Pardon my daliance with terrible headline writing, I don’t take the paper any more and so I kind of miss the too easy and groan-inducing, pun-laden headlines. Regardless, today’s topic is Ned Yost, the manager of the Kansas City Royals. It’s a timely topic as the Royals announced that they had picked up the option on his contract for the 2013 season. I for one, say huzzah!
The manager of any baseball team is a lightening rod. He is there to answer questions from dogged journos every single day of the season both before and after games. If things are going wrong, he is there. If things are going well, he is there. He is likely to be there in a slightly different posture and attitude, but there nonetheless. The best managers can draw much more lightening and allow his charges to escape with fewer wounds.
However, that doesn’t mean that he has to allow the players to get away without taking responsibility. He just channels it away from the media and fans and dishes it out himself. In other words, he’s the champion of the players in public and a champion of the fans and media internally, assuming the desire of the fans and media is for a team of hard-playing, talented men who score more runs than their opposition.
So the question we all have and try to answer is whether or not Ned Yost is able to accomplish this and do so in a better way than his counter-part in the opposite dug out. The answer: Hell if I know!
I’ve spent a little time around Ned Yost. I’ve seen him in pre-game and post-game interviews. Personally I think he seems like a pretty good guy. He’s funnier than you’d expect and he doesn’t have tolerance for stupid and inane questions, although his idea of stupid and inane is quite a bit bigger than most. That’s merely a window into his personality and gives little clue to his effectiveness as a manager of young millionaire athletes. Though I do believe an effective manager should have humor and a disregard for stupidity and inanity. He is, after all dealing with young men in an all male locker-room environment. Getting them to be “professional” and being able to speak to them is key. I’m sure humor is helpful in the latter and the anti-stupidity good for the former.
So we’re stuck with an opaque window looking into what I personally believe is 80% of a managers job: The preparation, motivation and inspiration of 25 atheletes. Yet as fans, analysts, bloggers and escapists we need to be able to comment to our dads, brothers, sisters, aunts and co-workers on our opinion of the manager of the team, lest we be outed as know-nothings. So, what then?
Then, we have to look at what we can see in regards to the manager: his in-game decisions. In baseball these decisions are few and far-between, particularly those that have a meaningful impact on a game that is itself meaningful. So we evaluate pitching changes, bullpen management, the rare American League pinch-hit and so on.
We’re more often than not harping on a non-move because of course we would have done something and it would have certainly worked out better than doing nothing. We would have pulled that pitcher before he gave up the homerun, it was obvious! We would have pinch-hit for the guy that struck out, because everyone knew he was going to strike out.
Not to say that we always manage post-facto, but there is an element which is inherent in all analysis. It’s part of the fun. And often, we would have made the change and it gives us a bit of satisfaction for being “smarter” than the guy being paid the big money to look odd in that uniform that never gets dirty. Professional managers know this, they in general accept it and they know in their hearts that you are not smarter than them, because they have the job.
And thus the cycle continues, managers believing they are making the right moves because they were hired to make that move. We as fans get angry and call for his head. We all agree we could do a better job and then we go do the jobs that we are paid to do, probably with the same assumptions as the manager does. All of this based on my wild-ass guess of about 20% or less of the actual performance of the job at hand of managing a team. Let’s also not forget the importance of managing up, and being a good employee of the General Manager, since he pulls the strings.
So, let the debate rage on regarding Ned Yost’s handling of the pen and his penchant for stealing bases. He’s here for at least two more years, and I for one am happy. I think he’s a great manager because in general I like his moves and because he provides what we all are really pining for: Someone to blame when things go wrong.
– Nick Scott