Ned Yost addressed the media in his annual end-of-the-year press conference, confirming the news from earlier in the day that the Royals will not retain four coaches, including pitching coach Dave Eiland and bench coach Don Wakamatsu. Yost insisted the coaches were not scapegoats for a disappointing season, but that the change was necessary as the club ushered in a new era of Royals baseball.
“We’re transitioning a new group of players....We just felt in some areas we needed a different voice.”
Yost: “There’s a lot of work to be done. Now we’ve got to teach these players how to win. It’s a different style of coaching."— Soren Petro (@SorenPetro) October 2, 2017
Yost still left the status of first base coach Rusty Kuntz in the air, but did discuss the development of Mitch Maier as an eventual successor to Kuntz. Kuntz stepped down the final month of the season due to vision problems with Maier taking over as first base coach on an interim basis.
Ned said the focus of the organization had shifted in recent years, but that it was time to get back to development, which required different personnel.
“We’ve gone from competing and developing to just competing. Development went out the window the last four years."
With the team likely going with a much younger, less experienced club, Yost was realistic about the team’s chance of contending. While he insisted that the team could still surprise, as the club did in 2014 when they were ready to contend quicker than he thought, he tempered expectations a bit.
“I imagine it will probably be a little bit of a step back.”
The tone of Yost’s comments reveals the Royals seem very likely to rebuild next year, perhaps not a complete teardown, but definitely a younger direction.
The hints at rebuild caused many to be surprised that Yost would return to fulfill the last year of his contract in 2018. But Yost was perplexed the media made a big deal about his return, saying there was no question he was coming back. The skipper stressed his love for the organization and that he still loves what he’s doing.
Interestingly, Yost did signal what the club will do when he decides to hang it up. The next manager of the Royals is apparently someone already in the organization. “We feel like we’ve got the right people to take over for me,” Yost indicated. “We’re not bringing someone in.” Possible in-house candidates could include hitting coach Dale Sveum, special assistant Jason Kendall, third base coach Mike Jirschele, or Northwest Arkansas Naturals manager Vance Wilson.
The Royals face an uncertain future, but one certainty is that Yost will return with his steady hand in the clubhouse, controversial strategic moves, and playful sparring with media.