Royals Hire Matheny as Their New Manager…and You Shouldn’t Be Happy About That

The inevitable and expected happened on Thursday, as the Kansas City Royals announced that Mike Matheny would be their new manager, taking over the for the retired Ned Yost. This move can be traced all the way back to last November, when the Royals brought him into the organization to be a special advisor to player development.

While this was expected for months, it has also been a very unpopular hire within the Royals fanbase, with many like myself pointing out many of the issues that led to his dismissal in St. Louis. This hire has left many shaking their head and wondering why the Royals braintrust felt giving Matheny a second opportunity at managing was wiser than taking a chance on a younger option like Pedro Grifol or Vance Wilson.

If I am truly being fair here, lets look at some of the positives that pop up on Matheny’s resume. Under his leadership, Matheny guided the Cardinals to the playoffs his first four years at the helm, including a World Series appearance in 2013 and leading baseball in wins in 2015 (when the Royals won the World Series over the Mets). He accumulated a record of 591-474 over his six and a half seasons in St. Louis, which is impressive for someone who had never managed before and was following in the footsteps of the legendary Tony LaRussa.

What eventually led to his dismissal in St. Louis has been well documented and feels like a list of ‘Do-Nots’ for any manager to follow. He showed a preference to veterans, struggled with communication when met with resistance, was not open-minded to advance analytics, showed poor decision-making when it came to tactical decisions, neglected fundamentals and was not open to outside advice. If you really want a window into why so many Royals fans (and analysts within the game) have been against the hire, this is probably a great way to start.

So with all that said, why was Matheny Dayton Moore’s choice? For one, he is an old school leader who follows in line with Moore on how the game should be played. Both are firm believers in a style that focuses on putting the ball in play, bunting runners over into scoring position and a love of the sacrifice fly. In some ways Matheny is an extension of Ned Yost, at least when it comes to the tactical side of a managers job. As a baseball fan, this part isn’t the worst thing in the world, as the ball being put in play more has proven to be a more exciting product to watch and one that was very successful for the 2014-2015 Royals teams.

The issue lies in the problems that arose in St. Louis near the end of his run. The Royals are in a rebuild (whether Moore acknowledges it or not) and with that comes a higher focus on young talent. Matheny showed a tendency to lean toward his veterans while the younger players would ride some pine if met with any struggles. At this point of development, the younger players in Kansas City will need the playing time and a long stint on the bench won’t really do them any good. Yost was great working with the youngsters, even going back to his time in Milwaukee. This was one aspect of Ned’s managerial style that he was praised for and one that Matheny would be smart to adopt.

Maybe this will change for Matheny since he is in a different situation than the one he was anointed in St. Louis. Matheny was thrown into the pressure cooker when he was hired by the Cardinals, as he was replacing a legend in Tony LaRussa and left with a roster that was playoff-ready. There was no rebuild going on during his stint in St. Louis and the expectancy to win was much higher than it is going to be in Kansas City the next two years. We should know pretty early whether or not Matheny has changed in this regard and it will be interesting how he handles a different side of the game, one that can expect more lows than highs.

Another issue that has to be addressed would be his communication skills. Matheny was known as someone who would shut down for long periods of time and sometimes even ignore certain players. This can’t happen in Kansas City and is a big part of my concern with him taking over this job. He will be working with younger players who need feedback on what they are doing correctly and incorrectly and having a manager that isn’t there to teach them is a major problem. During the press conference on Thursday, Matheny talked a lot about “growing” and acknowledging his “blind spots” and for this to work, this can’t be just talk.

So is it just talk? Obviously at this point there is no way to tell but Moore saw enough that he felt the change was real. Matheny did take an analytics course to grow his knowledge and even hired a consultant to help him deal with the media. At the very least, these are signs that Matheny wanted an opportunity to manage again and was willing to take the steps necessary to make it happen. He was very stubborn during his first managerial job when it came to not only the use of analytics but also taking any other comments, opinions or suggestions as a form of growth. Matheny would be wise to soak in everything that is tossed his away and at the very least consider the advice that is sent his way. If he is serious at growing, he needs to be an open-minded manager.

With this said, the biggest reason I don’t feel Matheny is the right hire for Kansas City is because to me he isn’t the best choice. To me, the best choice has been in the Royals dugout for years now and his name is Pedro Grifol. Grifol has been with the big league club since 2013, when he was brought in as a special assignment coach when George Brett was hired as interim hitting coach. Grifol has also served as the quality control coach, catching coach and hitting coach during his tenure in Kansas City. While he was with the Mariners organization, Grifol was a manager, scout, coordinator of instruction and Director of Minor League Operations. You could probably name it, and Grifol has done it.

