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Columnist
Cubs in awkward position
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 10/2/2010 7:56 PM

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As baseball's regular season ends today, Cubs management must be relieved that interim manager Mike Quade gives them an increasingly popular alternative to Ryne Sandberg.

For a while now general manager Jim Hendry has looked like he doesn't want to hire Sandberg as his manager.

One vision keeps rearing its odd head in my odd head: Hendry and club chairman Tom Ricketts knocking over lamps and furniture while seeking cover in Wrigley Field's front office.

"Look out," one of them yells, "there's an 800-pound Ryno in the room."

Seriously, it seems to me that Cubs management wouldn't mind if Sandberg withdrew from consideration the way broadcaster Bob Brenly did.

Candidates come, candidates go and Sandberg remains sort of a last resort ever since Hendry interviewed him for the job two weeks ago.

Sandberg is a Hall of Famer whom Cubs fans appreciate for what he provided them as a player. A public backlash might occur if he isn't named manager.

Of course, that might be overstated, depending on who else would get the job. For every fan who prefers Sandberg, two might prefer Quade now and three might prefer Yankees manager Joe Girardi if he becomes available.

Heck, there might even be a few Eric Wedge and Bob Melvin groupies out there.

Still, Hendry and Ricketts have to be careful not to look like they're tarnishing Sandberg's legacy.

So the dangling question is whether the Cubs' decision-makers consider Sandberg a genuine candidate or a general nuisance.

The rest of us can speculate all we want, but the truth is we don't know what we're talking about. Hendry and Ricketts are the only ones who do and they aren't talking much on the subject.

So here's a guess, merely a guess: The Cubs' search party would like Sandberg to just go away because they doubt he's ready to be a manager in the major leagues after four years in minor-league dugouts.

Sandberg's supporters think that's enough time, but managers often spend much longer in the minors, then a couple years as a third-base coach in the majors, then a couple as a bench coach ... all of it split among several different organizations.

Nothing is simple for the Cubs and one of the current complexities is their timetable. Hendry reportedly won't settle on a manager until late October or early November, and perhaps a dozen other teams will jockey for managers during that time.

Timing will be important in the game of musical managers for both the Cubs and Sandberg.

In my "800-pound Ryno in the room" theory, the Cubs might hope a team like the Blue Jays, Mariners or Brewers decides sooner than later that Sandberg is their guy.

Would Sandberg accept or hold out for his dream job in Chicago? Waiting out the Cubs would be risky because he could be shut out entirely.

Consider another scenario: No other team offers Sandberg a job. Would the Cubs dare hire somebody in this major market, even a club icon, that nobody else in even a small market believed was ready?

Maybe the Cubs would if his name is Mike Quade and he just had a nice run to finish the season as interim manager.

Anyway, Sandberg sure does appear to confuse the issue for a franchise that always has been easily confused.

mimrem@dailyherald.com