Less than 24 hours after an intensely emotional farewell to at least some, if not all four, core players entering free agency, the Royals on Monday announced a major overhaul of the coaching staff.
That afternoon, speculation was being floated that the Atlanta Braves may pursue for their vacant general manager job Royals’ GM Dayton Moore, who was indoctrinated in that organization.
While any such overture would logically go unrequited given Moore’s immersion in Kansas City, on and off the field, merely the notion he could be targeted is part of a prevailing perception of a franchise suddenly in transition mode … if not outright flux.
Amid the certain changing of the guard among coaches and players, now might seem like a fine time for manager Ned Yost, 62, to be contemplating retirement.
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Instead, Yost seems invigorated.
Or at least he will be after he sleeps for about a week and gets rejuvenated back on his farm in Georgia.
“I’ll let you know when I’m ready to go …,” Yost, whose contract runs through 2018, said at a news conference Monday. “But I still feel like I love doing what I’m doing.”
Because of the very thing that might figure to give him pause: starting over, essentially, and navigating the ups and downs and the journey.
“It’s all about the people; it’s not about the prize,” he said. “The prize is like the cherry on top of the sundae. …
“It’s about the people and watching them grow and be successful. That’s my prize … And that’s what I love.”
If it sounds hokey, it’s still sincere.
Because why else would Yost do it?
With two American League pennants and a World Series championship to his name, with more wins (629) than any manager in club history and a reclamation project of epic proportions to his credit, Yost’s legacy with the organization is assured despite the detractors who wanted him gone as recently as the middle of the 2014 AL Wild Card Game.
And with coaches Don Wakamatsu and Dave Eiland gone, he’ll lose much of the support system that helped him emerge from the derisive term “#Yosted” as it pertains to his game management.
“That’s not my forte; if I have a forte, that’s two or three levels down — being a great strategical baseball manager, right?” he said. “I’m not. Surprise, you know? Bulletin.”
There are those who will see that as an indictment, something easy to mock. But here’s the real point:
It’s Yost’s modestly stated belief — and it’s been affirmed in the past by Moore and a number of players — that he brings something else substantial to the job beyond that.
Something his detractors have always overlooked.
“My strength comes (in) relationships with players and people and trying to get the most out of them,” he said. “And that’s why I think this week was so emotional.
“Because I’ve been through the ups and downs and the hurts and the joys and the achievements with these guys. In-depth.”
Along the way, Yost morphed from a grizzled old-school baseball man to a player’s manager who wanted his protégés to be themselves.
Or let their personality show, as Chiefs coach Andy Reid likes to say.
So much so that some have criticized Yost for being too much in the corner of his players and covering for them at all turns publicly.
And it’s a legitimate criticism that he can be too slow to make a change out of loyalty.
What matters most, though, is the sentiment in the clubhouse.
And this has been a team whose foundation wanted to play for Yost.
With good reason.
Remember when Yost used to keep letting an overmatched Alcides Escobar bat in pivotal situations, knowing it was essential to developing the player who would grow up to be the most valuable player of the 2015 AL Championship Series?
Recall his ability to convey support to Mike Moustakas even as Moustakas struggled and was demoted to Class AAA Omaha in 2014?
Afterward, Moustakas routinely talked about how crucial just being hugged by Yost and still feeling his faith at that moment was.
Go around the clubhouse, and you’ll find any number of stories like that.
“They look like they’re robots, but they’re not,” Yost said. “They’re not heartless robots. They have feelings.
“There’s things that affect them outside of baseball. And you have to be able to understand what’s going so that effect doesn’t occur on the field.”
Meanwhile, although the Royals farm system isn’t stocked the way it was when Yost took over as manager in 2010, this time around Yost sees some other advantages.
For one thing …
“I think it’s going to be just a small degree easier this time because nobody would believe that we were going to be good back in 2010 and 2011,” he said, recalling being told, “‘You are nuts, there ain’t no way you’re going to be good.’
“I finally just shut up and said, ‘OK, you’ll see.’”
In addition to the credible hope that came with purging a generation of futility, Yost reckons that regardless of who might be back there will be an enduring influence from Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Moustakas and Escobar.
And that it will be felt by the likes of Cheslor Cuthbert, Raul Mondesi, Jorge Bonifacio and Jorge Soler and others.
After the season finale on Sunday, Yost said he told his team to “pay attention” to what those four had demonstrated through their work ethic and growth.
“They have been where you are,” Yost said, “and look where they are now.”
That example will be reinforced by the return, among others, of Sal Perez, Danny Duffy and Alex Gordon — whose struggles the last two seasons don’t diminish his presence as the club elder who is among the hardest-working men in the room.
“There’s a lot of teaching,” Yost said, “a lot of learning (that) still needs to be done.”
Even if it might seem like a tempting time to move on, that’s something Yost embraces — and has proven he can do well despite his own self-diagnosed limitations.