As expected, the Grand Old Man of the AL Central is leaving the Kansas City Royals on his own term, if not the top of his game.
The Royals announced that Ned Yost will retire at the end of this season, which is his 10th in Kansas City. The Royals have already lost 100 games this year for their second consecutive season with triple-digit losses. The good news is that Yost secured his legacy in Kansas City a long time ago.
“With the development of our young players and our returning veterans, I feel and hope the worst is behind us in this rebuilding phase of our organization,” Yost said in a team release. “My plan all along was to get us through the rough times, then turn it over to a new manager to bring us the rest of the way. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here as your manager and will never forget the good and the hard times we had together as an organization and a fanbase.”
Yost’s career with the Royals will be damned hard to duplicate. He quickly became a punching bag due to his old-school defenses of decisions numbers (and logic) didn’t support, but his preferences meshed well with the talent in Kansas City (contact, speed, defense), and by evolving in small ways, he didn’t get in the way of the Royals’ ascension. They won 22 postseason games from 2014 to 2015, falling a game short of the World Series in the first of those years before reaching the peak.
Yost took over for Trey Hillman 35 games into the 2010 season. His first series was against the White Sox, and the Royals took two of three, setting the template for many of the seasons ahead. Yost had a 106-78 career lifetime record against the Sox, and even during a 100-loss season, the Royals managed to take this year’s season series, 10-9.
As for Yost’s replacement, Bob Nightengale set Royals Twitter ablaze with a tweet:
The Royals hired Mike Matheny as a special advisor last year, which is the way organizations have hired managers in advance. The White Sox did it with Robin Ventura, the Angels with Brad Ausmus, the Brewers with Craig Counsell. Hell, that’s how Yost got his job with the Royals.
But Matheny has more baggage than any of them. It’s not just a performance thing, because sometimes managers need to get fired once in order to adapt. Yost needed a couple brushes with baseball doom, including the wackadoo wild card game with Oakland in 2014, in order to break down some of the rigidity that made him a punch line.
No, Matheny was a more toxic kind of terrible in St. Louis. The clubhouse degenerated under his watch, and the last straw arrived when The Athletic published a story about Matheny giving Bud Norris his blessing to perpetuate a cycle of abuse of younger players.
Much like I felt about the Tigers hiring Ron Gardenhire to oversee their rebuild, I’d have zero issue if the Royals ignored the storylines that unfolded in close proximity by hiring Matheny. The Royals have thus far denied Nightengale’s report:
We’ll see whether it’s Nightengale cloaking bad info with the passive voice, or whether the Royals just don’t want to mar Yost’s farewell with a hire that will prove to be immediately unpopular.
Does Yost now cede the title of Most AL Central Manager to Gardenhire, or did he already hold that title before this announcement?
Gardenhire already had it, by virtue of managing two Central teams.
I always thought Yost was unfairly criticized by the media and fans. If not for Bumgarner’s Sandy Koufax-like performance in the 2014 World Series, he would have led KC to two consecutive championships. Yet, people always suggest his teams won in spite of him. He also got a raw deal in Milwaukee.
I do know this: He always seemed to manage well against the White Sox, this year being yet another example of it. And, try as I might, I can’t forget all the times he ran rings around Ventura and stole victory after victory from us in the late innings earlier in this decade.
Yost put Escobar’s .297 OBP in the leadoff slot 131 times in 2015.
Now, the fact they won 95 games and a championship that year might cause one to reconsider whether it really matters if the most PAs go to someone who makes an out 70% of the time. Or we could just agree that there are probably a lot of ways the Royals won in spite of Yost.
I think it is impossible for a team to go 107-72 (and exceed their regular season Pythagorean projection) with a manager who made a lot of bad decisions. Do you really think they would have won 100+ games in the regular season or swept their playoff series with a different manager? Rather than try to make the argument that the Royals “won in spite of Yost”, why don’t we just agree that while he made some quantifiably incorrect decisions – like virtually every manager – on balance he did a good job. Otherwise, you’re basically arguing that the only thing a manager can do is screw things up.
Yup. A good manager is just a button pusher that keeps things ticking over. Ned Yost is not much of a button pusher, but he does keeps things ticking over.
True as far as in-game strategy and tactics go.
Most of a manager’s value added is like an iceberg: out of sight.
Jim already documented having a good bullpen is 1 weird hack to exceed Pythagorean projections.
Baseball is played by human beings, not robots. For all we know, Escobar might have batted leadoff because nobody else on that roster wanted to hit first or didn’t feel comfortable in that role. Looking back at the stats, Cain might have been the obvious choice now, but if Cain didn’t want to hit leadoff, it probably was best that Yost didn’t force him to do that. That’s what a good manager sometimes has to do.
No matter what, Yost exceeded the projected regular-season win total by five that year, so he obviously did a lot of things right. Plus, nobody else this decade came as close as the Royals did to winning back-to-back World Series titles. for comparison’s sake, I don’t know if our current rebuild will even have us getting to a World Series, let alone winning one and having a one-run Game 7 loss in another.
If Yost said “I’m retiring unless the white Sox will hire me” would you be excited about the prospect of him managing your favorite team? I certainly wouldn’t be (not that I’m excited about Renteria).
Considering he’s outmanaged Ventura and Renteria in our head-to-head meetings over the years, yes, I’d take him. He’s also proven that, when he has a talented roster, he can win get to consecutive World Series, and win one. How many managers out there can claim that?
It’s odd how Yost gets criticized so much, but Alex Cora couldn’t even get the Red Sox back to the playoffs after winning a World title. Dave Roberts hasn’t been able to win a World Series with the Dodgers’ talent and big payroll. A.J. Hinch wasn’t able to get back to the Series after winning it in 2017. Maddon hasn’t been able to get back to the Series after winning in 2016. No one else has done what Yost did this decade over a two-year span.
There’s a lot of luck involved in both making the postseason and winning playoff series.
The same Lorenzo Cain who disliked batting leadoff so much he produced a .300/.333/.550 line in 21 games the year before? The one who signed as a free agent with the Brewers who frequently batted him leadoff? That’s some tenuous armchair psychoanalysis.
Anyway, no, Gordon probably should’ve batted leadoff when healthy, as he did when Escobar got hurt at the end of the season. But literally almost anyone would’ve been a better choice. Escobar was the worst leadoff hitter in baseball and 1 of the worst hitters in that lineup.
I thought the same about all the criticism that was thrown his way . The fact that he had a Bumgarner miracle deprive him of a WS championship and then manage the same small market team to a championship next year quashes most of the diatribes that have been thrown at him. Has any other “elite manager” of the past 25 years accomplished a similar feat. Nope
That has very very little to do with him, and everything to do with the players.
I complain a lot about Renteria, but I would be livid if the Sox hired Mike Matheny.
Maybe the Sox should hire Mike Scioscia as special advisor.
good lord Mike Matheny. is there a more guaranteed affirmative action career field than being a MLB manager? how many dredges get rehired as managers, or at worst, bench coach/third base coach.