There is no nameplate outside Room 1.20.13 at Citizens Bank Park, the office space reserved for the Phillies manager. Ryne Sandberg is its interim tenant in a transition that will require more than three days. Sunday was better for the 53-year-old Hall of Famer; his Phillies actually scored.
Deciding how to evaluate Sandberg in this season’s twilight is one of the final conundrums of 2013. The Phillies stopped Los Angeles’ 10-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory gifted by two ninth-inning Hanley Ramirez errors. For one day, they basked in Sandberg’s accomplishment.
Sandberg is not guaranteed the job, but his promotion is probable. The Phillies have long admired his way with players, both veteran and young. Still, his interim post is a trap for immediate failure. What if the losing lingers and the Phillies drop behind Miami for last place?
Until Sunday, the Dodgers were 30-0 in their last 50 games when scoring first. Michael Young tapped what could have been an inning-ending double-play ball to Ramirez, who booted it. Casper Wells, who reached on an earlier Ramirez error, scored the winning run.
The Phillies sought a fresh start in Sandberg. Changing the manager did not alter the flawed roster, which contains 11 players who have spent time at triple A in 2013.
Beyond wins and losses, the Phillies will watch how he interacts with players, other coaches and the media. Sandberg, of course, has been a member of the staff all season and is familiar with much of the clubhouse.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said it is possible Sandberg is the sole candidate considered. The front office is “still talking about it internally.”
“We’re going to be as open minded as we can be,” Amaro said.
Arizona manager Kirk Gibson inherited a similar situation. He, too, was 53 when he became an interim manager with the Diamondbacks. Gibson was afforded more time; he managed the final 83 games of the 2010 season. His team won 94 games the next season.
“If you’re an interim guy, you’re kind of evaluating and preparing for if you do get the permanent job,” Gibson said. “Then you can communicate exactly what you see and what you think you should do, things like that. You can be more prepared to implement it.
“[Sandberg will] know the team better. He should know the system pretty good right now. He’s been in the minor leagues as well as the major leagues. I feel like it helped me. The more games you manage, the more comfort you kind of get.”
Sandberg was one of three managers in history to suffer shutout defeats in his first two games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Mike Redmond did it with Miami to start 2013 and it happened to Jack Chapman in 1876, when he managed the Louisville Grays during the first season of the National League.
The Phillies scored their first run Sunday for Sandberg in his 22d inning as manager. Darin Ruf smashed a 2-2 Ricky Nolasco change-up deep into the left-field stands for a solo homer. It was his eighth home run in 35 games.