Darwin Barney had a theory that Ryne Sandberg needed to get away from the Cubs if he wanted a real shot at managing in the big leagues, that it could be the best thing to happen to the next phase of his career.
The Philadelphia Phillies finally made it happen for Sandberg on Sunday, taking off the interim label and giving him a three-year contract with a club option for 2017. It was the full-circle moment some Cubs fans dreamed about.
“In the Cubs organization, he was always ‘Ryne Sandberg, Hall of Fame and Gold Glove second baseman,’” Barney said after hearing the news. “He was always looked at as a player and what he did for his career.
“For a guy like him to leave this organization, I’m sure it wasn’t the best thing that he wanted. (But) going somewhere else, now you’re looked at as a manager and (how) you’re doing currently in your job. That perspective is good. That’s kind of a big deal.”
The Phillies named Sandberg their 52nd manager in franchise history, hoping the kid they once selected in the 20th round of the 1978 draft — and traded to the Cubs in 1982 — can help keep an aging core together while also developing the next generation.
The Phillies are a win-now organization, waiting to cash in with their next television deal and trying to sell out Citizens Bank Park night after night. They had gone 18-16 since Charlie Manuel got fired and Sandberg was named interim manager on Aug. 16.
“It’s hard to say how successful anyone’s going to be, but they seem to be doing well under him and responding,” Barney said. “I always had confidence in his ability to manage at this level. It’s nice they did that before the season’s over and kind of let him get comfortable and start thinking about the future. I think a lot of us that played for him are going to be happy for him.”
A natural shortstop, Barney credited Sandberg for helping him learn how to play second base at Triple-A Iowa in 2010, when Starlin Castro made the leap from Double-A Tennessee and established himself on the North Side. Last year Barney became the first Cubs second baseman to win a Gold Glove since Sandberg collected his ninth in 1991.
Sandberg didn’t blow away former general manager Jim Hendry or current team president Theo Epstein and got passed over when Lou Piniella retired and Mike Quade got fired. Cubs manager Dale Sveum is already answering questions about his job security near the end of his second season.
Around the Phillies, comparisons are made to Mike Schmidt, another franchise icon who had enough in one season managing Class-A Clearwater in 2004.
“I don’t know of too many Hall of Famers who went to the minor leagues for six years and worked their way up,” Sandberg told reporters in Philadelphia. “I thought it was necessary. It was also the only job that was offered, and that had something to do with it.
“As it turns out, it was the right path. (My wife) Margaret and I had a blast doing it, riding the buses, staying in the motels, being with 18- and 19-year-olds who were just out of high school or college and teaching them how to be professionals. So that has gone a long way with what I do today.”
And so Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary season will open on April 4, 2014, with Sandberg in the visiting dugout wearing a Phillies uniform.