Life is tough these days for Ryne Sandberg. Â Sure, he’s still sitting on a pile of millions of dollars from his playing career, he make can thousands more whenever he wants just by virtue of the fact he gets to sign “HOF” next to his autograph (that does not stand for House of FrenchFries, though that seems like an awesome idea for a restaurant chain). Â He’s a Hall of Famer, a baseball legend, and, by all accounts one of the really nice people you’re ever going to meet.
So why is life so rough? Â Well, you see, Ryne Sandberg wants to be a big league manager. Â He wants to do it so badly that five years ago he called then Cubs general manager Jim Hendry’s bluff and took him up on an offer to manage the club’s class-A team in Peoria. Â That should have proven his dedication right there. Â Nobody moves to Peoria on purpose.
After a couple of years in Peoria, Sandberg moved up to the Cubs’ double-A club in Tennessee. Â To prove how serious he was at that job he learned to play the banjo. Â (I have no idea if that’s true, but it ought to be.) Â After one season there, Sandberg was sent to the Cubs triple-A affiliate in Des Moines. Â I have no idea what he did to be sent to Des Moines, but it must have been pretty bad. Â But Sandberg made chicken salad out of the chicken shit that covers Des Moines and won the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year Award. Â It’s a prestigious award, won by such luminaries as current (for now at least) Cubs bench coach Pat Listach and recently shitcanned Cubs manager Mike Quade. Â Clearly, winning the PCL Manager of the Year Award is the final step on anyone’s journey to greatness.
During that season in Iowa, then-Cubs manager Lou Piniella retired. Â Retired seems like an apt description. Â He was already tired of watching that awful 2010 play baseball and after a few days off to tend to his ailing mother he came back and got re-tired of it all over again and so he went home for good.
That opened the top spot, and Sandberg was in a perfect position to grab it. Â He’d put in the work. Â He’d (awful cliche alert!) paid his dues. Â It was his time.
Only one problem. Â Hendry didn’t hire him. Â He hired Quade. Â Sandberg was mad. Â Fans were engorged. Â (Engorged?) Â And Sandberg got his other dream job, that as the manager of the Phillies AAA Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
Quade flopped. Â Hendry got fired. Â The Cubs hired Theo Epstein to replace Hendry. Â Theo immediately called Sandberg! Â Oh happy day. Â Here was Ryne’s chance! Â Except the call went to voicemail, and Theo basically said:
Ryne Sandberg? Â This is Theo Epstein. Â I’m the new president of baseball operations for the Cubs and I wanted to call you and…tell you that we’re going to hire a manager who has either managed or coached in the big leagues, neither of which you’ve done. Â But hey, thanks for being a great player and all of that stuff. Â Good luck with the Iron Pigs.
Was Sandberg upset? Â He insists that this time he wasn’t. Â He understood what Theo was doing. Â The Cubs were going to need an experienced hand to guide them through the morass of rebuilding the organization from the bottom up. Â And hey, the Cardinals called and wanted to interview him. Â Ooh, if he got the Cardinals’ job he could really shove it up the Cubs’ asses couldn’t he?
He went to St. Louis and he interviewed for the job. Â The Cardinals told reporters that Sandberg was a great interview and he was a top candidate for any big league job. Â What that meant was, “We’re not hiring him.”
But Sandberg wasn’t upset about that either. Â Terry Francona interviewed for the Cardinals job. Â The guy who won two World Series with the Red Sox. Â You can’t argue with a resume like that.
Meanwhile, Theo was lining up guys to be the “experienced hand” to guide the Cubs, and none of them had ever been more than an interim big league manager.
The Cardinals made a decision and hired their new manager. Â They picked Mike Matheny. Â He’d never been a big league or minor league manager or coach.
The Cubs hired their new manager. Â They hired Dale Sveum. Â He had been a big league manager for three weeks in 2008 when he took over when Ned Yost turned purple with rage and frustration and incompetence as the Brewers were pissing away a sure fire playoff berth. Â Dale took over at Wrigley and lost three of four games to the Cubs. Â But he did manage to keep the Brewers from completely blowing their lead and he managed them in their four game loss to the Phillies in the NLDS. Â The Brewers were so impressed with Dale that they hired Ken Macha to manage the team. Â Then, with Dale still on the staff when they fired Ken Macha, they hired Ron Roenicke to manage.
So Sandberg lost out on the Cubs job to a guy the Brewers would only hire on a temp basis, and he lost the Cardinals job to a guy who had to retire because he’d suffered too many concussions as a player and who had spent the last few years blowing all of his money (and then some) on awful real estate investments.
You’d forgive Sandberg if he spent the last two weeks shouting, over and over again:
I WAS TOLD THERE WERE DUES TO PAY! WHAT ABOUT THE DUES? Â DID I FORGET TO SIGN ‘HOF’ ON THE CHECK?
He’s spent the last five years busting his ass and riding buses for what? Â So he could miss out on the exact same jobs that he was missing out before he decided to pay those illustrious dues?
It has to boggle his mind. Â He saw first hand that eventually baseball teams will hire ANYBODY to manage. Â Look at some of the geniuses he had to play for:
- Lee Elia
- Charlie Fox
- Two days of John Vukovich
- Gene Michael
- Frank Lucchesi
- Jim Lefebvre
- Tom Trebelhorn
- Jim Riggleman
- Jerry Manuel (Mets)
- Fredi Gonzalez (Marlins and Braves)
- Edwin Rodriguez (Marlins)
- Eighty year old Jack McKeon (Marlins)
- Manny Acta (Nationals and Indians)
- Jim Riggleman! (Mariners and Nationals)
- Mike Quade (Cubs)
- Dale Sveum (Cubs)
- Dusty Baker (Reds)
- Cecil Cooper (Astros)
- Dave Clark (Astros)
- Brad Mills (Astros)
- Ken Macha (Brewers)
- Ron Roenicke (Brewers)
- John Russell (Pirates)
- Clint Hurdle (Pirates)
- Mike Matheny (Cardinals)
- AJ Hinch (Diamondbacks)
- Kirk Gibson (Diamondbacks)
- Jim Tracy (Rockies)
- Joe Torre (Dodgers)
- Don Mattingly (Dodgers)
- Juan Samuel (Orioles)
- Buck Showalter (Orioles)
- Joe Girardi (Yankees)
- Cito Gaston (Blue Jays)
- John Farrell (Blue Jays)
- Robin Ventura (White Sox)
- Trey Hillman (Royals)
- Ned Yost (Royals)
- Bob Melvin (A’s)
- Don Wakamatsu (Mariners)
- Daren Brown (Mariners)
- Eric Wedge (Mariners)