New skipper: Team has been 'lackadaisical'

Phils interim manager Ryne Sandberg (right) shares a laugh with Kevin Frandsen during batting practice. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Phils interim manager Ryne Sandberg (right) shares a laugh with Kevin Frandsen during batting practice. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Posted: August 18, 2013

Not known for his bluster, Ryne Sandberg was firm and refreshingly candid when introduced to the media on his first day as interim Phillies manager.

After replacing Charlie Manuel on Friday, Sandberg didn't waste much time in describing what has been ailing a stumbling Phillies team that now has a 5-20 mark since the all-star break after Friday's 4-0 loss to the Dodgers.

"I think there have been signs of lackadaisical play," Sandberg said in a news conference before Friday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park.

Sandberg said there needs to be a different energy level, and he said his priority over the last 42 games is to see the Phillies play with more enthusiasm.

He said he must "get the players re-interested in these games, remind them that they are meaningful games."

They certainly will be meaningful to Sandberg, who will be auditioning for the job.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. conceded that Sandberg could be the manager beyond this season, but said no decision has been made.

At least Sandberg won't alienate his players by suggesting they have been lackadaisical.

"It is true," pitcher Cole Hamels said. "I'm as guilty as everybody else is."

Then Hamels added: "We really have to focus a lot more in what we have to do out on the field, because we have to do it the right way. Charlie preached that, but we weren't doing it."

Second baseman Chase Utley was told of Sandberg's comments and asked if his hiring would be a wake-up call.

"I sure hope so," Utley said. "There needs to be a wake-up call."

Sandberg, who began his professional playing career with the Phillies before becoming a Hall of Fame second baseman with the Chicago Cubs, impressed his predecessor with his willingness to learn the craft of managing.

"He's a Hall of Fame player who went back to the minor leagues to manage. I think that's tremendous," Manuel said.

Sandberg became the second Hall of Famer to get his first major-league managerial job after his induction. The other was Ted Williams, with Washington, in 1969.

Before being hired this season as Manuel's third-base coach, Sandberg managed for six years in the minor leagues, including the last two for the Phillies' triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

"As far as going to the minor leagues and riding the buses for six years, it was very much time spent as far as preparing for this," said Sandberg, who was 439-409-1 as a minor-league manager.

"Starting from the bottom and working up - I did that as a player - and I know how I appreciated getting to the major-league level as a player."

So he sees a definite correlation.

"The struggles and everything I learned, I went through the same thing as a manager," he said. "There was a lot to be learned."

Before departing, Manuel praised his successor.

"I think that he'll be a real good manager," Manuel said.

Now it will be Sandberg's turn to attempt to revive a Phillies team that entered Friday with a 53-67 record, in line for its first sub-.500 season since it went 80-81 in 2002.

No matter how the Phillies fare in this last quarter of the season, their new manager plans to make one point loud and clear.

"As long as there's a baseball game, it's meaningful," Sandberg said. "That'll be the message."

Contact Marc Narducci

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