So why do I feel he is the best choice? Not only does his wealth of knowledge in all aspects of the organization help, but he is also bilingual, has the respect and admiration of the current players and has watched many of the players move up through the organization as well as watching the current crop that is still down in the minors. Grifol has shown an ability to learn and grow and is someone thought highly of not only within the Royals organization, but other organizations as well. Currently he is on the short list of candidates to become the new San Francisco Giants manager and has been considered for managerial jobs in the past in both Detroit and Baltimore. Grifol would have walked into the Royals managerial job with a leg up on everyone else while having all the tools that organizations look for in their field generals.

So with that said, why the choice of Matheny over Grifol? Managerial experience is almost certainly one of reasons, but there is another reason that isn’t talked about as much but one I addressed just last weekend. Dayton Moore is a deeply religious man and so is Mike Matheny. We have seen over the last few years Moore get more and more aggressive with this beliefs being pushed out in public, most publicly with his battle against pornography. As Royals fans, we have known about Moore’s faith for years and for the most part it has never been a big issue. Craig Brown at Royals Review talked extensively about this the other day (which I highly recommend you click that link) and I felt better after reading it because I wasn’t alone in believing that Moore hired Matheny in part because of his religious beliefs.

I know some will disagree with this, but much like Matheny talked about his “blind spots” when it came to managing, I firmly believe Moore’s “blind spot” is his faith. Part of that faith is believing in second chances and in my opinion that is what is going on here. Moore sees Matheny as a good Christian man and wants to reward him for that by giving him another managing job. By no means am I saying Matheny shouldn’t be given a second chance at some point. Far from it. At some point I do believe he should be given that second chance, as long as he has shown that he has learned what failed him during his first managerial job.

But he is just 15 months removed from that firing, which feels too soon. Add in a candidate in Grifol that feels like the superior choice and you start wondering “why Matheny?”. It seems very apparent where the dots are connected here and why Matheny was Dayton’s choice. Personally, I have no issue with anyone and their religion. As comedian Katt Williams would say “You do you, Boo-Boo”. But when it comes to baseball and hiring coaches or signing players, I care nothing about religion. I want the best person for the job, the person who will give the team the best opportunity to win. Unless they are just an absolutely deplorable human, it doesn’t matter to me whether you praise Jesus, Buddha, Allah or any other deity. I want the best person for the job and Matheny is not that person for the Royals.

Moore has made his decision and I will call it now: this move will be the beginning of the end for Dayton. Over the last couple years, he has made some questionable moves and we’ve seen his decision making become more and more questionable. It used to just be free agent signings or trades but now it has started to seep over into whether his personal belief system is on a higher plain than winning. Need more proof? Look no more than his defending of Luke Heimlich. Moore’s want to give people a second chance almost gave the organization a giant stain that would have been hard to recover from. It is obvious what his mission is at this point and on a daily basis I question more and more whether or not that goal is winning. The hiring of Matheny could very well be his eventual downfall, especially with new ownership getting ready to move in.

So it is very obvious that Matheny being hired by Kansas City was not well received at my house. The hope for those of us who dislike the move is that he proves us wrong and he has truly changed his ways. For the longterm health of this organization, I hope that his hiring won’t push back the progress that has been made these last few years. The good news is this: when Ned Yost was brought in, many like myself looked down on the hire and eventually Yost proved us wrong. Now it’s Matheny’s turn. For our sanity, I need to be wrong.

Musings and Opinions About October and Baseball

(Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports)

With the MLB postseason in the stretch run, I thought I would run through a few topics that are hitting the baseball news cycle this month and put a bit of a personal slant on it. With that being said, let’s start with our Kansas City Royals.

The Wrong Choice?

If you are a Royals fan, you are probably well aware that former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is the frontrunner to take over for Ned Yost in the dugout. You are also probably aware that Royals fans have been very adamant about their dislike of Matheny and the feeling that he would be a horrible choice to take the helm in KC. In fact, if you thought Yost caught a lot of flak, it’s nothing compared to Matheny and he hasn’t even been hired yet.

If you are unaware of why many of us within the fanbase are not fond of Matheny, it basically comes down to his dealings with the players near the end of his run in St. Louis. Matheny wasn’t even talking to outfielder Dexter Fowler and it even sounds like he allowed bullying to go on in the bullpen. Go ahead and read this to get a better idea of what was going on while he was with the Cardinals and there is also this from a few Cardinals fans. To say there is some skepticism about Mike and his handling of the clubhouse would be an understatement.

While I have concerns with all of this (and worry how this could effect a young team like the Royals), there is another issue that I have with the idea of WHY exactly Royals GM Dayton Moore would hire a man with this much baggage. It has to do with Matheny’s faith and how Moore seems to want to surround himself with people who are very religious and wear it like a badge of honor on their sleeves.

I almost hate to keep bringing this up, since I have no issue with what anyone believes in or doesn’t believe in. To me, it comes down to whether or not you are qualified to do the job at hand and no matter what team, you should hire the person best suited for the job. If Matheny was coming off a great run in St. Louis and was a good fit for Kansas City, I couldn’t care less what his religious beliefs were. If he was the best choice, he should be the man hired to take over for Ned.

