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Hey Cubs, So why not Ryne Sandberg?
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Columnist

Iowa Cubs manager Ryne Sandberg looks on before his team's baseball game against the Oklahoma City Redhawks Tuesday.


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Published: 7/22/2010 3:29 PM | Updated: 7/22/2010 6:38 PM

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Cubs general manager Jim Hendry gave a few hints the other day when he talked about what he wants in a new manager.

"At the end of the day, we want the best manager moving forward," Hendry said. "We'd like to be somebody that isn't a short-term guy. We're the Chicago Cubs. We're a big market.

"It's not going to be a two-week process. We'll leave no stones unturned. We'll evaluate people who have done it before, people who haven't done it before, people that are in house, and obviously people that work or have worked elsewhere. It'll just be a long process to get the right conclusion for the Chicago Cubs moving forward."

I don't know if not wanting a "short-term guy" rules out such "older" managers as Joe Torre or Bobby Cox, if either should express interest.

Hendry said Wednesday he has no front-runner in mind, and there's no reason not to believe him.

The one question Hendry is going to have to confront sooner or later is the Ryne Sandberg question.

The Hall of Fame Cub did what few people (including some in the Cubs family) thought he'd never do: ride the buses in the minor leagues to learn the craft of managing. By all accounts, including Hendry's, Sandberg has done a good job in stops at Peoria, Tennessee and Iowa.

Instead of looking at it from the angle of what Sandberg has done, let's look at what he hasn't done and see if that should necessarily disqualify him from consideration.

• Sandberg has not managed in the big leagues before. That shouldn't rule him out. The Cubs, and all teams, have hired plenty of managers who had years of big-league experience. Some were good. Some were terrible.

• Sandberg hasn't dealt with the media in a major market as a manager. Again, so what? Sandberg was hardly a media go-to guy in his playing days, but he seems to have opened up quite a bit in his minor-league managerial career.

He went on WMVP's "Waddle and Silvy" show Wednesday and proclaimed himself ready to manage in the big leagues, repeating much of what he told Daily Herald columnist Barry Rozner last week. I've seen inexperienced managers have a tough time dealing with the Chicago media - Terry Bevington and Bruce Kimm come to mind - but Sandberg was quiet as a player by his own choosing, and he spent enough time here to know what the media demands are all about.

• Sandberg isn't of the "new school" that makes use of advanced statistics. This we don't really know. If there has been any criticism of Sandberg as a manager (and I've not seen him work any games), it's that he'll often rely on "small ball" and give away outs with sacrifice bunts at odd times, something the stats analysts frown upon.

Truth be told, you're not going to hear many managers talk in sabermetric tongues, but a lot of them can reach the same destination in their own lingo. For example, current Cubs manager Lou Piniella was talking about how many baserunners per inning a pitcher allows. He didn't use the term "WHIP," (walks plus hits per innings pitched), but that's what he was talking about in different words.

• Sandberg hasn't handled big-league players and big-league egos. I'd think his Hall of Fame stature buys instant respect, and this week Sandberg did have an encounter with a big-league ego as he "welcomed" Carlos Zambrano to Iowa as Zambrano prepared for his rehab stint.

"I had a conversation with (Zambrano) when he got here Tuesday, and I told him he was joining a team that has something good going here," the Des Moines Register quoted Sandberg as saying. "We've got some good, young players, the future of the Cubs. I just asked him to join in and be part of the team and also get your work in and have some outings that will allow you to get back to the big leagues."

The Register also reported that Sandberg said he also asked Zambrano to set a good example for the Iowa players.

"I told him he could be an example to these players on how a major-leaguer goes about his business, and they can learn from him," Sandberg said. "He appreciated it and was all for it."

To me, that's how you handle a veteran: Let him know what's expected of him, and appeal to his sense of pride.

None of this is to say Sandberg automatically "deserves" the job or that he should be at the top of any shortlist.

Guys like Fredi Gonzalez, Bob Brenly and Alan Trammell deserve their audiences with Hendry and owner Tom Ricketts, if they want to pursue the job. Maybe one or all are better qualified than is Sandberg. And if Bobby Cox decides he wants to keep managing after he retires from the Braves, the Cubs would be nuts not to hear him out.

But Sandberg has gone out and done what he's supposed to do. Hendry and Ricketts owe him a lot more than a courtesy call.

Cubs scouting report

Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field

TV: Channel 9 Friday; Comcast SportsNet Saturday; ESPN Sunday

Radio: WGN 720-AM

Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Randy Wells (4-7) vs. Jeff Suppan (0-5) Friday at 1:20 p.m.; Tom Gorzelanny (5-5) vs. Blake Hawksworth (4-5) Saturday at 12:05 p.m.; Ryan Dempster (8-7) vs. Chris Carpenter (11-3) Sunday at 7:05 p.m.

At a glance: This is the Cardinals' second visit to Wrigley Field this season. St. Louis won two of three in late May, outscoring the Cubs 16-7. The Cards have been hot of late. They had won eight in a row and nine of 10 heading into Thursday. That enabled them to overtake the Reds for first place in the NL Central. Suppan is back with the Cardinals as a reclamation project after the Brewers let him go. Derrek Lee is 24-for-56 with 6 homers off Suppan. Aaron Miles, who was a bust with the Cubs last year, is back with the Cards, and he entered Thursday 16-for-45 (. 356). The Cardinals entered Thursday second in team ERA, at 3.28. The Cubs were eighth, at 4.05.