It is tempting but silly to judge a baseball manager based on the results of a few games. There are always things happening that we, the proletariat, do not understand (players’ health, their mood, their addiction to a phone-based video game).
But, given enough data, it is possible to tell if the manager is “good” at his job.
Ned Yost has managed just more than 2,400 baseball games. Here’s a statistic that seems important about those 2,400 baseball games: he’s won 48% of them. This makes him third-worst of active managers who’ve managed at least two seasons’ worth of games. Here’s another statistic that seems important: of managers who’ve been put in charge of 2,400 baseball games, he’s got the second-worst record in the history of the sport.
Does this mean Ned Yost should be fired immediately? Maybe! But probably not. The current iteration of the Kansas City Royals probably isn’t good enough to be affected by a good manager or a bad manager. This team’s failings can more accurately be traced to an acute shortage of talent.
But to this distant observer it seems like one thing that could happen is a rejiggering of the mythology surrounding Ned Yost.
The narrative goes that because Ned Yost was managing when the Royals were recently good, then Ned Yost must be good—a classic case of conflating correlation with causation.
If the Royals want to make actual progress, this should stop. Instead of accepting Yost’s terse answers as the wisdom of a great mind, we—fans, semi-intelligent observers, and, especially, those reporters and announcers who cover the Royals—should dig deeper.
I don’t actually expect that last group to end every question they ask Ned Yost with:
“And keeping in mind that you probably don’t know what you’re talking about.”
But that wouldn’t be terrible!
One of my great frustrations with the Royals and, by extension, my homeland, is our tendency toward thinking small. I fought against this as a kid—this sense that, because my friends and I were from a town of 700 people, we’d never get very far.
I think this same sense creeps into the way the Kansas City Royals (and their fans) think about themselves. There is this tendency to aim low, to assume that two trips to the World Series is enough for a while. But why think this way? Why not push for more?
Because the city is small(ish)? Because it has always been this way?
Those don’t seem like very good reasons to me. Sure, Kansas City isn’t New York. But Green Bay isn’t New York. San Antonio isn’t Los Angeles. St. Louis isn’t Chicago. There’s no reason the Royals can’t be baseball’s version of the Green Bay Packers; baseball’s version of the San Antonio Spurs; western Missouri’s version of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Will this happen if Ned Yost is consistently reminded that he’s bad at the one job he has—if we remember that just because he’s in charge doesn’t make him right?
Maybe! And if not, at least it would be a start.