But instead, it feels like Dayton is continuing to hire based more on faith rather than logic. I’m all for giving someone a second chance and the Cardinals job was Matheny’s first managing job. It would be ridiculous to think he didn’t learn anything from it. But the Royals are in a position where they are a young team that needs proper leadership to help them grow and eventually flourish at the big league level, to the point of them possibly contending within a couple of years. Hiring someone like Matheny, who doesn’t appear to work as well with younger talent as well as veterans, would seem to be a weird hire for a team that is in full-blown rebuild mode.

The Royals have two coaches in-house (Pedro Grifol and Vance Wilson) who have had their names tossed around in managing circles and would appear to both be good choices for any team that is considering hiring them. Both have been with the Royals organization for years and have seen many off the current roster make their way through the Kansas City farm system. Both have good relationships with the players and embrace advanced analytics, which every team is now using to help the development of their players.

This feels like a no-brainer, but you have to really worry about a team that thinks Matheny is a good fit to lead the Royals into the next realm of their development. Maybe Grifol has been the choice all along and we’ve all spent a ton of time worrying about nothing. But it doesn’t feel that way and it feels like the beginning of the downfall of Dayton Moore. I hope I’m wrong, because what awaits us if Matheny is hired could be tough to endure when all Moore has to do is make the best choice for the team.

Nationals Devil Magic     

The funnest team to watch this postseason has been the Washington Nationals. Not only are they an underdog (going from the Wild Card game to the World Series), but they are a jovial team that appears to enjoy each other’s company. In fact, it hit me the other day that part of why I like watching this Nationals team as much as I do could be because they remind me of the 2014-2015 Royals teams that had a little bit of luck on their side.

Offensively there appears to be a lot of the Royals formula in their style. This is a team that just finds a way to get on base and numerous times this postseason has managed to compile multiple run innings by “moving the line”. Washington has a bit more power than those Royals teams, but they know how to keep an inning alive and make their baserunners count.

Pitching-wise, their rotation is miles better than Kansas City’s was, but the Royals had an edge when it came to their bullpen. Switching around the roles, the Nationals lean on a dominant rotation while the Royals leaned on their dominant bullpen. There are slight differences (and it makes the late innings a bit more stressful if you are a Washington fan), but you can see enough of a similarity that it’s not hard for a Royals fan to cheer for their brethren in D.C.

If Washington can seal the deal, they would have a giant monkey off their back, much like the Royals did in 2014. The hard part for them was winning a playoff series, which they had never done before. Since then, they have been playing with house money and you can tell how much looser they are on the field…just like when the Royals won the Wild Card game in 2014. Bottom line is while they aren’t carbon copies, they are close enough that it has been easy to get behind the Nationals this October. I can only hope they are able to do what the Royals did in 2015.

Everything’s Coming Up Soto

(Credit: AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The biggest joy I have received from this postseason has been the attention given to Nationals outfielder Juan Soto. Soto, who just turned 21 (I know, you hadn’t heard that yet), has flown under the radar these last two years, especially to the casual baseball fan. But for those of us that follow it more closely, his success is something we pretty much expected. In fact, he probably should have been praised more before even getting to the playoffs.

With all the hoopla for Ronald Acuna, Jr. these last two seasons (and trust me, it’s deserved), Soto is right there with Acuna. I would even go so far as to say they are very similar players, as the numbers will attest. First, Acuna:

Now, Soto:

As you can see, the two have very similar numbers, with Acuna utilizing his speed more and probably the better defender. With that said, it has been nice to see Soto get the attention that Acuna has been receiving since before his recall to the majors. In some ways these two will be linked together till the end of time, much like Harper and Trout or Williams and DiMaggio. I’m not saying these two are on that level, but in the same regard they could be at the level soon.

So enjoy watching Soto in these next few games. It’s a treat that we get to appreciate him on the biggest stage with the biggest spotlight.

The World Series is nearing the end. Award season is just around the corner. And after that? I would like to say Hot Stove season, but the last two winters it has been anything but hot. So enjoy this week. While Major League Baseball has dealt with the de-juicing of the baseballs, the fiasco with the Houston Astros front office, and the news of a possible restructuring of the minor leagues, baseball needs a strong finish to the postseason and hope for an active offseason. The ball is in your court, baseball. Be smart with your next move.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Sometimes you can see moves happening from a mile away. It was well known for years that Dayton Moore had a fondness for former Atlanta Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur, all the way back to his days in the Atlanta front office. So when the Royals signed Frenchy to a deal in late 2010, it was a shock to literally no one. 

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise last week when the Kansas City Royals hired former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny as special adviser for player development. The rumors of Matheny being brought into the fold go back a few months, as it was first brought up by Derrick Goold in August. Goold had this to say just last week after the hiring:

    


Matheny, 48, will take part in working within the Royals’ organization and the role will also have a scouting aspect to it, he said. Before becoming the Cardinals’ manager for the 2012 season, Matheny worked as a special assignments official for the Cardinals and spent time during spring training and the season working with the organization’s young catchers. Matheny won seven Gold Gloves during his 13-year playing career in the majors.

