Throughout the World Series — and even before — there’s been plenty of talk about the job Ned Yost has done managing the Royals. (Or, more appropriately, mis-managing the Royals.) Hey, even I’ve been on that bashwagon. Sure I could do a better job of managing this club, at least that’s what we all think. Is Ned Yost the best manager in baseball? Of course not. He’s not even the best manager in the American League. But like it or not, Yost is doing something that only one other manager in Major League Baseball is doing right now — managing a team in the World Series. Getting to this point has been years in the making, starting with David Glass hiring Dayton Moore to become Kansas City’s general manager. So, before you bash Yost much more, here’s a quick little piece about Moore — and Yost — deserve credit for this club being right here, right now.
What a difference a year makes. Or seven or eight.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore, a baseball man from the days before he could even think about becoming a man, has desired to cultivate the Royals into winners more than you can imagine. That’s been the case since he became the club’s sixth general manager on June 8, 2006. Developing a winner, though, takes time — longer, evidently, than many fans were willing to wait — especially with how depleted the Royals farm system was, according to various people around baseball, when Moore took over.
And it certainly took time. In Moore’s seventh full season, 2013, the Royals finished 86-76. It was the club’s first winning season since 2003, and the most number of victories since winning 92 in 1989. Even though the Royals were in the chase for a Wild Card berth until the last week of the season, they fell short and finished third in the Central, seven games behind Detroit.
Key players on the 2013 roster were homegrown, including Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, both of whom were Allard Baird draft picks; Greg Holland (10th round, 2007), Eric Hosmer (first round, 2008), Mike Moustakas (first round, 2007), and Salvador Perez (non-drafted free agent signing, 2006).
After the winning record and Wild Card push in 2013, many fans remained unhappy with the progress and with Moore’s excitement. Still, he felt there was reason to look ahead optimistically to 2014.
“I believe that all our players that are signed long-term or under team control are going to get better,” he said during his 2013 postseason press conference. “That is a comforting feeling. Is it just going to happen? No. They are going to have to continue to work hard, apply instructions and make adjustments. They are going to have to continue to commit to becoming great players.”
But decades of losing can do funny things to a fan base, whether that fan base is old enough to remember the “glory days” of the 1970s and ‘80s or young enough to be part of today’s society of instant gratification. So, after enduring losing season after losing season and bad trade after bad acquisition under previous general managers, seven seasons of waiting for “the process” to work was an eternity.
Are you kidding, Zack Greinke to Milwaukee for (mainly) a light-hitting shortstop named Alcides Escobar and an outfielder named Lorenzo Cain, who had played a whopping 43 games in the big leagues in six professional seasons? And then you’re going to send the future greatest Royal ever, Wil Myers, along with two stud minor-league pitchers for a short-term starter in James Shields and a barely-average starter named Wade Davis?
Of course, making matters worse, Moore backed Ned Yost, whom he’d hired in May 2010 to lead this club. Throughout 2013 and ‘14, in particular, fans came up with all sorts of words to describe Yost, and most of them aren’t very pleasant. He’s unapologetic. He comes off as condescending. And he’s made moves that fans and former players alike think are boneheaded, which has fostered the term “Yosted” to describe anything and everything negative in life.
Of course, it was a controversial decision Yost made in the sixth inning of the Wild Card game that almost kept the Royals from advancing in the 2014 playoffs. After starter Shields gave up a bloop single and then issued a walk, with two on and nobody out and Kansas City holding a 3-2 lead with Brandon Moss — who homered earlier — coming to the plate, Yost pulled Shields, who’d thrown 88 pitches, and brought in starter Yordano Ventura. Moss sent Ventura’s third pitch 432 feet to dead center. It seemed as though social media might combust at once with thousands of fans and other detractors saying how the Royals had been “Yosted.” Funny, though. The Royals overcame any questionable judgment decisions in that first postseason game and went on to make 2014 the “Yostseason.”
“I don’t need vindication,” Yost said after the Royals swept the Orioles in the ALCS. “I’m comfortable with who I am. And everything that I look at, I don’t look at much. But I’m the dumbest guy on the face of the earth. But I know that’s not true. … I am smart enough to hire really, really good coaches and use them. But I’m real comfortable in my own skin. I don’t feel like I need vindication. I’m not looking for it, don’t care for it.
“My whole goal — none of this was ever about me. To winning a championship was all about this city, our fans and these players. I’ve been there six times before, I know how special it is. And I wanted my players to experience it. I wanted the city of Kansas City to experience it and our fans.”
And, thanks to Dayton Moore, who built a deep farm system and assembled a club with pitching and speed that could win at spacious Kauffman Stadium, Ned Yost was able to take that group of players, push the right buttons and use each player to his strength, and lead them to the World Series for the first time in their careers and only the third time in Royals franchise history, en route to becoming the first manager ever to win his first eight postseason games as a skipper.
“These kids, from the minute you saw them you knew they were going to be special,” Yost said after winning the A.L. championship. “Then they won championships in A-ball together and they won championships in Double‑A together and they won championships in Triple‑A together. And then their goal was to get up here and win a championship, and today they accomplished that.”