When Ned Yost was initially hired by the Kansas City Royals as a special advisor to baseball operations, it was a move that barely registered on the radar. When he took over as manager following the failed Trey Hillman Experiment, the move was met with general skepticism. After all, this was the same manager that was fired by the Milwaukee Brewers with two weeks to go in the 2008 season with the team in the midst of a pennant race. That was not something that inspired a lot of confidence amongst Royals fans, as it seemed as though they had simply selected yet another manager who was destined to fail.
However, the Royals were essentially like the Brewers team that Yost took over in 2003. After years of mediocrity, the Brewers had committed to a true rebuild, using their young players in a quest to get back to the postseason. Yost did his part, helping to develop players such as Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks before his firing. Yost came in to roughly the same situation here, tasked with helping to develop Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer while leading the Royals back to the Promised Land of playoff baseball.
Now, Ned Yost has a chance at vindication. The Royals find themselves coming off their best season since 1989 and seemingly on the cusp of playoff contention. With the American League Central seemingly weaker than it has been recently, the Royals have a legitimate chance to end that 29 year playoff drought. The Royals have improved their offense, and if the pitching staff can perform as well as Dayton Moore and the front office believes they can, those playoff hopes could become a reality.
That would make 2014 the most important season in Yost’s tenure with the Royals. He went from being on the hot seat due to their disastrous May last year to having the best season of a Royals manager since John Wathan. Now, with a playoff berth and a winning season expected instead of just hoped for, it is up to Yost to guide the Royals back to glory.
2014 could be a legacy defining season for Ned Yost. If he gets the Royals to the playoffs, then Yost will have proven that he is, indeed, a manager that can not only help shape a young ballclub, but guide them to the playoffs. Otherwise, if the Royals once again come close but fail to reach the postseason, Yost could be regarded the same way that Tony Dungy had been with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Just as Dungy’s story had a happy ending with the Colts winning the Super Bowl, Ned Yost could find himself in the playoffs and the Royals could finally be playing meaningful baseball in October. Otherwise, Yost may be a manager good enough to get a team close, but not able to get them any further.