Much has happened to Ryne Sandberg since I wrote about him in last year's spring-training countdown.
Last year, I said about Sandberg:
In a way, I feel sorry for him having been named manager of the Phillies at a time when their playoff core of 2007-11 was in decline. Their general manager's abilities have been widely mocked and he doesn't seem like the guy who will help rebuild their team. The likely endgame for Ryno as Phillies manager is to be fired in a couple of years.
It didn't even take "a couple of years," and Sandberg wasn't fired, he quit.
What happened? It seems to me that Sandberg, who was widely praised for his work with young players as a manager in the Cubs farm system, was the worst possible fit for a team of veterans in decline. Placed in charge of a team that had fallen from 102 wins in 2011 to 81 in 2012 to 14 games under .500 at the time of his hire, Sandberg managed the 2013 Phillies well enough to receive a three-year deal that would have run through this season.
Sandberg's "play the game the right way" speech in Cooperstown in 2005 should have been a heads-up as to what kind of manager he'd be. His style was very "old school" and the veterans on the declining Phillies didn't take kindly to that. Some of his in-game decisions were odd and things finally came to a head last June 16 when outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who had been given an inning to pitch in a blowout, was forced to throw a second inning because the bullpen phone was off the hook.
Ryno's resignation came just a week later. You can see why he might have been fed up with the dysfunction that the Phillies had become.
Would he have done better with a younger team, a team similar to the guys he managed in the Cubs system? Maybe, but it's also possible that Ryno's temperament wasn't suited to manage players the way baseball exists in the 2010s.
He's now returned to the Cubs and as noted by Tom Ricketts at the Cubs Convention, his duties as "ambassador" will include "golf outings and handshaking" as well as possibly working at spring training as an instructor.
Sandberg, I think, does have something to offer Cubs minor leaguers. As noted, he worked well with them in the system only a few years ago. Spring training or being a roving instructor could suit him, and the organization, well.
I'm glad he's back in the fold.