Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg has moved onto the Philadelphia Phillies system, but the is gone but the up-and-coming minor league manager is far from forgotten by Chicago Cubs fans.
All Cubs fans have to do is look at the current North Siders’ roster and they would see just how big Sandberg’s impact had already been after four years managing in the Cubs minor league system.
Despite never having managed in his career, Sandberg originally had hoped of replacing the out-going Dusty Baker in 2006 when Cubs management decided instead to bring in Lou Pinella. At the same time, they told Sandberg to serve his time in the minor leagues and he would then be considered for the big league job.
Sandberg swallowed his Hall of Fame pride and rode busses for one season with Cubs’ Single-A club Peoria Chiefs for the 2007 season. He was promoted the next season to the Cubs’ Double-A team, the Tennessee Smokies.
Then in 2010 Sandberg made the next jump to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs – just one step from The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. Sandberg led Iowa to within one game of the playoffs and was named the Pacific Coast League’s Manager of the Year in 2010.
But when Jim Hendry was deciding on who would replace Pinella, the Cubs general manager picked Mike Quade, who had served as Cubs interim manager at the end of the 2010 season when Pinella left the team for family reasons and guided them to a 24-13 record with a group of young and refreshing Cubs talent.
Hendry overlooked Sandberg and even had preferred Eric Wedge over the Cubs icon – a move that did not sit well with ‘Ryno’, who had done everything management had asked.
Instead, the Cubs offered Sandberg a spot back at Triple-A. And Sandberg did not see good perspectives as Quade was given a two-year contract.
The problem is that Quade’s late season run was with a number of players that Sandberg had molded over his years in Peoria, Tennessee and Iowa.
And even more of Sandberg’s players have made the jump to the big leagues – albeit because of a series of injuries to other Chicago players.
Both of the Cubs’ young promising middle infielders – Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney – learned under the tutelage of the Hall of Famer as did outfielder Tyler Colvin.
Castro was just 18 years old when he played for Sandberg at Tennessee in 2009. And Barney benefited from the legendary second baseman’s advice already back in Peoria in 2007 as a 21-year-old and then in 2009 in Tennessee and last season at Iowa. Colvin meanwhile played for ‘Ryno’ in 2009 at Tennessee.
A number of other players from the 2010 Iowa Cubs side have since played a strong role this season.
Outfielder Tony Campana has used his speed to cause some real problems for the opponents after playing for Sandberg last season.
But it’s not just position players who are moving into the Cubs upper ranks. Left-handed pitcher James Russell took instructions from Sandberg in 2007, 2009 and 2010. Casey Coleman was with him in 2009 and 2010 while Scott Maine played for Iowa last season.
A number of fine talents are still in the pipeline for the Cubs – among them Josh Vitters Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt and Chris Carpenter.
With all of those young players knocking on the door to Wrigley Field, a new kind of spirit of Ryne Sandberg will long live in The Friendly Confines – even if the legendary number 23 will not be there himself.