The Royals have made it pretty clear they would like Ned Yost to return as skipper next year, with Yost signalling he would like to stay on through the rebuild. However the Royals’ manager is only under contract through this season, leaving to at least some speculation he would part ways with the club after the year. A new report from St. Louis may fuel that speculation with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writing that the Royals are “intrigued” with recently fired Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
“In Kansas City, there is at least a discussion about if he’s a fit there and in what role. The Royals are intrigued by him. He has let people know — not me, but other reporters, confidants — that he would like to manage again.”
Matheny was fired on July 14 with a 47-46 record. In seven seasons with the Cardinals, Matheny was 591-474, reached the playoffs four times, and won the 2013 pennant, falling to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. However he failed to make the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, and was criticized for leaving starters in too long, how he handles the bullpen, how he had veterans monitor and haze younger players, and for his icy relationship with outfielder Dexter Fowler. Matheny was hired by the Cardinals despite no coaching or managing experience at any level. He was previously a roving minor league instructor.
Yost has previously said that his successor is already within the organization, indicating a desire to keep some stability in the organization. However, the only person in the organization with Major League managerial experience other than Yost is Dale Sveum, who ran the Brewers on an interim basis (replacing Yost in 2008) and the Cubs for two seasons. If the Royals want to hop back into contention sooner rather than later, they may be looking for a seasoned skipper with experience and gravitas to accelerate their timetable.
But is that skipper Mike Matheny? Matheny seems the opposite of Yost in terms of clubhouse management. Say what you will about Ned as a tactician, but his strength seems to be in cultivating a strong and cohesive clubhouse, while Matheny’s seemingly fell apart in the face of adversity. Any outsider would face some challenge coming into this organization and learning the way things are done, but Matheny’s experience in St. Louis raises red flags that may be more of a challenge for him than for others. On the other hand, Matheny does exhibit the “old school” profile that stresses values that the Royals seem to love.
Perhaps all this speculation is very premature. The Royals may be eyeing Matheny more for an advisory role, to serve in the front office, offer tutelage to younger players, and sit tight for a year until he is offered a plum managerial role elsewhere. Maybe he’ll spend a year or two learning “the Royals way” and integrating himself in the organization as a successor-in-waiting for whenever Ned wants to hang ‘em up for good, the way Yost was hired on as an adviser during the Trey Hillman era.
Sometimes one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. The Royals hired Dick Howser to run their club after he was fired by George Steinbrenner in New York, and he went on to win the first championship in Royals history. Ned Yost was unceremoniously fired by the Brewers in the middle of a penannt race, and he went on to win a championship in Kansas City. Joe Torre, Terry Francona, and Tony LaRussa all made their name after being dismissed once.
But a re-tread manager also has a longer paper trail, and more experience to judge. Ask a Cardinals fan whether the Royals should hire Mike Matheny, and you will likely have to wait a few seconds for them to stop laughing. That doesn’t mean the Royals shouldn’t hire him. But he has a history that may give some fans pause.
Should the Royals hire Mike Matheny?
This poll is closed
Yes, as a manager
Yes, as an assistant coach
Yes, in an advisory front-office role