PHILADELPHIA -- Ryne Sandberg and Ruben Amaro Jr. have been in baseball a long time, so both know how to play the game.
Anytime Sandberg has been asked about what he would like to see on next season's roster, the Phillies' interim manager gently reminds forgetful reporters he is not guaranteed a job beyond this season. General manager Amaro, meanwhile, is complimentary about Sandberg's job performance, but not too complimentary because he has not made any official decisions yet.
But a little more than three weeks since Sandberg replaced Charlie Manuel, it is safe to say he is the heavy favorite to earn the full-time job.
"He's done a great job," Roy Halladay said. "Unfortunately, I had a lot of manager changes in Toronto. He seemed to step in with more confidence than most of the guys I've had in the past, especially in the middle of the season. He stepped in and knew what he wanted to do right away. To me, that stands out a lot."
If there are any speed bumps ahead for Sandberg, it might be if somebody like Angels manager Mike Scioscia becomes available. He has a considerable pedigree and Philadelphia roots. If Amaro simply would feel more comfortable about his decision if he interviewed other candidates, possibilities include Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., Indians third-base coach Brad Mills and Braves first-base coach Terry Pendleton. Alomar has been a popular managerial candidate for years, and he is a former teammate of Amaro's in Cleveland in 1994-95. Mills worked with Terry Francona in Philadelphia and previously managed the Astros. It is well known Pendleton impressed Amaro when he interviewed for the job Manuel ultimately received in November 2004.
But Sandberg has made himself a formidable front-runner. The Phillies are 13-10 since he took the job. It is a nice turnaround, especially considering the Phillies were on a brutal 4-19 skid in Manuel's final days and are just 25th in baseball averaging 3.61 runs per game since.
But it isn't so much the record as it is Sandberg's way.
He has a vision about how he wants things to work, which has created structure in the clubhouse. There are things like the 3 p.m. report time for 7 p.m. games and the entire team standing on the field for the national anthem. But those things are just parts of the atmosphere he wants to create.
"There's definitely a way he wants to do things," Halladay said. "He's set a tone early, and my guess would be that's going to continue. He may even have more changes come Spring Training that he wants to see and that he wants to do. I think sometimes that can be a good thing, just to shake things up and make things different to where it's not the same everyday routine. But he definitely has a way he wants to do things. It's good that he's not afraid to do it the way he wants to do it. If you're going to do something, whatever job you do, you do it to the best of your ability and the way you want to do it and let everything take care of itself. I think he's done that."
"That way you keep everybody on the same page," Carlos Ruiz said. "Rules are rules. You have to follow them. That's big for the young kids and for the guys that have been around here for a long time, too. It's important to get yourself ready for the game. He tries to teach everybody to get yourself ready in that time [before the game]. Prepare yourself before you go out. That's a thing that can make a big difference."
If you want to find Sandberg before the game, it is tough to know where to look. He seems to constantly be on the move.
He works with a purpose. He expects his players to do the same.
Privately, players have said that is something they probably needed.
"I think guys have responded great to him," Kevin Frandsen said. "There's definitely a change as far as mentality. He's vocal with us. He's coming up and down the dugout and in the clubhouse. I feel like he's getting the vibe of what we're about as a team. He's in the cage, he's in the bullpen, he's watching. That's how he was in Lehigh. He had a very good gauge on how we were as a team. I feel guys are responding great to that.
"Does that mean our record is because of that? Who knows? But I know that his preparation, his way of being, his involvement in a lot of things has helped out quite a bit."
Sandberg has been vocal, too. Maybe not in front of the fans or media, but he has not been afraid to pull individual players aside and reinforce his expectations of them.
"I think anytime a manager has a resume as a player you have respect for that," Halladay said of Sandberg's Hall of Fame credentials. "I think really as players, the most respect comes when somebody establishes a way of doing things then holds you to it. Guys realize real quick that it's going to be done the way he wants it done."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com.