be back with the Cubs. If what was reported is true, he did deserve better and shown more respect. I think there are probably half truths and misinterpretations on both sides. My hope is that he will get the experience that he needs and is one day back in the Cubs organization as a successful manager. But at this point I doubt that it will ever happen. But you never know. Most people thought that Ditka would never work for the Bears after he said “Halas throws nickels around like they are manhole covers”.

  • Internet Random

    - “Sandberg’s players wear their socks up. . . .”

    The way that God intended.

    - Barney about Sandberg: “I always felt Ryno had my back.”

    What are the chances that Castro says this about Quade?

  • John

    Like just about everyone here, I’ve been a Cubs fan since I could follow baseball….and the more I hear about this organization and how it is run, the more angry I get. Ryno deserved better but apparently the geniuses that put together this 60 win team didn’t think highly enough of him. Unbelievable.

  • RY

    Sandberg is a GOD! He speaks the truth and does things the right way as opposed to feeding us with bullshit and doing things the wrong way that q ball and fat boy are so good at!

  • Spencer

    Brett, do you think was more Hendry’s decision, Ricketts decision, or a combination of both? I ask because if Ricketts was heavily involved it doesn’t seem likely at all that Ryno will be back in the organization since Ricketts isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, unlike Hendry.

    • Ron

      I wonder that too but her are my thoughts for whatever that is worth. I think it is JH all the way and this is why. Ricketts didn’t come in and drop the ax on Hendry because he wanted to give him a chance and evaluate the system so he could make the right decision not a reactionary one (just a guess with nothing to back it up). I think this theory works with how the trade deadline played out also. Ricketts put Hendry on a short leash for two reasons, 1) He wants to give the next team the best chance for success without burning any bridges and 2) Hendry took a big steaming pile on “seller trades” last year. I think Ricketts is taking his time to make the right decision and not just to make a decision. At least that is what I am hoping.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I very much think it was a Hendry decision. The sense I got all along during the managerial search was that Hendry was being given carte blanche to choose “his guy.”

  • Deez

    Seroiusly? How Hard is it to do a better Job than Quade this year?
    Sandberg “developed” talent, Quade hasn’t & even going down w/ the Titanic doesn’t want too. Quade & Hendry are into self preservation mode, but do you really think the Cubs have any chance of getting any better w/ these dudes?
    Also, now, do we understand the importance of Larry Rothschild!? Mark Riggins is the silent partner in this debacle & deserves some blame. He makes Carlos Silva’s comments seem credible.
    The organization seems to have a defeatist attitude & it starts from the Top. Hendry’s death hold on our bottom tier veteran players during the trade deadline, Byrd’s comments after Holiday near ginsu-ed castro’s ankle.

  • Goat

    I love Ryno. He was my favorite Cub growing up and is my second favorite Cub of all time, right behind #10. That being said, i think he needs a job on a big league roster (not the Cubs) for a couple years before he’s given a mangers job. And the only way I think he should be brought back to the Cubs is either as a manager or some behind the scenes position. Having Ryno as anything other than manager on the Cubs’ bench every game is only going to create problems. I was not for him getting the job this year, and I dont think im for him getting the job next year, but I’m softening. The Cubs need a teacher and a more discipline/fundamentals based manger. I’m wondering if maybe Ryno is that guy.

    • MichiganGoat

      If us goats can multiple exponentially then soon this will be called Bleacher Goat. Muah ha ha.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Now is not the time for bold goats.

        • RoughRiider

          There are old goats and bold goats but there are no old, bold goats.

          • hardtop

            ive seen a gold boat.

          • MichiganGoat

            Bah, bah

  • MichiganGoat

    BEER, BEER, BEER it funny that although we are winning I’ve never been angrier with the Cubs than I have this week. Shitty trade deadline, the Holliday situation, and now this depressing news. Id rather talk about beer it at least make me happy. Think I’ll go the Founder’s tap room when the open later and try and forget all this bad news. Oh and if I see a Cardnial jersey and you read about a baseball related hate crime in Michigan you’ll know why.

    • Internet Random

      Now is the time for bold chemistry. And by “bold chemistry”, I mean “beer”.

  • Ron

    Good article, I don’t think Quade knows what a cub is.

