Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Royals Extend Their Manager

The Royals are doing everything they can to put the Trey Hillman era behind them. Hillman, who was fired with a 12-23 record was supposed to be some wunderkind but that didn't work out very well. In fact, it was a disaster. The Royals brought in Edgar Frederick Yost III and the team has responded, at least as much as their current talent can respond. Under Ned Yost, the Royals are 31-37 which is a .456 winning percentage compared to the .342 winning percentage he inherited. And according to the Pythagorean method of judging wins and losses (based on run differential), the Royals have won two more games under Yost than they should have. That part's good. But things have begun leaking again.

After Yost finished his playing career as a lousy backup catcher, he spent many years with Bobby Cox in Atlanta. Every year Yost was in Atlanta, the team made it to the post season except the strike year in 1994. The Fan isn't sure what that means other than it's interesting. Then he began his six years as the manager of the Brewers...well, almost six years.

It's hard to remember now, but when Ned Yost took over the Brewers, they were one of the laughingstocks of the majors. They were the Orioles and the Royals. In the post-Yount, post-World Series team of the early 90s, they stunk frankly and there wasn't much difference in that stinkage the first two years Yost was there. They came in last both years (2003, 2004). They lost 188 games. But lo and behold, they finished at 81-81 in 2005. That was a fourteen win improvement. They regressed a bit in 2006 and finished under .500. Then came 2007.

2007 was the year that the Brewers were the division leaders for most of the season. They had an eight and a half game lead on June 23. But they tanked going down the stretch and the Cubs won the division which ultimately led to that Mark Prior heartbreak game and that poor guy named Bartman. A website was founded called It still exists but is inactive and the site says the URL is for sale. Perhaps a disgruntled Royals' fan will pick it up some day.

There was much speculation that Yost would be let go after the disappointment of the 2007 season but he was brought back in 2008. That was the year that the Brewers were 20-7 in August and looked like they would cruise into the wildcard at least. But they hit a wall in September and even the great Sabathia, who was miraculous that season, couldn't stop enough of the bleeding. They were 3-11 in September after being swept by the Phillies and were in a tie for the wildcard. And then an unprecedented thing happened. Yost was fired. Doug Melvin wanted to make sure that there wouldn't be another tanking like 2007. The players were shocked. Other teams were shocked. Things like that never happened before.

Yost, for his part, handled his end with class and wished his team well with Dale Sveum as its temporary head. They went 7-5 the rest of the way and due in much part to the pitching of Sabathia, got into the playoffs where they lost to those same Phillies in the first round of the playoffs. Ken Macha has been the Brewers' manager ever since and he certainly hasn't been better than Yost. Yost was +5 on the Pythagorean scale over his six years. Macha is currently -1 as the Brewers haven't been a factor in the NL Central for the past two seasons.

But, to be completely fair, there really is no way to measure a manager's effectiveness or his lack of it. The Brewers' problem the last couple of years is the same that Yost dealt with, they had too little pitching. Even in their 2008 playoff season, it was Sabathia and Sheets and then hold onto your seats. The bullpen was terrible and four out of their eight fielders finished the season with a less than league average OPS+. With those kinds of odds stacked against them, a 20-7 run simply was going to come back to the mean and it did.

So it seems impossible to blame Yost for 2007 or 2008. He didn't have enough horses. The fans were against him. The media was against him and of course, there was

A year and a half after all that drama, Yost went to Kansas City mired in the same mess as the Brewers were in his first two years there. As the Fan mentioned earlier, the Royals had a nice little bump after he was hired. But again, there aren't enough horses. They finished July with a 10-15 record which isn't any better than their 9-14 April was. And now they have traded an effective reliever (can't believe this writer wrote that about Farnsworth) It's pretty safe to say that the Royals are going to struggle next year too. But Yost, unlike Hillman, offers hope. His track record in Milwaukee showed promise and it looks like he will now be around long enough to see if he can do it again in Kansas City. It would be a nice story if that happens as we all root for the underdogs.

But like somebody once said, managers get too much credit for winning and too much blame for losing. It's the nature of the beast. Ryan Braun was quoted in 2008 as saying that the losing streak in September wasn't Yost's fault, it was the players' fault. At least Yost won't have to worry about those sorts of problems for at least a year or two.

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