So in a lot of ways, we’ve been preparing for this move for quite awhile. Would anticipate be a better word? Probably not, since Matheny did not leave St. Louis with high praise. Our own Max Rieper covered many of the issues associated with Matheny’s time as Cardinals manager earlier this week and I touched on some of the problems he created about a month ago when discussing replacements for Ned Yost.    

So this move isn’t the most popular for Royals fans, but it also feels like a knee-jerk reaction to something that hasn’t even happened. The thinking is that while Matheny has only been hired as a “Special Adviser”, the true purpose for the Royals to bring him in is to make him the replacement for Yost, whenever he decides to finally hang it up. Call it a “Manager in Waiting”.

It’s easy to see why people have connected the dots. When Yost was brought in, he was also hired as a “Special Adviser”. He also had major league managerial experience. He was also someone that Moore spoke very highly of, just as he did with Matheny: 


“This is a great opportunity to have Mike become a member of our organization,” said Royals general manager Dayton Moore in a statement. “It’s always been our policy to hire the best baseball people we can and this is a perfect example of that.”

So it is easy to see why almost everyone has instantly assumed that Matheny will be the next Kansas City manager. But the truth is that this is all speculation and it even feels like people are jumping to conclusions.

Let’s start with the obvious: Ned Yost is still the manager of this team. That will probably continue to be the case until he doesn’t want the job anymore. From the outside looking in, that appears to be when the 2019 season concludes, but for all we know it could go on past that. The one thing we can probably place money on is that no one will be uprooting Yost from his seat except for Ned. 

There are also a couple of very viable options already on the Royals coaching staff that could replace Yost. Bench coach Dale Sveum, bullpen coach Vance Wilson and catching/quality control coach Pedro Grifol have been mentioned in the past as possible successors to Ned and all three have been in the organization for a number of years. In fact, after the 2017 campaign this statement was made by Yost after the coaching staff shake-up:


“We feel like we’ve got the right people to take over for me,” Yost indicated. “We’re not bringing someone in.”

Now, this comment was made over a year ago and things change. I’ve even made the comment in the past that sometimes people change their mind and decide to go in a different direction, even if they felt differently a month, a week or a day earlier. An organization can change their mind and often do based off of where they feel the direction of the on-field product is headed.  

That being said, it also appears that the Royals have discussed Ned’s replacement for awhile now and have someone in mind for the job. Considering that Dayton has the highest of respect for Yost and the years he has spent in baseball, it is easy to see Moore taking Yost’s recommendation under the highest of consideration. 

Along those same lines, it would make sense for the front office to also take the consideration of some of the veterans on the roster and who they feel would be a great fit as manager. Grifol has been a name bandied about these last couple of years as a candidate and he is someone the players respect and look up to. You don’t have to let the players choose the new manager, but allowing a few of them some input might not be the worst idea when the future of the team is in consideration.

Credit:  Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

One other item to consider is the effect that time could have on this situation. Matheny has been in baseball for a number of years and I’m sure still has a number of friends within the game. It is not out of the realm of possibility to see someone hire him as a coach somewhere, if that is something he desires.

Back in the day he was a great defensive catcher and it is easy to picture a team wanting him to come in and work with their young backstops. While he might have had a rough time communicating with some of his players when he was managing, it is possible that if you take the pressure of that job out of the situation, he could flourish with more one on one teaching. 

I could even see a team wanting him as a bench coach. Now before you snicker at that thought, remember how Trey Hillman did in his time as Royals manager and then remember that he eventually became the bench coach for both the Dodgers and the Astros. So yes, weirder things could happen.

The point of all of this is that there are no guarantees that Mike Matheny will be the next Kansas City manager. There is still quite a bit of time before that position is even open and things could drastically change between now and then. 

For all we know, Matheny was simply brought in as a fallback in case their first option becomes unavailable. Maybe he simply is just being brought in as an adviser and that is the only interest the organization has in him. Worrying about “what might happen” is dangerous and takes the focus away from the now and then.

So for now, don’t worry too much about Matheny being in the organization. As much as some of us don’t want him anywhere near the managerial position, for now he isn’t. That is where your focus should be. Don’t want to believe me? Then take the words of a man who has covered the team for quite a long time, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com:  

In Flanny we trust. Now go on and worry about anything else but Mike Matheny. Trust me, it will help your sanity.

Who Should Be the Next Royals Manager?

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On the last day of the 2018 campaign it was announced that manager Ned Yost would be returning to the Kansas City Royals to helm the ship for the 2019 season. This wasn’t a big shock, as there had been a prevalent thought that Yost wanted to come back for at least another season and continue the rebuild that is currently in place (I know, Dayton said it’s not a rebuild. We all know it IS a rebuild. But nice try, DM).