  • Jeff

    Nice writeup, I read the article yesterday and couldn’t quite put my finger on what emotion I was feeling. Nostalgia, anger, frustration? Still not sure, but it looks like everyone else feels the same way.

    I am not naive enough to think that this team would be in the playoff hunt if Sandberg was manager. I do think they would have been markedly better. I know they wouldn’t be leading the league in errors, and that Ryno wouldn’t be throwing his guys under the bus. I really wish they had given him a role on the major league team, bench coach, third base coach, something. I just think his influence and CHEMISTRY with the young players and veterans alike would change the attitude of this team. I am not sure if he is ready for the majors, but his track record of developing guys and improving teams says to me that he deserves a shot, and I can’t imagine there being a more perfect fit for him, especially after this year.

    • Ron

      I couldn’t agree more.

  • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

    Good stuff (the article and your recap).

    I don’t fret too much- I could easily see the Ryno in our future. One, you’re right that this year would have been a bad fit for him. Two, he’s not getting worse as a manager each year.

    I can see the Cubs rebuilding while he gets better. Front office changes over the next few years. Suddenly, the Cubs have a team projected to win big and a new manager- Ryno! Could you imagine a bigger burst of energy and enthusiasm?

    Cubs, FTW!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Wait ’til next, next, next year!

      • RoughRiider

        Sadly, some of us won’t have a next, next, next year.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Don’t say that!

  • Mike Foster

    Yes, good article Bret. I agree with you about Sandberg being in the organization, and the ackwardness of him coaching under Quade. But those that think he should have gotten the manager job or ought to now are missing some of your good points. Where is Ryno’s experience that qualifies him for a major league managing position? He has zero in the Majors, let alone a market like Chicago. Yeah he played there, not the same. I hope his time to manage the Cubs does come, but not any sooner than he has REALLY earned it.

  • BFM

    I feel that Ryno got a raw deal on the Iowa job.

    And making him a bench coach alongside Quade would be a media nightmare.

    However, you don’t give a guy a big league manager job just because he was a good ballplayer or hall of famer.

    I loved Ryno as a player, but he isn’t a coach at the major league level.

    I think JH got it wrong by not offering him a job at the minor league level and should have kept him around.

    Very mixed feelings on this one!

  • auggie1955

    That was a great piece. I have to tell you Ace, I love your site. It’s the first thing I turn to in the morning. I don’t bother with the newspapers’ websites anymore; if something is up with the Cubs I know I’ll find it here.

    As far as Sandberg goes, now I’m even more ticked off that he wasn’t at least given the Iowa job. I think he could teach the young players how to play the game right. Even though he was quiet, Sandberg was a no nonsense type of guy. Why in the he!! is Hendry still GM???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, auggie. I really appreciate that.

  • MECubFan

    Just as Ryno couldn’t be a bench coach with Quade, I think JH thought Ryno couldn’t be part of the organization. If Ryno had any affiliation with the Cubs this year the calls for him to take over as manager would be deafening. JH hired the one guy that would be his lapdog and not stir the pot as JH tried to save his job.

    As for the Ricketts, I can’t be too hard on them yet. The organization they purchased, for all accounts, was/is a complete mess financially. My hope is that they are biding their time until the ridiculous contracts go away. JH is going to go down hard, eventually, and take MQ with him. In the meantime they have focused their resources on other areas i.e. the ballpark, minor league facilities, and minor league players.

    Sounds as though the Ricketts may not be able to wait much longer with the rumors about eating a lot of salary to be rid of those players/salaries.

    I think, ok hope, that Ryno’s day with the Cubs is imminent and that the Ricketts, being the Cubs fans they say they are, are sparing him from being apart of this mess.

  • Tony

    I think we all knew the organization missed a two foot putt when they gave Q the job…….

  • Steve

    Enough about Sandberg already. This topic has been beaten into the ground. He’s doing well. We can all be happy for him. Enough said.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      This has statements from Sandberg which reveal new information. That’s why it’s being discussed.

  • CubsFanatic

    Anyone for a tar and feathering of Hendry? Anyone?

  • Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Pence, Ubaldo, Rangers | Forex News

  • Pete

    I think he landed on his feet. When Charlie Manuel retires, he’s likely the first choice for the Phillies managerial post. Not a bad gig.

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