Royals’ Mike Matheny hire may not be as bad as you think

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Surprising no one, the Kansas City Royals have chosen Mike Matheny to be their next manager on Thursday.

I do not expect anyone will be shocked to hear that I am not a fan of the Kansas City Royals selecting Mike Matheny as their next manager. I stand by my belief that this is not a great hire. There are better options out there and, probably, even better options currently within the organization. But before any of us decide to give up on the Royals’ chances to compete over the next few years, it is worth considering that this hire could work out just fine.

In a spectacular example of how the good ol’ boys network works in real life, Mike Matheny was actually brought in a year ago to be the manager in waiting as Ned Yost readied for retirement. On the bright side, this should indicate his promotion will not be disruptive to the development of players currently on the major league roster.

Matheny and Yost have many similarities as managers. They are both former catchers who consider themselves old school guys. They are both the kind of standup guys that take full responsibility for their team’s failures. And they are both mostly well-regarded by their peers around the league.

It is also worth considering that Matheny’s prior experience which led to his firing made him a better manager. There is certainly the possibility, even likelihood, that he learned from his mistakes. Again, in this respect, he is eerily similar to Yost when Ned arrived in Kansas City after being dismissed by the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Now, it was not always smooth sailing with Ned Yost as the manager of the Royals, but the achievements were as good as it gets.

Matheny does have experience managing through successful seasons. His teams have won. Discounting the 2018 season, when he was fired after only 93 games, his worst season as a manager was an 83-win season.

He has guided his teams into the playoffs four different times. He has won a pennant. Now, that was all achieved during his first four seasons in St. Louis and his teams did get worse from there. But it is not unreasonable to assume his precipitous fall from grace after that impressive start to his managing career taught him some hard lessons about how quickly a manager who takes things for granted can go from successful to fired.

However, my chief concern with handing the reins of the ballclub over to Mike Matheny remains. We are about to promote several new pitchers to the major league level over the next two years. Our success as an organization will be inexorably tied to the success and development of these young, inexperienced pitchers at the major league level. The most alarming decision Matheny made as a manager was to tell the press how adorable he thought it was that bullies under his management were tormenting their younger peers. Not only is such behavior indecent, but it is also unprofessional and it is certainly not conducive to encouraging development in young talent.

Today we can only hope that Matheny has learned from his mistakes as a manager. That he is humble enough and smart enough to understand what he needs to do differently this time around. He has certainly suggested that he was responsible for the team’s failures during his tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ultimately, the success of this team will be decided more by Dayton Moore’s decisions in player personnel than by his choice of manager. But I do think it is fair for fans of the Kansas City Royals to believe the fate of Dayton Moore as general manager is now intertwined with the fate of Mike Matheny as a major league manager.

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The Royals have suffered through yet another brutal rebuild period. We have lost 207 games over two years. We somehow managed to lose 103 games this season and still only get the 4th best pick in the draft. When you cannot even properly manage to be purposefully terrible anymore something needs to change. Dayton Moore has decided that Mike Matheny is the man to change things and turn this organization back around to its winning ways. I, for one, am hoping he is correct.