It appears from the outside looking in that the job is Yost’s for as long as he wants it. He has a good working relationship with both Moore and the Glass family, and the fact he led the Royals to back-to-back World Series’ gives him a certain level of leeway that many men in his position would love to have.

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Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

But at some point Ned is going to decide to call it a day and go home. In fact, that day is probably closer than you think. For all we know, Yost could decide to retire at the end of 2019 and hand off the reigns to his successor. It’s hard to remember, but Yost has been in this position since May of 2010, which is a lifetime for a major league manager. Imagining someone else leading this Royals team is difficult to picture at times.

But we are going down that road anyway. Let’s imagine that Yost steps down and the Royals are on the hunt for his replacement. Who should they look for? Should they hire from within the organization? Should they go with a younger manager or one with experience?

Sam Mellinger  of the Kansas City Star recently took a look into just what the Royals would be looking for and in some ways it is a bit eye-raising

From what I can gather, the Royals would basically want Ned 2.0, an updated version of Yost for the future of a changing game.

They would prefer someone with previous managing experience, which is worth noting, because the trend elsewhere is for fresh faces. They want someone with respect, who’s a good communicator, has a feel for the game, all the typical traits you’d expect. The biggest difference might be that they’d look for someone with a little more feel for metrics, and the ways baseball is changing.

Using the term “Ned 2.0” made me chuckle because I might have pictured him as a cyborg for a moment. But it is very telling of what they are looking for and it immediately led some to think of former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, including Mellinger:

My friend Derrick Goold was first to the scene on the Royals’ interest in Mike Matheny. Not that Derrick needs it, but I can confirm the interest. There will be other names that come up, too, and they don’t necessarily have to check every box.

Just mentioning Matheny probably made you groan, right? I get it, since he isn’t my first choice for the job either. This past season really drove home the flaws in his managerial style, which was hit on ad nauseam this summer:

Even in the recent past, old-school managers such as Ned Yost, Dusty Baker, and Charlie Manuel have won not because they’re John McGraw, but because they can get 25 guys to pull together. For that reason, if you can’t get the tactics right, you damn well better bring the best out of your players.

Matheny was never able to do that. And ironically for such a young manager, he committed an age-old sin: inflexibility.

To me, that reads that Matheny is the exact opposite of Yost. Bizarro Yost? Very possible. So as much as we freak out when we hear Matheny’s name, I can’t imagine Dayton Moore will look past that, unless he can just charm the pants off of Moore.

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Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

But there are options to replace Yost and some are definitely in-house. Pedro Grifol has long been a favorite and someone the players are very fond of. By the end of George Brett’s tenure as hitting coach in 2013 , the players had shown a strong bond with Grifol and preferred him to Brett when it came to hitting issues. He is also bilingual and obviously a good communicator.

Dale Sveum, the current Royals bench coach, is another option. Sveum has managing experience (he led the Cubs for two seasons, 2012-2013) and has been a coach for Kansas City for five seasons now. Sveum has obviously built a relationship with a number of the current players and would be able to slide right into the system the Royals have been utilizing these last few years.

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Credit: MLB.com

My choice (and the person I felt was a future Royals manager from almost the moment he was brought into the organization) is Vance Wilson. Wilson managed Kansas City’s AA squad in Northwest Arkansas for four seasons and is the Royals current bullpen coach. Wilson has managed a number of the current players on the Kansas City roster and is familiar with their successes and failures. Wilson can be a bit old school, but has also been willing to use analytics as well to help the cause.

I found this comment from 2011 very telling into what kind of manager Wilson would be:

“I’m learning how to relate to the players, especially this new generation of players, and I’m learning to make guys better not only as players, but people. I will see where it takes me beyond this.”

This sounds like something from the Dayton Moore handbook. If anything, it fits the style of leader that Moore looks for in his managers.

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Credit: Associated Press

Jason Kendall, a former Royals catcher, has also been mentioned as a future manager over the years. He currently works in the organization as the Special Assignment Coach and has long been a favorite of the Kansas City front office. Kendall is an interesting option, but he might be a bit too rough around the edges. I’m not for sure today’s players would be very receptive to his gruff managerial style, which I imagine is what you would get from Kendall.

We could also throw in former Royals outfielders Raul Ibanez and Carlos Beltran onto the list as well. Neither have any managerial experience, but both are highly regarded in the baseball community and great communicators. One has to wonder just where the Royals would be if not for Ibanez’s speech to the Royals clubhouse in 2014, a speech that motivated the team and led them on their run to the postseason that year. Could something like that motivate Dayton to hire Raul? Experience (or lack thereof) might not be the deciding factor if the Royals like a candidate.

