Dear Ned Yost,
Congratulations on becoming the manager of the Kansas City Royals. I know you likely feel pretty happy to be getting a second chance at managing a big league ball club. I am still not sure what to make of the end of your tenure in Milwaukee. On the surface it seems like you may have been a sacrificial lamb, but I wasn’t close enough to the situation to know. Regardless, you have a very coveted position, even though the club you’ve inherited isn’t particularly good.
You are in a very unique and interesting situation. You will be the manager for a good portion of the 2010 season, which is relatively rare for an “interim” manager. So, my guess is you have a decent chance of becoming more than the interim if you do a good job for the remainder of the season. I know that Dayton Moore is a loyal guy and he very well could tap you as the full time manager for 2011 and beyond.
However, beyond Dayton Moore you will be evaluated by the extremely dedicated fans of the Royals and the extremely hard-working and talented media. I know that in many ways, a manager is hired merely to be fired but nobody wants that to be the case. Both fans and media usually want the newest manager to become the next Bobby Cox or Whitey Herzog.
You’ve been given a very extraordinary set of circumstances to manage. First, your team is already in last place and at this point, very little is expected of them. Also, you are not officially the full-time manager of the team but you have a lot of games to manage this season. So, I thought I would send you some advice in how to take the best advantage of the situation and hopefully endear yourself to the fans, the media and maybe even Dayton Moore, because let’s not kid ourselves. Even though this team isn’t very good, you want to become the full time manager.
First, you HAVE to play the young guys and you need to play them a lot. That means Aviles, Ka’aahue, Pena, Maier and Getz. Trey lost a lot of fans when he continued to play veterans day after day after day when they weren’t performing, the team wasn’t winning and there were younger options who could have made a difference. We both know that this team isn’t built to win today and guys like Ankiel, Guillen, Podsednik and Betancourt are not a part of this franchises future. I understand if Dayton is forcing you to play those old guys in hopes that he can swing a trade, but you still manage the club day to day and you need to run the lineup out that is best for the franchise.
I’ve read that one of the things you tend to do is run a guy out there for a long period of time, even if he isn’t performing. You know what, I get that. It’s a statistical thing, we call it sample size. You need to have a guy get enough innings pitched and enough at bats to really know if he can hack it. We are totally cool, with that…as long as it is with young guys. If you put Kila out there and he struggles for a month, but you keep running him out there for another month. I can promise you that you won’t find many people who will be angry with that. Heck, I will post your praises at this very site.
Protect your pitchers. You have a bullpen full of guys, so use them. Gil Meche does not need to be throwing 130 pitches this season. If this were a playoff run and getting another good inning out of him was the best move in a game, then go for it. But what is one inning in this season, for this team? Protect the pitchers for 2011 and beyond. Heck, maybe you will be the manger then and you might need Gil.
Experiment. Try things you’ve always wanted to try. Again this is a lost season, so you don’t really lose anything by trying out things to see how they work. Oh, and if you do this…admit it. Tell the media that you are trying something different. Say you want to change the game and this might be something that works. What the hell, right? I know we talked earlier about you becoming the full time manager later but it may never happen. But I can tell you that if you try something different and it works, your chances of continuing in the job are better than being a clone of every other manager out there.
Endear yourself to the statistics community. Try things they’ve suggested and back up your actions with numbers. Trust me, this will be very good for your public image. So how about some examples? Don’t just use your best relief pitcher as a closer. It’s a dumb role, especially for this team. Bring him in when the game is on the line, if it works great. But sometimes it won’t. You need to stick with it though. In the end, I think it makes your ballclub better. Bunt only in situations where it can actually help your team (not the 1st inning).
Don’t throw your players under the bus. We know when things are the fault of players, we aren’t stupid. But you don’t need to say that they are at fault. The role of any good superior is to take the blame when one of your employees does a bad job. Then you bring him in and get him to change, or try someone different. Nothing good comes from selling ones underlings up the river.
Have a personality. We don’t have enough personalities in baseball. Yeah, we care when you make decisions we don’t agree with. Yes we get upset when the team loses, and yes we probably blame it on you even though it mostly isn’t your fault. But it is much harder to want to get rid of guys who have a good personality. I am pretty sure that Ozzie Guillen and Lou Piniella have helped themselves out tremendously by having personalities. I am not saying to be someone who you are not, but let the media and fans know who you are. They will appreciate it and probably more likely be on your side.
Get kicked out of games. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t your style. But you have to get kicked out of games. Maybe it is a silly thing, but trust me. Fans will say you have fire and really care if you get kicked out. Even if you DO have fire and you DO care, but don’t like getting kicked out. It does’nt matter. Again, it’s silly. But you have to do it.
Try and be cordial with the media. They are just trying to do their job. They are the guys who are there to ask the questions the fans have, and sometimes fans have stupid questions. I can’t imagine how annoying it is to have a bunch of writers question your moves after a frustrating loss. I imagine, that I wouldn’t be very good at that part of the job myself, but treat those guys with respect. The fans will appreciate it, and the media will almost certainly help you out more as well.
I honestly hope that you will be a great Royals manager and can hold that job for the next 10 years or more. We don’t like to have failed manager after failed manager at the helm of the team.