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With Kansas City, Ned Yost resurrected his managerial career not once, but twice

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What a ride for Ned.

Manager Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals looks on before Game Two of the 2015 World Series between the Royals and the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on October 28, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Manager Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals looks on before Game Two of the 2015 World Series between the Royals and the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on October 28, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

In everyday employment, it’s generally a red flag when an employee is fired one or more times in their chosen profession. Sometimes it’s due to weird or extenuating circumstances, sure, but hiring managers would at least raise an eyebrow at these candidates.

This, however, does not apply to head coaches in professional sports. In fact, the opposite is often true; the best candidates are often the ones that get fired, and it’s almost impossible to find a coach that hasn’t been booted from a previous team at least once. Look no further than Andy Reid, who was clearly the best head coach on the market in 2013 despite being unceremoniously thrown out of an organization in which he built up a considerable amount of goodwill. Reid is one of the best coaches in football. It happens.

Ned Yost was also one of those candidates. The Milwaukee Brewers fired Yost in 2008 in the midst of a playoff run, a weighty and damning firing. Yost’s Brewers were flailing down the stretch, thanks in no small part to a series of rather boneheaded bullpen decisions by Yost. The day after the Brewers dropped a doubleheader to the Philadelphia Phillies on September 14, they decided to make the move. They managed to staunch the bleeding and squeezed into the playoffs. But the damage to Yost’s reputation had been done.

Six years later to the day of that firing, Shaun Newkirk posted one of the most important articles of recent Royals Review lore: The needful end of Ned Yost. In it, Newkirk argued that Yost’s most recent blatant bullpen blunder—one of many, one that was so bad that the opposing batter was confused why he wasn’t facing someone else, and one that Yost himself disparaged after the game—to be the “event horizon” of Yost’s employment.

The Royals did not fire Yost. Just over two weeks later, it looked to blow up in his face, and the faces of every Royals fans alive or dead. James Shields kicked off the top of the sixth inning with a 3-2 lead. After yielding a single and a walk, Yost walked to the mount to replace him. Yost did not signal for Kelvin Herrera and his 1.41 ERA. Yost did not call on Wade Davis and his 39% strikeout rate. Instead, he put Yordano Ventura, a rookie, into the game in his first big league relief appearance. Predictably, it did not work—and Yost had to turn to Herrera anyway.

Ned Yost sits alone after a managerial blunder that allowed the Oakland Athletics to take a 7-3 lead over the Kansas City Royals.
Ned Yost sits alone after a managerial blunder that allowed the Oakland Athletics to take a 7-3 lead over the Kansas City Royals.
John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Yost resurrected his career in Kansas City the first time by simply being hired. To be let go in the middle of a playoff race is a giant neon light of no confidence, one that could have been to large to ignore. Instead, general manager Dayton Moore turned to Yost to help guide the young Royals guns to MLB success. Yost got a second chance.

On that night of September 30, 2014, I was sure that Yost’s sixth inning disaster would be the end of him. From the upper deck of Kauffman Stadium, I looked at my phone and watched Twitter explode with anger at Yost. I wondered if he would get fired before the night ended. Not often do you watch the first playoff game 29 years in the making and witness your team’s manager blow it so spectacularly.

But then again, Yost resurrected his career. The Royals won the Wild Card Game. I forgot about Yost as I gave jubilant high fives to total strangers and drove home delirious with happiness. Yost continued to ride the wave of success, the idiot dunce who outplayed the chessmaster. Eventually, Yost ended up with a ring. The Royals ended up with a ring. It’ll never be forgotten.

When Yost steps off the field one last time, it won’t be just as the winningest manager in Royals history. It won’t just be as a beloved figure who remained popular through two 100-loss seasons, a feat that is almost more impressive than anything else in his career. It will be as a phoenix who rose from the ashes not once, but twice, in the City of Fountains.