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There are a number of other candidates that Kansas City could consider when the time comes. Mike Maddux, Tim Wallach, Jay Bell (another former Royal), Bo Porter, Eric Chavez and Joe Espada are just a few more names that could be considered as the future Royals manager. The one thing to remember is that while the Royals might be looking for a Yost clone right now, that could change at the drop of a hat:

By the time Ned retires, the organization could have shifted their needs and desires in a different direction. Personally, I am fine with that. Deciding who leads this team moving forward shouldn’t be a hastily made decision and instead should be done with meticulous detail. Figure out where you want the team to be and decide at that point who is the best candidate to get you to your destination. That should be your choice.

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Credit: Orlin Wagner, The Associated Press

But we aren’t there yet. This is all speculation on our part and it might change twenty more times before Yost steps down. But the future gets a bit closer everyday, a future without Ned. Hopefully the Royals are prepared when that day comes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the Royals Managerial Candidates List Should Look Like

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It is a well known fact I dislike Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. I’ve been saying for years that the Royals will never reach the promised land as long as he is in charge, and so far he has proven me right. This isn’t an(other) article explaining why Yost should be vanquished. Ken Rosenthal appears to be doing that for me. And Craig Calcaterra. No, his time is getting closer every day. With the Royals continuing to struggle during a season where many feel they should be sniffing the playoffs, and no help in sight in the minors or in a trade, there is an outside chance(albeit it a very outside chance) that Yost could find himself in the unemployment line soon. So if that happens, here are five managerial candidates that the Royals should be considered, at least in my eyes.

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Mike Maddux

Sure, Maddux has the pedigree to help any team with their pitching. Being the older brother of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux helps, but Mike has done a great job on his own with Texas’ pitching staff and Milwaukee’s staff before that. Maddux has been mentioned in the past as a managerial candidate for the Red Sox, Cubs and Tigers, and it’s conceivable that in the right situation he would be a perfect fit. Mike is a smart baseball man who is hard working, dependable, well liked and respected by his players. He also seems to be a calming influence on the clubhouse, which could go either way for a team like the Royals. Some might say the Royals would be better off with a guy who has a bit more fire, but my gut tells me the Royals should go with the best candidate. Maddux appears to be in that upper echelon and should be at the top of most lists for managerial openings.

Dave Martinez, Joe Maddon

Dave Martinez 

There is something to be said for coaches that have worked for smaller market teams. A lot of times those coaches have had to do more with less to get their team to be contenders. One man who fits that criteria and is heavily underrated is Tampa Bay’s bench coach, Dave Martinez. It’s almost amazing at this point that Martinez has never managed in his career, especially while spending so much time under the tutelage of Joe Maddon. Martinez has an array of positives; he is willing to think out of the box(he is supposedly the mastermind behind the Rays defensive shifts), has worked as a translator before for the Rays young Latin players and has worked with many of the younger talent that has come through Tampa’s system. Add in that he thinks a lot like Maddon and you have a guy that could be very successful if given the chance. Martinez seems like a great fit for the young Royals team and would definitely bring a different vibe to the Royals clubhouse. I would not be surprised to see him get a managerial job sometime within the next year; I can only hope it will be with Kansas City.

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Dale Sveum

Look, the Royals like to hire from within. I like minor league manager Vance Wilson, but he is probably still a few years away from being ready to manage a major league club. From the minute Sveum was hired it was hard not to see that he could be a possible future Royals manager. Hell, he was the guy who took over for Yost when he was fired from Milwaukee! Sveum has the managerial experience the team likes, as he was the Cubs manager the last few years and was well liked by the players and staff. There has been some concerns about his helping player development, or more to the point, the development of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo for the Cubs. Sure, both regressed last year. But I tend to think part of Castro’s problems were that the team was trying to change his approach at the plate(take more pitches, work the count, not swing at so many pitches outside the zone,etc.), which was more of an edict of upper Chicago management, not Sveum. Castro has gone back to his old ways this year and has been vastly improved, which would seem to back up this point. Either way, he would be a solid candidate if Yost was yanked and would be a new voice in the clubhouse. When it comes to in house candidates, Sveum is a much better option than say, Jason Kendall. That thought frightens me.

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Tim Wallach

Wallach is another former player that has turned baseball into a lifetime career, albeit now coaching. Wallach is currently a coach for the Dodgers but has managed before, in the minors for the Dodgers AAA team. Wallach managed for two seasons in Albuquerque and was named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2009 as well as Baseball America’s “Best Manager Prospect” .  Wallach has also been interviewed by both the Tigers and Mariners this past year for their managerial openings. When Wallach interviewed for the Tigers job, their GM Dave Dombrowski(who was also Wallach’s GM in Montreal when he was a player) had nothing but positive things to say about him: “Quality person on and off the field, good family man, good work ethic, and a knowledgeable baseball person.” Wallach had been asked how he would describe his managing style and he said “Work at it, interact, communicate, and hopefully guys will take to what I’m saying. That’s pretty much what it comes down to. It’s about the players. You have to put them in the right spots to succeed. That’s probably my biggest job. Have them play hard every day and put them in the right spot so they can be successful.” It seems as if nothing but positives come out when people around baseball talk about Wallach. He has been on countless managerial lists, so it’s only a matter of time until someone gives him a chance. I could easily see him in Royal blue, managing the Royals.

