Some people probably hate Ned Yost.
But most fans don't hate him. They just don't care for the way he manages the team. It's really that simple.
Last night, Ned's decisions didn't blow up in his face the way they did in the Wild Card game, but that doesn't mean they are beyond criticism. Like his decision to go with Tim Collins -- who was still figuring things out in Omaha through September before being added to the ALDS roster -- in the bottom of the ninth inning of the biggest game of the year.
On Thursday, Kansas City Star columnist Vahe Gregorian published an article decrying those with the audacity to suggest that the Royals won Tuesday's Wild Card spectacle despite Yost's roundly criticized decisions. In other words, Gregorian was bucking against the overwhelming majority.
To his credit, this is a strange time to criticize the manager of a team sitting in prime position to reach the ALCS, but in order to get to where they are right now, this team has had to defy some extremely unfavorable odds. And rather than being a guide on the path leading to those unlikely outcomes, Yost's decisions have been obstacles to overcome all too often.
In the column, Gregorian acknowledged the specific reasons many people think Yost is a bad manager. But rather than observing these traits as those of a man who is probably unfit to manage a major league baseball team, Gregorian appealed to Yost's humanity in an effort to clash against popular opinion.
Yost makes some baffling decisions, yes.
And don’t we all?
In his case, most of the time it’s because he’s overthinking a situation, like what to do about generating runs with an unpredictable offensive game. And maybe he underthinks a few, is too dogmatic on others and too whimsical with some.
We might as well pop Gregorian on Around the Horn right now.
This is a classic example of the pointless polemics in modern sports commentary. He submits to the criticisms while lambasting them as "hysterical." As if anything that happened in that stadium on Monday wasn't utterly and awe-inspiringly hysterical.
Gregorian isn't some kind of monster though. He was just being a sports columnist. Maybe this wasn't his best work, but generally, he is good at his job.
Which is more than can be said for Yost.
Ned Yost just isn't a strategist. He makes all of his decisions from his gut and on the fly. Every move seems to be the direct result of a quote-a-day Hall of Famers calendar. Not only did he make several extremely questionable calls, but he reveals the infernal designlessness of the organization. Criticizing Yost's decision to pull James Shields in the sixth is easy in retrospect. In all likelihood, if he had left Shields in and that had failed, people would be upset that he didn't run Ventura out there.
But that's not really the issue.
In the winter of 2012, Yost and general manager Dayton Moore wanted to go out and get a big game pitcher who could lead them to and throughout the playoffs. They did. And it cost them dearly. Now, maybe this season has been enough to justify the trade that sent Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to the Rays for Shields. Again, that's not really the point. They gave up two extremely talented, and more importantly cost-controlled, players to have Shields for exactly that moment. But instead of sticking to his guns, Yost gave way to his itchy trigger finger. The move manifestly clashed with the logic of Shields trade.
Despite all the unsuccessful bunting and myopic pitching changes, the Royals have won their last two games. In other words: Despite Ned Yost, the Royals have won their last two games. It's not an indictment on Ned's value as a human being. It has been admirable the way he has handled the raging dumpster fire of criticism that has been unleashed on him. But he made his bed in there. He has to lie in it.
I don't think a man like Ned Yost would want it any other way. Besides, part of the job of being a manager is to serve as the scapegoat so the guys that actually play the games can remain focused in a tumultuous mental environment.
Yost seems like a pretty good guy. He handles snark from the beat well, and he is, by all means, a baseball man. (I don't know what that means, but I certainly don't want to take it away from him.) He just isn't a strategist. He might be great in the clubhouse, and he might even teach some the players a thing or two about the physical aspects of the game, but that sounds like the role of a bench coach or another secondary contributor -- not the man who should be making the few decisions that can actually affect the outcome of the games.
The preference isn't to find someone perfect. We all know that isn't possible. It would just be nice if the manager of the team had some kind of strategy, some kind of philosophy that could serve as a rough outline for consistency. To insinuate that Yost employed a deliberate small ball approach is post hoc hypothesis. He was nervous, so he called for the most readily apparent and action-oreinted strategy -- you know, itchy trigger finger.
For the most part, he panics.
But no one hates him for it. Well some do, but those people probably have some intense emotional problems that don't really have anything to do with baseball. For the rest of us, we just want something better. It's not that Yost is this horrible idiot that everyone wants to run out of town. It just seems like he shouldn't be the guy "pulling the levers."
If it's hysterical to say that "Royals manager" probably isn't the best job for Ned Yost, then I guess most people that have watched him manage a game are absolutely and eternally hysterical.
Simply put, this team has won despite Yost's decisions. It isn't irrational to notice that.