If Ryne Sandberg keeps adding strength, there's no telling what he might do for the Chicago Cubs this season.
"Ryno" hit a then career-high 30 home runs in 1989 and topped that last season when he led the National League with 40."Nothing he does surprises me anymore," manager Don Zimmer said. "Thirty is a lot of home runs. Then he hits 40. What can I say. He's the best there is at his position. He's tough. I like to call him a quiet tough."
"Quiet" is putting it mildly because Sandberg is not very talkative.
"Not really," he grins. "What's there to say."
Let the numbers speak. He batted .306 last year and also led the league with 116 runs scored. He also reached the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career.
The numbers were more impressive than in 1984 when he was the NL MVP with a .314 average, 114 runs scored, 19 home runs and 84 RBI.
If the Cubs had won the pennant, would he have been the MVP again?
"Maybe," said Sandberg, who abandoned his singles-hitting style for power in 1984 at the suggestion of then manager Jim Frey, who is now the general manager.
"I became more aggressive offensively," he said.
But what about the home runs, 70 in the last two seasons that equaled his entire total for the four previous years?
"I started working with weights a few years ago and I've become stronger, adding strength each year," Sandberg said. "I've also improved as a hitter. It comes with maturity, learning how to hit, knowledge of the league and the pitchers. A lot goes with it."
Despite his outstanding hitting statistics, Sandberg is one of the best fielding second basemen in history.
He became the first second baseman in the NL to win eight straight Golden Glove awards.
From June 21, 1989, to May 17, 1990, he did not commit an error, handling 584 total chances. Down went Joe Morgan's record of 91 errorless games at second base; down went Jim Davenport's record of 97 errorless games by an infielder; down went Manny Trillo's record 479 errorless chances.
But probably the most amazing feat during his eight years as a second baseman are the mere 72 errors in 6,634 chances.