MLB:  Greenville Drive

Gabe Kapler 

Kapler is my dark horse candidate and one that I think will have a successful career managing if he ever decides to do just that. He managed one season in the minors, for the Boston Red Sox as manager of their Single-A affiliate, the Greenville Drive, for one season in 2007. He didn’t have a successful campaign(58-81) but he learned a lot that one season and used that to return to the big leagues in 2008. Since he retired in 2011 he has worked around baseball, whether it be as a television analyst or as a coach for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic in 2013. What intrigues me about Kapler is his solid baseball mind. Kapler penned a column last year where he discussed how many current and former players would be wise to smarten up to advanced metrics. It is that forward thinking that I like and is of a guy who doesn’t seem to be trapped into a box with his way of thinking. Kapler might not have much experience, and might very well need a few more years managing in the minors, but with managers getting hired today with no experience whatsoever, it’s not completely foolish to keep Kapler in the conversation. To add to that, I have to feel that him being retired from the game for only a few years makes him more likely to understand the current player and his plight. If Kapler decides he wants to manage, I’m pretty convinced he will be one of the good ones.

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That is my top five list. You can play at home and add yours as well. I know guys like Joey Cora and Manny Acta came to mind for me as well. If you noticed I picked a few guys with no big league experience and I did that for a reason; I just don’t think it is that important. There is a bunch of former big league managers that get cycled in and out of jobs only for the reason that they have experience, even if it is not a good one. The game is evolving and even the guy in the dugout needs to evolve. Managers like Mike Matheny of St. Louis and Brad Ausmus(who I’ve always liked, even back when he was a player) have shown that you don’t need managerial experience to succeed in the big leagues. In no way am I saying this entire fiasco in Kansas City is Yost’s fault, either. The hitters aren’t hitting and at some point they have to take the blame for it and GM Dayton Moore should shoulder part of the blame. But the Royals appear to be going nowhere fast with Yost in charge and if things don’t get better I can see a change happening. If that happens, I would like to see a fresh young face take over the ballclub. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it will be someone like Yost who doesn’t challenge the status quo. That is unfortunate, because the option is there; you just have go out on a limb and take it.

 

Wednesday Notes-10/24/12

I decided last night to start a regular notes column, most likely on Wednesdays. This way I can take a look at things going on around baseball each week and cover as much ground as possible. So without further ado(and much procrastination), here are your Wednesday notes.

Two perfectly normal relievers…

Tonight is Game One of the 2012 World Series, as the Detroit Tigers will be taking on the San Francisco Giants. Most experts are predicting the Tigers to come out on top, as their pitching has been superb this postseason with a potent offense. Far be it from me to doubt the Cyborg Verlander, but my gut is telling me to not doubt the Giants. They have been the underdogs throughout the playoffs, coming back from the edge of elimination during both the NLDS and the NLCS. They even came back from being down 3-1 against the Cardinals to punch their ticket to the World Series. The only other time it’s happened? The 1985 playoffs by the eventual champion Kansas City Royals. Yes, they did it against the Cardinals that year in the Fall Classic. Game 7 the other night was oddly reminiscent of another Game 7, of that same 1985 World Series. For anyone who doesn’t know, in that game the Cardinals veered off the rails and the Royals routed them in classic fashion. Joaquin Andujar blew a gasket that game, demolishing a toilet in the locker room while Whitey Herzog was ran up by the umpires while his Red Birds choked in epic fashion. I almost expected Andujar to make an appearance Monday night, being carried off the field by Cardinals enabler Mike Matheny. Alas, it didn’t happen but we still got our rout of the Cardinals. Anyway, back to my point, which I lost while reminiscing about the Royals actually winning meaningful games. The Giants have defied the odds all season, so it doesn’t seem right to doubt them now. They have three characteristics that any winning team needs: they know how to win, they are clutch and they have heart. They are also unorthodox, but that isn’t as normal as the other items. This Giants team has pitching, way better defense than the Tigers, and are clutch. So don’t count this Bay Area bunch out just yet. So here goes: my prediction is the Giants in 7.

Storybook Scutaro

Probably the best acquisition before the trade deadline this year is the Giants getting second baseman Marco Scutaro from the Rockies. Scutaro had been traded in the offseason by the Red Sox to Colorado, where he just languished with the under performing Rockies. The Giants needed a middle infielder, and they hit gold with Scutaro. Scutaro caught fire and hit .362 in 61 games for the Giants, solidifying the top of the order after Melky Cabrera was suspended(ie. played the part of a big dummy). Scutaro hasn’t stopped as he is now the MVP of the NLCS and headed to the World Series. All this from a guy who didn’t even make the majors until he was almost 27. He has had to fight his entire career, so this is no different. Scutaro is a guy you cheer for, a guy who has to work twice as hard as everyone else. If you needed another reason to root for the Giants, I just gave you one.

