All signs are pointing towards the Kansas City Royals replacing Ned Yost with Mike Matheny. This would be a mistake. The time to move up as an organization is now.
The Kansas City Royals are in a wonderful spot. I know it does not seem like that because they are currently pumping out 100 loss seasons at the same alarming rate that Chuck Lorre pumps out terrible sitcoms. But, hear me out.
The Royals have a new owner and they will soon have a new manager. They can choose to go in any direction they wish. The world is now new and exciting. We can choose an entirely new path. Or we can choose to stay pat and our new owner can behave just like our old owner. And we can hire a new manager that still thinks just like our old manager.
Fifteen years ago, there were still arguments over whether sabermetrics was useful. Whether or not the new data being tracked was worthwhile to an organization in Major League Baseball. I understand there are still fans who do not embrace the newer analytics, and that is fine. You are welcome to shake your fist at the clouds. But the arguments within the industry are over. The kids are never getting off your lawn. The revolution has prevailed, the Death Star has been destroyed.
No organization in baseball worth a damn still believes batting average is the most important statistic. All teams understand what on base-plus-slugging percentage is. Even the Royals now understand that the analytics matter. That data can not only be used to properly analyze a player but also to help a player improve their performance. Our Kansas City Royals have spent the last decade being behind the curve on all these ideas. But we do not have to stay that way. Choosing Mike Matheny is choosing to stay that way.
Mike Matheny still values arbitrary statistics, like Saves or Wins for pitchers. Find me a baseball fan that can still argue a pitcher getting the Win is somehow a useful metric for determining which pitcher gave the better performance and I will show you a fan that has no idea what they are talking about. And the pitcher who hurls the final inning may get the Save. But that does not mean he pitched the most important or high leverage situation. Well, explain these obvious truths to Mike Matheny. Seriously, someone please explain it to him!
Matheny leaves pitchers in even though it hurts the team because he wants them to qualify for the Win. He arranges the usage of his best bullpen arms around antiquated ideas like Saves. His lineup construction is exactly the level of messy that ends up with an Alcides Escobar batting leadoff because…well, just cause. Make no mistake, this is taking a step backwards for the organization. This moves us further back in the pack. A pack that is racing on with or without us.
I could overlook all of Matheny’s shortcomings when it comes to game day management and lineup construction. I could even overlook him refusing to utilize the most current knowledge the industry has to offer. If he was the kind of leader that got the best out of his players. The kind of man who understood how to manage personalities. But he is not.
Ned was never going to be a guy that uses cutting edge analysis to improve his team’s performance. But his players genuinely loved him and played their hearts out for him. Even, and especially, the players who have personalities that are a little different, maybe even a little kooky, loved the man. Mike Matheny goes in a different direction. He stopped communicating with Dexter Fowler altogether. He thinks when the young guys get bullied by the veterans, it toughens them up.
We are a team that is about to welcome in an influx of minor league pitchers. Young men who have been surrounded by new school data for nearly their entire careers. Young men who are going to have to find ways to overcome failure on the biggest stage in the world. The very last thing we need is a manager who spends his time trying to make sure they understand the importance of qualifying for a pitcher Win. A manager who believes that bullies in the workplace make a man out of you.
There are plenty of other options out there. Established baseball men already in our organization like Pedro Grifol. Younger up and coming baseball mind currently in positions with other organizations that have a background in Kansas City like Carlos Beltran. Cutting edge thinkers from outside the organization like Sam Fuld. We do not have to be the last team being managed by a guy who still believes that a struggling pitcher getting through the 5th inning is more important than ensuring his player’s value playing for him.