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Sizing Up Sandberg: Dead man walking

 

Stick a fork in 'em...

Cole Hamels and Aaron Harang are both enjoying stellar seasons, and sub-3.00 ERAs, but have just a 9-10 combined record thus far.  It's easy to ignore the record because there are so many other analytical tools at our disposal.  Managers, of course, do not typically have the same luxury. Even a 12-year old skipper would have serious job security if the wins were piling up.  Which is why Ryne Sandberg is royally screwed.

Sandberg, who is under contract through next year, has led the Phillies to just three wins in the last 10 contests, and a 22-36 record overall.  That .379 win percentage is on pace to be the team's third-worst since 1946, and unless the Phils acquire-- free of charge--Mike Trout and/or ACTUAL angels in the outfield, chances of improvement seem slim.

From my viewpoint, it's silly to suppose that the Phillies will have a miraculous turnaround that salvages the jobs of Rhino and GM Ruben Amaro.  The talent just isn't there, and all eyes need to be focused on the distant future.  Amaro, who is under contract only through this season, would then seem to be the worst possible person to helm the team's front office, right?  Actually, clues from a September Philadelphia Inquirer interview by Matt Gelb of Phils President, Pat Gillick, may indicate that Amaro is no longer calling any shots at all.

When asked whether he had considered replacing either the manager or GM prior to this season, Gillick responded, "They're under contract... So right now, there's no thought to replacing either one."

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement. Also, at the time, Gillick's "right now" was at the tail end of last season, and I can only imagine his patience has grown increasingly thin since.  On roster moves, Gillick added, "I would say if it comes down to the end, I have part of the final say... if there are decisions that have to be made from a baseball standpoint, we're going to make those decisions."

Interesting the use of "we" here.  As it becomes increasingly clear that Amaro may not have a place with the team next season, it also seems perfectly logical to consider that Amaro might currently be little more than a figure head GM.  If the future does not include him, then he might might have lost his membership to the Phils' ever-exclusive Decision Makers Club.  So, where does that leave Sandberg?

Rhino was Amaro's guy, and there's that weird unwritten rule about managers and coaches in pro sports not going into their "lame duck" final contractual season, so he, too, seems to just be keeping the seat warm for a 2016 replacement.

I understand that Sandberg, like any manager, is going to make questionable moves through out the course of a 162-game season, but I wonder sometimes if he's fully engaged.  Just last week, he brought in LHP Elvis Araujo to face Giants left-handed hitters Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.  Lefty-on-lefty is the agreed upon rule in these situations, except Crawford had been hitting .436 against southpaws on the season-- and then got it up to .450 after knocking in a pivotal run in San Francisco's eventual 5-4 victory.

In personality and style, Rhino just seems gently robotic.  He's not a great strategist, not a hot-temper maniac, and seemingly not a particularly good motivator.  I don't know what's left.  If his thing is stressing fundamentals, explain this play last week, or this one the very next day.

What bothers me most is that he has yet to be ejected from a game this season.  I would have liked to see him curse out an umpire and get tossed, if only to prove he still cares.  Meanwhile, we've got a coach in Lehigh who is capable of going to zero-to-Bowa in 2 seconds flat.

So, if Ryne Sandberg doesn't want to throw himself out, the Phillies front office is going to have to do it for him.  I'm guessing it will ultimately, and probably at season's end, be Pat Gillick delivering that message.

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