COMMENTARY | It's no secret that the expectations for the Kansas City Royals were sky high entering this season. After trading away the farm system for the coveted "win now" mentality, the fans and the players have had every right to demand more from their boys in blue. With offensive prowess being joined by competent starting pitching, all the eggs were lined up in a row in a winnable AL Central. No matter how well laid the plans of Dayton Moore, the biggest oversight, by far, was the retention of Ned Yost as the manager of this young baseball team.
With a strong start to the season, many, including myself, had high hopes for what the Royals could do this season. With Gold Glove outfielder Alex Gordon returning in left field, Lorenzo Cain finally being healthy, and Salvador Perez starting a full season behind the plate, there was no reason to believe that any game was not winnable. With the addition of James Shields and Wade Davis, the biggest weakness of the rotation had been solved. But yet, this team still found ways to lose -- largely because the manager did not put his team in a position to win the ball game.
Ned Yost continually shoots his team in the foot by not putting the best product out on the field day in and day out. Here's the breakdown:
1) Yost suffers from unending loyalty. Putting players out on the field for what he wants them to be, not what they actually are. Jeff Francouer still finds himself trotting out to right field as the starter despite batting .229 on the season and having lost any quickness that made him a great fielder. With younger, faster, better, players sitting on the bench, there is no excuse for Frenchy to be starting day in and day out.
2) Yost does not know how to properly set a batting order. In the first 20 games of this season, Yost had more than 10 different starting orders. Whether he was moving around Hosmer or Moustakas in the 3 spot or continually rotating Cain and Escobar, there has been no semblance of stability nor any chance of developing chemistry. Our best hitter, Alex Gordon, is leading off when he should be hitting third. Fundamentally, Ned Yost does not understand the team he has nor how to best utilize that talent.
3) Small ball. I'm a big fan of small ball. I'd be a big fan of Ned Yost if he actually used it. Press conference after press conference he has harped on this mentality but game after game poorly utilizes it. He bunts with a man on second and no one out instead of letting the batter swing away. He steals when there is no possibility of scoring.
4) You'd think with one of the best bullpens in the entire league, the Royals would be able to keep a lead. Of course, when you put Ned Yost on the job, he'll find a way to screw that up. Poor management of phenomenal arms in the pen continually cripples any chance the Royals have at winning ballgames. Whether it is bringing Luke Hochevar in for relief with runners on against a left handed batter multiple times knowing that he struggles in pressure situations, or overworking both Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland, have led to blown saves and elongated deficits.
Perhaps Ned Yost's biggest flaw is his unending loyalty. That is very admirable in most any other job. The responsibility of the manager is to put his team in the best position to win ballgames. If he can't do that, then he has to be let go. The team can't go all in by trading away Wil Myers and the rest of our touted prospects only to be thwarted by the man calling the shots. Dayton Moore and the rest of the front office owe it to both these players and us the fans to put a quality product on the field each and every day. The simple fact is that they don't. A team that had the ability to play .500 ball at the beginning of the season and has the talent to play it through the end, will not and can not with this man guiding them.
In 10 years of managing professional baseball, Ned Yost has ended a season above .500 twice. Two times. That is unacceptable. Kansas City deserves a winner. They've stood by their teams for over 20 years waiting to just make it back to the playoffs. Maybe it will take another losing season to prove that Yost is incompetent, but by then I fear it will be too late.
Dominic G. Ishmael has been a freelance writer of both the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs since 2009. He lives in Kansas City.
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