Ned Yost is used to fans being mad at him. Back in 2008, he was the manager of the Brewers, and SI.com ran an article centered around his unpopularity:
"I could do four hours of Ned Yost every day if I wanted to," says Steve "The Homer" True, the host of a drive time radio sports talk show in Milwaukee. "It's impossible to overstate how much [many fans] dislike Yost."
It wasn't just the fans. With the Brewers in a wild card race and 12 games left in the season, Yost was fired. It was bizarre at the time, and it's just as bizarre six years later. What kind of on-field move would be the tipping point two weeks before the playoffs? What kind of off-field comment? What kind of nasty text exchange, drunken argument or testy foosball match would be bad enough to bounce a manager that late in a contending season? There was speculation, but no one really did the Kitty Kelley book about Yost and the '08 Brewers. We just had to assume that someone at the top got really, really tired of Ned Yost.
Cut to the present. Ned Yost is managing the Royals, who are threatening for their first playoff spot since Super Mario Bros. was released. And fans hate him. Hate hate hate. Let's see what the good folks at Royals Review think about him. First, I'll search through their archives and see if they've written about him r ... oh, this morning?
Simply put, Ned Yost needs to be fired. I don't think any solution or reasoning now can overcome the continual employment of Ned Yost.
If you read between the lines, you get the sense that the author is starting to dislike Yost's actions as Royals manager. This comes after a series of responses Yost made after Sunday's loss -- a highly recommended, amazing batch of responses -- that roughly translate to "There is no possible way that recorded information about how players have performed recently can help me do my job better." This isn't about being anti-stats. It's about being anti-information.
Ned Yost, Photo credit: Jamie Squire / Getty Images
Don't like wRC+? Okay, wasn't expecting a manager to be that nerdy, but how about batting average? As in, look at Daniel Nava's batting average, and nothing else, against left-handers this year.
Don't like FIP? Fine, fine, it's a little esoteric, but have you thought about looking at how many strikeouts a pitcher accumulates relative to his peers? Seems like that might be useful.
Instead, Yost left a right-hander in the game who doesn't strike out a lot of hitters because he was looking for a strikeout, and he did it against a hitter who has been good against righties and miserable against lefties this year. It was like debriefing a high school kid after a test on a book he didn't read.
Reporter: So, why did you write that "Of Mice and Men" was the story of "Paul Mice, down-on-his-luck salesman, whose dream of building an aquatic car was tearing his family apart"?
Ned Yost in high school: Because that was the core of the story for me, the reason Faulkner wrote it. Other people might say Lenny Rabbit is the main character, but it was all about Mice's struggle and family life for me.
Royals Review collected more reasons here on why Yost is a pin cushion. It's all pretty damning stuff, though it's not like the Royals are really going to fire their manager with two weeks left in the season, even if it's been done to the manager in question before, considering this is the organization that has employed Dayton Moore throughout a decade-long stretch of general futility.
This offseason, then. Let's say the Royals just miss the playoffs, which is currently the likeliest outcome. Let's say the Royals have their best season in 20 years, but they fall a game or two short. What would the Royals possibly believe Yost offers them? Let's cycle through a quick taxonomy of managers and see where he fits in.
There's the Rebuilder, which is the manager who exhibits patience with young players and lets them develop without worrying about the short-term so much. This is what the Astros were hoping for with Bo Porter, but it's not what Bo Porter was hoping from the Astros, so they parted ways. This variety of manager isn't relevant to the Royals' interests right now, which is good, considering Yost struggled with the balance between rebuilding and reinforcing for years.
There's the Genius, which is the manager who has a preternatural feel for the game and its strategies and who isn't afraid to buck conventional wisdom. Tony La Russa got this reputation, and the current analog is Joe Maddon. Both are managers revered for their ability to try new things, perception be damned.
This is ... not the reputation Yost has. Even his staunchest defenders would have to agree with that. Yost literally responded to a question of why he didn't bring his best middle reliever into the game in a bases-loaded situation because it wasn't his inning. Kelvin Herrera's inning is the seventh, and that's the end of the story. It's Kelvin's Law, apparently, and it seems like a weird way for a manager to conduct himself.
There's the Player's Manager, which is the manager who doesn't fit into the above two categories, but who seems to keep a clubhouse loose and happy. It's hard to shake a reputation of a player's manager once it's acquired. Felipe Alou had it in Montreal and kept it through his years in San Francisco, even if in his later years, players were openly expressing their frustration with him and his communicative abilities.
There are other varieties of manager, but those are the three branches at the top, with most managers distributing points between the classes like the start of an RPG. If I'm a GM with a desire to sift through young players and see what kind of talent might be found over the next few years, I file a restraining order against Bruce Bochy. If I'm an owner of a team that has a roster filled with known quantities, I pay Bochy millions and millions of dollars if I get the chance. Managers aren't one-size-fits-all.
Now we have to ask what the Royals are hoping from Yost, then. They're not going to get strategy, as Yost is the kind of manager who believes his players can hit home runs just because he asks them to. They're not going to get patience with youngsters, nor is that what they need right now. They're hoping for the last one, a player's manager, a guy who instills confidence in his players, who fires them up at the right time and knows when to ride them mercilessly. A manager who never gets too up, never gets too down, and exhibits a brand of leadership that makes his players want to play baseball just that much harder. The Royals need Yost to do this better than anyone else available, and he needs to do it so well, he makes up for his obvious shortcomings.
I'm not in the clubhouse, and I'm not a player, so I can't tell you if Yost is that manager. I can guess. Knowing how he deals with the press, I'm not giving him extra credit for his abilities to deal with his players. Knowing how he processes information in the middle of a game, I'm not giving him extra credit for processing information outside of a game. It looks from the outside that there is absolutely no way that Yost's abilities as a player's manager make up for everything else, especially considering that we're not so sure that Yost should be described as a player's manager.
The Royals have a decision to make in the offseason. I wouldn't be surprised if the decision is to extend Yost because of his over-.500, contending-into-September season. When it comes to what the Royals need -- a manager who might be the difference between 87, 88, 89 or 90 wins -- it's hard to see how Yost is their man.