Many baseball analysts will submit that managers have only a minor impact on the fortunes of a team during a 162 game season. That might be true when factoring the direct affects of tactical decisions such as whether or not to hit and run, bunt, steal, when to yank your starter, which reliever to use and in what situation, batting order, lineup, and the like (although I wouldn’t bet on it). But an area where managers indisputably have a significant influence is the atmosphere of the club, and self-confidence of the players. And from where I’m sitting and watching, the Royals look like a different ball club since Ned Yost took over. In a good way.
Of course, it’s what I want to believe. And as a committed Royals fan (who probably should be committed), I am the most biased of observers. But I sincerely believe that Trey Hillman was messing with our mojo. From the beginning, he never looked natural and relaxed. Everything felt forced and guarded. The stupid nicknames. The ridiculous over-reliance on tired clichés. And it seemed like almost every tactical decision he made turned out badly. The players played tight, and made a ton of fundamental mistakes. I know they will still fail to make a lot of routine plays — we have a lousy defense, especially infield — but now it feels like they will somehow find a way to overcome their mistakes, and win. Maybe it’s as simple as this: Ned Yost seems like he belongs in a big league manager’s uniform. Trey Hillman did not.
Everyone knows that self-confidence is a huge factor in success as a major league baseball player. We’ve all seen what happens to players who once had it, then lose it. Not pretty. A lot of what happens on the field is determined by what’s going on between the ears. And even though the Yost impact may eventually prove to be but a mirage, it sure feels different to me.
When you combine the current trend (albeit in a tiny sample size) of the big league team, and the performances of many of our key minor league prospects, there are some legitimate reasons for Royals fans to be hopeful right now. And that feels pretty good for a change.