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Writers Roundtable: Sandberg Over-Managing?

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Question: Many fans openly questioned Ryne Sandberg’s handling of the bullpen and the lineup in the first week of the season; is there anything he did that causes you concern? Anything he did you think was a smart move early in the season?

Don McGettigan (@DonM409): I am still baffled by the infield alignment in Jonathan Papelbon’s blown save in Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers. One out, runners on 1st and 3rd, there is no reason that the middle infield shouldn’t be at double-play depth. I’m not really a Papelbon fan to begin with, and I’m far from a Papelbon defender, but the defensive alignment could’ve helped win that game. I think this was an example of Sandberg over-managing.

Pat Egan (@Pat_Egan): I don’t have a problem with anything he’s done. I actually like that he’s shifted the lineup around. Charlie Manuel had a tendency to stay TOO loyal to guys (Ryan Howard always batting cleanup since ‘08 is an example). By shifting him out, batting him 5th, it sends the message that this is a new team and Sandberg has no ties to these players. The same goes with the bullpen. I don’t mind how he’s handled it because I generally think he wants to see how these guys handle certain situations. It’s somewhat harder to evaluate guys in meaningless games in March, than meaningful situations in April. In Sandberg we trust.

Kenny Ayres (@KennyAyres8): I have no problem with the lineups. It’s not like he is switching things around just for the sake of switching things around. He put in some righties against left-handed pitchers and experimented with some things when Jimmy Rollins was at home. It is early, and he will settle into a more routine lineup when he sees how guys will perform (i.e. leaving Rollins at two, or maybe putting Carlos Ruiz two).

I don’t really have problem with the bullpen use either. It was a bit strange in that Texas series when he put Mario Hollands in and didn’t use any righties those first two games, but aside from that it’s the same type of thing as the lineup- he is seeing what he has in certain situations.

Jon Nisula (@JNisula): I think it’s a bit early to get too concerned with any of his decisions. However, he has definitely made some questionable decisions, such as saving his closer in a tie game on the road. This is quite common in MLB, but I’d still like to see him, or anyone for that matter, break the chain. Defined bullpen rules, in my opinion, should be a thing of the past.
As for good things, I like how he’s not afraid to use the younger guys in big situations. Throwing Mario Hollands in a tough situation in his first MLB appearance could do great things for the young lefty. Of course, it could also hurt his confidence, but that’s a risk that Ryno is taking, and I approve.

Eric Seidman (@EricSeidman): I think Sandberg has shown that he will do what he can to eke out value given the flaws of this roster. However, he has seemingly over-managed through the first week. It will settle down and then we’ll see how he handles different situations but he has been more out-of-the-box, let’s say, than I expected.

Pat Gallen (@PatGallen_975): At the time, during the Texas series mostly, I was obviously upset with the way the bullpen was handled. But as I stepped back to think about it, Sandberg doesn’t know what he has. This is all part of the learning process and sometimes there will be ugly moments. Just look at it as part of the job.

Other than the early bullpen flubs, I’m stoked about what I see. I like that Ryne plays the percentages and is trying to put guys in a better position to succeed. Not to rip Charlie, because he’ll always hold a special place in my heart, but these older players are not 162-game players anymore. They need considerably more rest and Sandberg isn’t afraid to do it.

Ian Riccaboni (@IanRiccaboni): Count me as one of the many that overreacted to the Game 2 loss. I didn’t see the forest from the trees and here’s a couple things I have realized since then: Ryne Sandberg probably knows reasonably well what he has in everyone but Mario Hollands and may have wanted to see if BJ Rosenberg could finally make the jump. Even though all of the games count for the same W or L no matter what time of year they are played, upon further review, I like Sandberg’s aggressiveness at giving the other ‘pen guys a shot. Especially considering two, possibly three, of them will have to go in the near future when a fifth starter is needed and Mike Adams and Cole Hamels return.

What I really liked most, however, was Sandberg’s willingness to play percentages and go for the better match-up. Like in blackjack, you won’t win every hand, but playing the best move every time out gives you a better chance to win. Sandberg showed a nice ability to manipulate the line-up, particularly in Game 2 when he got unexpected contributions from Cesar Hernandez.

Alex Lee (@AlexLeeTSR): If nothing else, Sandberg has made it clear that roles won’t be determined this year by a player’s tenure in Philadelphia or the size of his paycheck. And I’m all for it. This team isn’t talented enough to overcome managerial shortsightedness, and it sounds like he realizes that. If Ryan Howard can’t hit lefties, move him down in the lineup. If Jonathan Papelbon can’t get anyone out, insert someone into high leverage situations who can (fingers crossed). And so forth. The sooner everyone in this organization realizes it’s not 2008 anymore, the sooner Philadelphia will have a contender again. It appears that the manager is on board. Let’s hope the front office is taking notes.

Martin Shnayder (@MartyTempleU): In terms of the bullpen, I am on the fence with Sandberg. Like many, I overreacted during the first series when he threw Mario Hollands out there in the fire for his first major league appearance. However, what I and many other fans were not thinking was that Sandberg is like the rest of us, he still doesn’t know what he has with his bullpen. The only way for him to find that out is by trying different guys in different spots. My only major complaint was waiting so long to get Brad Lincoln some action. I would have liked it if every reliever was able to see some action in the first series.

Sandberg has been excellent with the lineup in my eyes. I specifically like his willingness to bat Howard out of the cleanup spot as well as Chooch in the two-hole. I agree with others who said who Charlie was too loyal to his players. Charlie was a great manager, but once the team stopped producing he was too stubborn to really change much with the lineup. Sandberg has shown that he will send the best lineup possible out there based on the matchup.

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