Ned Yost is now the Kansas City Royals’ winningest manager. The 3-2 victory over the Brewers at Kauffman Stadium last night was Yost’s 411th, moving him past Whitey Herzog and onto the summit.
That Yost needed only 411 victories to move to the top of the list tells me the Royals (a) have had many, many bad years, even though they made the playoffs six times (not counting the strike-shortened season of 1981) between 1976 and 1985, but more importantly (b) the manager’s seat has been a revolving door, going back all the way to the day Ewing Kauffman was awarded the franchise in 1968.
Yost has been manager of the Royals since May 14, 2010. He has managed more games, 824, than any skiipper in team history. In September, he will surpass Dick Howser for the longest tenure in team history. Howser amanged the Royals for five full seasons and the first 55 percent of a sixth before the tragic diagnosis of brain cancer which would claim him on July 17, 1987.
Since Howser’s sad departture, the managerial position has been as unstable as an isotope of plutonium 239. And some of the people occupying the manager’s seat have been totally unworthy of being the skipper of any professional baseball team, much less one of the 30 in Major League Baseball.
One of the worst was the man who preceded Yost. Trey Hillman was hired prior to the 2008 season after managing in Japan. Terrible hire by Dayton Moore. Just terrible. In two seasons and a month and a half of a third, Kansas City was 52 games under .500.
I happened to witness Hillman’s last game as Royals manager, a 5-4 victory over the Indians May 13, 2010. It was on a Thursday afternoon. By time I returned to my room at the Kansas City Airport Marriott, I learned Hillman had been fired and Yost, who managed the Brewers from 2003 through most of the 2008 season, was going to take over.
The next morning, I departed Kansas City and drove to Smith Center for the Mid-Continent League track and field meet. I spent most of the day listening to the two sports talk stations in Kansas City, KCSP and WHB, discuss Hillman’s firing and Yost’s hiring. None of the talking heads believed Yost was the long-term solution, and wondered if Moore had a short list for someone to come in after the 2010 season was complete.
Yost has supposedly been on the proverbial hot seat time and again. Some couldn’t believe he survived the 2012 season, when the Royals finished 72-90, the 9th time in 11 seasons they lost 90 or more. A slow start in 2013 fueled even more speculation Yost was on his way out.
Yet Kansas City turned it around following the 2013 All-Star game and stayed in the wild card hunt deep into September. An 86-76 final mark convinced Moore that Yost was the right man for the job.
Moore has been vindicated by the Royals’ performance in 2014 and the first two and a half months of 2015. And now Ned Yost will go for win 412 tonight vs. the Red Sox.