In the news:
Phillies shake up coaching staff, name Ryne Sandberg as third-base coach
Ryne Sandberg is the new third-base coach for the Phillies and could be in line to be manager when 68-year-old Charlie Manuel steps down.
The Phillies were one of many teams to shake up their coaching staff in the wake of a disappointing season.
But there's an interesting angle to their decision to fire bench coach Pete Mackanin, first-base coach Sam Perlozzo and hitting coach Greg Gross.
The Phillies promoted Ryne Sandberg, their Class AAA manager with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, to be the new third-base coach. And, most people agree, Sandberg now becomes the heir apparent to be the Phillies' manager when 68-year-old Charlie Manuel steps down.
Sandberg, a Hall of Famer from Spokane, has long been knocking on the door of a major-league managerial post. The Cubs — his team for the bulk of his playing career — had a couple of opportunities to hire him, but didn't. Now Sandberg is next in line with his original organization, the Phillies, who will forever regret the 1982 trade that sent him to Chicago for Ivan DeJesus.
That changing of the guard could come as soon as 2014. Manuel's contract is up after next year, and there are signs he'd be content to walk away at age 70.
"I have a contract, and it's good," he told reporters. "I'll get caught up in the fact that I love baseball and how determined I am to see us play better. That won't be a problem at all. I think any problem that comes up we can handle it. I like everything about Ryne Sandberg.
"I know how old I am. My favorite saying is, 'Know thyself.' I still have passion and drive. My contract is fine. At the end of the year I'll sit down and take inventory of myself and talk to people and see where I am. I'm not saying I'm going to quit."
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro says no deal has been cut with Sandberg and that the team would allow him to interview with other clubs next year.
"Obviously, that's the sexy thing to think about," he said. "But the fact of the matter is he's not the heir apparent. We've made no promises to Ryne Sandberg."
P.S.: There are rumors that former Mariner Mike Sweeney is a candidate (along with Matt Stairs) to be an assistant to the Phillies' new hitting coach — Steve Henderson, another former Mariner.
Notes and quotes
• Mark Reynolds' strikeout record is safe — with help from Robin Ventura. Adam Dunn of the White Sox finished with 222 strikeouts, one behind Reynolds' 2009 major-league record with Arizona. Ventura, the White Sox manager, made sure Dunn — who had 10 whiffs in his last four games — would not get the record by sitting him for the final game.
• Justin Verlander commemorated the Triple Crown of teammate Miguel Cabrera by getting him an inscribed watch. Verlander bestowed the gift during the season finale Wednesday when both players were in an almost-empty clubhouse.
"It says, 'Congratulations Miguel Cabrera, 2012 A.L. Triple Crown,' on the back of it," Verlander told The Detroit Free Press. "I had the idea, and I asked a couple of guys whether it should be a team thing or from me personally. Prince (Fielder) said, 'It might be special just from you.' "
How did it feel for the Cy Young and MVP Award winner to be the one giving a gift?
"It feels great," Verlander said. "At Christmas time, some people like to give gifts more than they like to get them. Just to see him smile and be really appreciative. ... We've been playing together for years now, and it's kind of a special moment between two guys who are friends and teammates."
• One day a year, at least, journeyman Dan Johnson shines — and that day is Game 162.
In last year's finale, Johnson was a hero of the Rays' playoff-clinching win over the Yankees, hitting a two-out, two-strike homer in the ninth inning off Cory Wade that took the game into extra innings. The Rays won on Evan Longoria's homer in the 12th to knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs.
Now Johnson is with the White Sox after being left off Tampa Bay's playoff roster last year, and then being taken off their 40-man roster. He spent most of the year with Class AAA Charlotte, hitting 28 homers.
And then, in the White Sox's final game in Cleveland, Johnson, who was called up in September, belted three home runs.
• This will depress Indians fans: Despite finishing 68-94, they spent more time in first place in the AL Central (38 days) than the Tigers (34 days).