According to comments from Ned Yost and Dayton Moore, the two have not discussed a contract extension for the Royals manager.
Yost told Bob Dutton that it hasn’t been discussed and that there hasn’t been time – the implication that the Royals scratching and clawing to stay within range of the wild card is paramount in his mind. And it should be.
But Yost’s contract is up after this month, so one would think that they’d look to have that detail resolved going into next season. Dayton Moore offered the explanation that the team doesn’t want to discuss those things during the season. That didn’t prevent Moore from extending Yost back in July 2010 in the middle of the season, though.
There’s a theory going around that Yost won’t return, instead stepping back into the advisory role he had maintained prior to succeeding Trey Hillman in May 2010. Yost has had a reputation of being good at working with younger players, but he also carries the baggage of being fired during a September collapse while the Brewers were competing for a wild card spot back in 2008.
When the Royals were floundering this season in May, Yost became defensive and offered a lot of explanations for why he just had to stay positive and stay the course. It felt like he was campaigning for his job. May ended with his remaining in place, but a turnaround was necessary. Maybe the inclusion of George Brett in the clubhouse for two months helped improve the atmosphere. Maybe it was a wakeup call. Maybe it was a coincidence, but the team played better and put Yost in a more secure position.
The criticisms against Yost aren’t uncommon when criticizing any other major league manager. His insistence on bullpen roles in Milwaukee rankled the fanbase, but hasn’t been as big of an issue this season. There have been some instances where the closer – either Joakim Soria in the past or Greg Holland this season – could have been brought in during tense moments that weren’t the ninth-inning-with-a-lead spot to get a save and instead stayed in the bullpen for a lesser reliever, but that’s not any different than most managers. The bullpen management hasn’t been much of an issue because the Royals have so much talent there that it’s almost foolproof.
At times, Yost can leave a starter in too long rather than go to that bullpen. Most recently, he’s been adamant that he didn’t leave Bruce Chen in too long after giving up a 6-0 lead a week and a half ago. The night before, James Shields was laboring late and gave up a couple of runs in a long sixth inning but came back out in the seventh. He gave up the tying run. Some wanted Yost to go to the bullpen (personally, I’m not going to roast him too much on the Shields decision, but Chen clearly didn’t have it in his start against Washington). Having a better starting rotation has helped prevent those kinds of problems, but it’s worth keeping in mind down the stretch as he makes those important decisions.
Yost has also been stubborn in trying to force a player into a spot in the lineup – most notably Alcides Escobar. With the acquisition and fine play of Emilio Bonifacio, that hasn’t been a problem because Escobar hasn’t been asked to bat second. But for much of the season, Yost has thrown Escobar at the top of the lineup despite season-long struggles at the plate. As a result, most of the season has seen Escobar making more plate appearances than Billy Butler. That has only recently changed.
At times, Yost has shifted the lineup around. He’s gone to different lineups that go outside of convention (and remember that Yost was the first to put Alex Gordon in the leadoff spot), but once those lineups have one bad game, he’s seemed to jump right back to the default. Escobar has been so bad this season that the Batting Second project had to be abandoned. There was no way to continue to justify it. Yost has fallen in love with the non-productive hitter at #2 before though - Jason Kendall hit second in 70 of 118 games in 2010 but only had a .298 on base percentage in that spot and offered no speed for the middle of the order to take advantage of.
Again, though, these critiques you could hear about almost any big league manager. Winning quiets a lot of those voices, but they’re still criticisms and what a manager may see as remaining steadfast can simply be obstinance in the face of reasonable evidence.
By all appearances, Moore is pleased with Yost’s performance. The Royals are in line to have their best win total of the Dayton Moore Era in 2013, so it’s hard to expect any public discussion of a change. Behind the scenes, we don’t know. The Royals are fairly leak-proof, so if there’s something discussed behind closed doors, it’s probably not getting out. I’d expect that getting the Royals back to relevance would have caused the idea of an extension to be brought up, though, and that it hasn’t – according to the two men most impacted by those moves – sticks out to me.
The other element is similar to what the Chiefs ran into. After GM Scott Pioli brought in Todd Haley, the Chiefs were supposed to take off. Haley didn’t work out, so Romeo Crennel took over but the Chiefs were even worse. Pioli wasn’t afforded the opportunity to hire a third coach. If Moore gets that opportunity, I can’t see it happening without an agreed upon deal that Yost would step back. Also under consideration is that Moore’s contract is up after 2014. Perhaps that means one more year for Yost.
If the Royals finish below .500, there may be no saving either of Yost or Moore, but it will be interesting to see the direction the team goes if they stay on their current pace. I’ve long thought that Yost was a decent choice to get the young players ready to contend, but not the guy to get them into the playoffs. What I think doesn’t matter though – it’s all on Dayton Moore.