Jerry Crasnick had a lead article yesterday on Ned Yost up at ESPN.com. Crasnick details Ned's road to redemption after being unceremoniously fired from the 2008 Brewers with just two weeks to go before the team was set to play in the post-season. The article makes a good point in that several managers are considered failures in their first job, only to be perceived as geniuses in their second or third gig. Terry Francona, Joe Torre, and Buck Showalter all come to mind. Could Ned Yost be the next manager to redeem himself after a failed first tenure?
Ned Yost does not appear on the surface to be an especially terrible manager. He has already led the Royals to their most wins since 1989, and the Royals will almost certainly finish this year with their best two-season stretch since 1988-1989. Yost has engineered franchise comebacks with two different organizations now, and while he hasn't led either team to post-season success yet, he should be credited with taking young teams in Milwaukee and Kansas City and getting them to have successful regular seasons. He will likely be a Manger of the Year candidate. And yet, no one is clamoring for Ned Yost to get a contract extension, let alone retiring his number at Kauffman Stadium.
I think Yost, Fredi Gonzalez and John Gibbons are 3 managers who most enrage their team's fan base. Any thoughts, people?— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) September 10, 2014
Why is this? Why is Ned so scorned in Kansas City despite being a Manager of the Year candidate in back-to-back years?
1. Ned is not media-savvy
Crasnick makes just this point in his article, writing:
Does Yost make tactical moves that send the blogosphere into orbit? Only by the carload. It happened on April 2, when Yost declined to pinch-hit for Alcides Escobar and the Royals' shortstop flied out against Max Scherzer late in a 2-1 loss to Detroit. The underlying sentiment made perfect sense: It's a long season, and Yost didn't want to wreck Escobar's confidence by showing zero faith in him in the second game of the season. But when Yost explained the decision by saying he didn't want to get into Escobar's "dome," it was an invitation for mockery. Sometimes his perception problems lie more in the presentation than the underlying reasoning.
In addition to the "domes" comment and the ill-timed comment a few weeks ago about wanting more fans to come to the stadium, some of Ned's greatest gaffes include:
- "What are you asking me to do? Take my belt off and spank them? Yell at them? Scream at them?…
- "You know what?" Yost said. "Maybe when we get home, I can go to the third base tree and pick another third baseman. … Obviously, third basemen who can hit and hit with power, they must grow on trees."
- "I outsmarted myself."
Ned has a tendency to be aloof, patronizing, or down-right standoffish at times with the media. Ned needs to decide what he's going to be - a coach who has a terrific relationship with the media and can explain his reasoning in a smart and amusing manner, or a coach who gives absolutely nothing - no strategy, no sound-bite, and especially nothing mock-worthy - to the media. Yost is a bit in-between those two realms, which hasn't served him well.
2. The team is constantly playing in close games, putting a spotlight on his managerial decisions
Let's be honest, there is more for Ned to do because his team relies on a lot of luck. If the Royals were a talented offensive team that could hit the ball out of the ballpark with regularity, we wouldn't need Ned to do much at all. Two-time champion with the Blue Jays, Cito Gaston is remembered as a terrific manager because he had a terrific team and he just filled out the lineup, sat back, and enjoyed watching them play.
Ned manages a team that is constantly playing 2-1, 3-2, 1-0 games. This highlights every move he makes and subjects it to scrutiny. Bullpen moves become more important because there is no room for error. Offensive moves become more important because hitters cannot take care of business themselves. When an offense cannot hit, the perception is the manager must do more to make an impact in the game. Fans think, when the team wins, its because the players performed. When the team loses, it because Ned made a tactical error.
3. The narrative of Nervous Ned
If Ned Yost were coming in fresh as a first time manager, he probably doesn't get quite the level of criticism he has received. But the embarrassment of being a manager fired from a playoff-bound team with two weeks to go before the post-season, with the moniker "Nervous Ned" hangs over Yost's resume like a scarlet letter.
A year later, the Brewers were 83-67 and slumping when general manager Doug Melvin fired Yost and replaced him with bench coach Dale Sveum, who guided the team to a 7-5 record and a postseason berth. Although multiple sources said owner Mark Attanasio played the lead role in the decision, Yost had to live with the perception that he panicked his way out of a job.
So it's no wonder that when USA Today wrote a profile on Yost in August, it included the salient question: "Will Yost find a way to screw this up again?"
We can find things to pick and choose as evidence Ned is panicking this time around, but its not entirely clear that is the case. Maybe he is. There is evidence he panicked in Milwaukee. But maybe he has learned from his mistakes. The team hasn't had a nose-dive quite yet, despite a continued lackluster offense. We don't know if Ned is nervous or even-keel in that clubhouse. But narratives can be hard to shed, and for whatever reason, Ned has garnered a reputation for being an over-managing nervous Nelly.
There is no doubt Ned Yost makes moves that infuriate me, as he infuriates nearly all Royals fans. He is an old school manager who believes in hitting middle-infielders who can handle a bat second in the lineup, and believes in domes and bullpen roles, and stealing bases and being gritty and winning games through character. In other words, he is like nearly every other manager in baseball.
The way I feel about Ned Yost is the way Winston Churchill felt about democracy - Ned is the worst manager in baseball - except for all the others.
Do you find Ned Yost infuriating as a manger, and if so, why?