A week ago, Royals owner David Glass said that Ned Yost‘s fate would be in Dayton Moore’s hands. At the time, Yost said that he wasn’t thinking about an extension while the season was going on and while the Royals were fighting to stay relevant in the playoff race.
Today, Moore told Bob Dutton of the Star that he wants to retain Yost, but that negotiations haven’t taken place to keep the Royals manager for next year or beyond.
Ned has done a terrific job, and I definitely want him back. We’ll sit down and talk about it. – Dayton Moore
Obviously, the Royals were better in 2013. Their 83 wins are the most since 2003, and with five games to go, they could match the 1993 team’s 84 wins or, more likely, surpass that and reach their highest win total since Bo Jackson was an All-Star and Bret Saberhagen was a Cy Young Award winner in 1989 when they won 92 games.
The team is better. That’s not the question. What needs answered is whether or not the Royals would be better off with a different manager. Yost is not without his faults. He’s stubborn (he put Alcides Escobar in the #2 spot for over 60 games despite Escobar’s struggles all season long). He’s had a reputation of poor bullpen manaagement and an overwhelming reliance on strict roles (for some reason, despite evidence of struggles, Aaron Crow was pitching in late game situations despite becoming walk and homer prone). He’ll often manage to reach a certain stat – like holding Greg Holland back in key situations, waiting for a save that never comes, or sticking with a pitcher so he can get through five innings and qualify for the win.
But he did pull Escobar from the #2 spot. Aaron Crow spent two weeks in September without an appearance. So he’s adjusted in those cases, but it does feel like a change could have occurred earlier.
Now, there’s also the question of how many games have some of those decisions cost the Royals. That is a bit of a murky question, as choosing one reliever over another isn’t a guarantee that his alternative would have been successful. For instance, on September 17, Yost went to Wade Davis before Luke Hochevar. Davis walked Drew Stubbs to lead off the eighth inning of a 3-3 game, then gave up a double to Asdrubal Cabrera. Hochevar pitched the ninth inning. Why not bring in Hochevar in the eighth rather than Davis, especially if Hochevar was going to pitch anyway? It’s those decisions that cast doubt on him.
I think Yost has had a positive influence on the clubhouse this year. Back in May, during the huge slide, he seemed to be dodging questions and didn’t have much of an explanation for the team’s struggles, but now, players cite his patience and confidence as part of the team’s second half emergence. I’m willing to give him some credit in that area (though you should know by now that I’m not a big proponent of the intangibles being a big enough element to turn fortunes so quickly). Many will crow that he’s cost the Royals 25 games, and I think that’s going too far. But I think he’s cost some. Two, maybe three.
Many of those decisions are calls that other managers would make, so in that context, my beef would be with conventional baseball management, not the man giving the okay.
Still, I think others would be able to do more with the team. Yost and Kevin Seitzer had disagreements at the end of the 2012 season and it was Seitzer who took the fall. Pedro Grifol has done a good job after replacing Seitzer’s replacements, but many feel that Seitzer is the right guy to guide the young Royals hitters despite his ouster. If Yost’s differences with Seitzer cost the Royals a chance to get more out of Escobar and Mike Moustakas and Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, then that’s a lot of blame to carry.
Also complicating matters is Dayton Moore’s contract status.
Moore has one more year on his deal, so how willing would you be as a manager to come work for Dayton when it’s entirely possible that after 2014 the Royals go a different direction and you’re swept out when the new GM cleans house?
I’ve brought up the point that it’s rare for a GM to only have one winning season but get to hire three managers. Then again, it’s rare to have a winning season, then turn around and replace the manager. It seems the only way they end up with a different skipper is if Yost bows out to take a front office job, citing some need to make a change or some other excuse that makes it look more like he was reassigned rather than replaced.