Surprise, surprise: The Phillies officially removed the interim label from Ryne Sandberg on Sunday and named him the club’s 52nd manager.
Sandberg signed a three-year deal through 2016 with a club option for 2017.
The Phils are 18-16 under Sandberg and it seems that the team has embraced the Hall of Famer’s changes and managing philosophy.
Here’s some of what Ruben Amaro Jr. and Sandberg had to say at today’s press conference.
"We are ecstatic as an organization to have Ryne Sandberg lead us on the field over the next several years and for the foreseeable future. I just sat down a couple minutes ago to let the players know and the energy in the room was extraordinary. I’m kind of excited about it frankly. This is a man who has worked his way through the minor leagues and he has unbelievable Hall of Fame credentials, but I think more importantly than that, he’s a very, very good baseball man. I think he’s going to carry us forward and do what’s necessary to put another ring on our finger and that’s really the goal to get back and be a world champion and I think we have a great start with Ryne Sandberg at the helm."
"Well, I’m ecstatic to say the least. I’ve worn a Phillies uniform before and in some ways it’s full circle for me. I’m looking forward to working with Ruben and the hard-working coaching staff that will be in place and the whole organization. I think it’s team work from top to bottom which gets it done. To be in this position, I’m thrilled with the opportunity. I’m also excited about the potential for next year with the core players we’ll have in place that will help lead the way, but also the young potential players that have shown the last month what they can do.
"I think it’s a bright future, I’m ecstatic about being here. I also want to introduce my wife Margaret. We’re a team off the field and I know that she’s the biggest Phillies fan around. We do it together and I’ve got great support and couldn’t be happier about this. This is a top-notch organization. I think the standards have been set on what the expectations are, especially the last nine or 10 years and that’s the goal is to get back to that, as Ruben said, as soon as possible.
"I think with this tough year that we had this year, I think some good things came out of it and that’s the experience of the younger players. I think that will kick in next year. In a lot of ways, it’s a dream job and it’s a dream come true and it’s a very exciting day for me."
How early in the process did you know Ryne was going to be the guy?
"As you know, we were deciding if Ryne was the right person for us. I think we had an inkling from his body of work and the work he did for us. We had to take into account a lot of the things that Ryne had done, not just with our organization, but when he was with the Cubs and his playing experience. It was very, very clear to me, right from the get go that the way he handled the transition during a very, very difficult period and having to take over for an icon of sorts in our Phillies history in Charlie, it was very, very difficult circumstances and I think he handled it very, very well. I think he handled the players well, the clubhouse very well. We kind of gave him free reign of what he needed to do and I really liked the instincts of how he handled things. As far as how early in the process, not until pretty recently did we decide that this was direction we wanted to go."
What was the energy like in the clubhouse?
"They used one of my key lines, ‘I see ya.’ I heard about 40 ‘I see ya’ [lines]. It’s one of the things I say. Some clapping. It was nice. I enjoy the ballplayers. I enjoy my players. I ask a lot of them and we work together. That goes a long way. I continue to do that. I want them to be the best players they can be and I want us to be the best team we can be."
Did you talk to players about the decision?
"Obviously we have to do our due diligence and observe. As far as observing the players and observing how they react, how they play, the level of play, did talk to some players about Ryne and some people who were close to Ryne and had a chance to be with them. Certainly we try to do our due diligence. We got very, very positive feedback, pretty much across the board on him. The players don’t make decisions for us. It’s not their job, but it’s also important to know and have a sense of how they feel about their direct report. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, but that wasn’t the deciding factor. The deciding factor was that we believe this is the right man for this job."
Expectations are going to change now. Can this team compete for a postseason berth next year?
"Well, that’s the goal. I think we have a very nice core of veteran players that will help lead the way, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, just to name a few. I think the bullpen has come a long way with the young arms this year in a growing year where that bullpen could actually be a bright spot next year, which could be a big help. Along with other decisions that have to be made and players to be talked about, I do like the fact the young players and how they’ve played and how they might fit in next year bringing energy and athleticism to the team. And with that combination the goal is to contend every year and to get to a World Series."