Even in picture I can hear Ozzie cussing.

Yesterday word came down that the Miami Marlins were parting ways with manager Ozzie Guillen after one year. No one should be surprised by this. For one, the Marlins got off to a bad start and never found a real groove. Add in Guillen’s comments about Fidel Castro, less than stellar attendance at their new stadium and his war of words with former closer Heath Bell and it was just a matter of time before Ozzie got the hook. Guillen has always been a very outspoken manager, and this was no different. When Guillen managed the White Sox, I always wondered how his team put up with his show. I mean day after day, it’s Ozzie with permanent diarrhea of the mouth. At some point those players HAVE to just tune him out. Add in owner Jeffrey Loria’s tendency to fire his managers on a whim(just ask Joe Girardi and Fredi Gonzalez about that) and it was just a matter of time until Guillen had his bags thrown out on the lawn. To be perfectly honest, this is the best for the Marlins, and hopefully they make a good hire for manager. I would highly recommend Brad Ausmus, but he doesn’t seem to be interested being in Miami. No matter what, this is a team that needs to rebuild(again) and it might be time for them to hire someone under the radar.

  Boston got their man. John Farrell is the new Red Sox manager, as the team worked out a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays to bring him to Boston. Beantown is not new to Farrell, as he was the pitching coach for years in Boston under former manager Terry Francona. He was well liked in the Boston clubhouse and was a favorite of the players. I think this is great move by Boston and was GM Ben Cherington’s original choice last year, but was outvoted by the Boston owners. Now, the part of this I found interesting was that Toronto’s compensation for Farrell going to Boston is shortstop and former Royal Mike Aviles. I’ve always been an Aviles fan, but Boston just fleeced Toronto. John Farrell will be a good major league manager, while Aviles will be…well, Aviles. Which means he is a solid starter but probably a better fit as a solid backup that can fill in if someone gets injured. I don’t know for sure what Toronto is thinking, but if you are keeping score at home, I believe the score is Boston 1, Toronto 0.

That expression…that is how most Red Sox fans felt this season.

Speaking of the Red Sox, yesterday in an interview, former manager Bobby Valentine continued his scorched earth tour, saying that star hitter David Ortiz decided not to play the rest of the season after their big blockbuster trade with the Dodgers that signaled Boston waving the white flag on the season. Look, I’m not going to go into whether or not I think Ortiz was actually hurt or just gave up. Either way, what is more interesting is that Valentine continues to burn bridges left and right. I get that Valentine was probably blamed for some stuff he had nothing to do with, and was the scorn of a lot of Red Sox fans this past season. I’m sure being the Red Sox manager is a major pressure cooker, but this is just uncalled for. Part of being a manager is to have your players back, and Valentine doing this would make any player think that if he played for Bobby there wouldn’t be that level of trust. Unless that is the point. Maybe Bobby V is done managing. Maybe this was the last straw. If so, it is an awful way to go out. But he also made his own bed. Time to sleep in it.

Wouldn’t he look good in Royal blue?

Finally, I love trade rumors, especially this time of year. So many possibilities that are endless and mostly purely fictional. But there was one floating around last week that interested me. Someone threw out there that the Royals were interested if the Tampa Bay Rays make star pitcher David Price available. It’s no big secret that the Royals main priority this offseason is pitching and the team has no true number one starter on the team. Price would be that, easily. But this got me to thinking. What if the Royals can’t get Price, but would still like some pitching? Tampa has a gluttony of arms, and I can’t see them not being interested in some young talent if the Royals are willing to deal. My choice would be Jeremy Hellickson who has been on my wish list for a couple years now. I would have to think the Royals could scrounge up some prospects that would make the Rays interested. The name bandied about for Price was Billy Butler, which might be a tad high for Hellickson. But let’s be honest here; the Royals need to do something. I can easily see the Royals parting ways with a Butler, Moustakas or Hosmer if it nets them a top of the line starter. I would hate for any of those guys to leave, but to receive talent you have to trade talent. Time will tell, but if Kansas City is smart they will further conversations with the Rays and see if  they work something out. You can only hope it is not a debacle like the Cabrera for Sanchez deal that went down last year.

More Random Notes

A few weeks ago I did a random notes article to go over a few topics around baseball. With a lot of different things going on or being debated, I thought it would be a good time to do another random notes column. So here are a few things buzzing around my skull at the moment.

A-Rod, struggling in the playoffs. Again. Not a surprise.

We are firmly entrenched into the League Championship Series, and the Yankees are just a step away from elimination. The bad part for the Bronx Bombers is their offense has gone M.I.A. and it’s not just a few batters. At this point we expect A-Rod to slump, but when Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson join suit, it’s hard to think this team is long for the LCS. Sure, facing Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez and Fister isn’t an easy task, but the Yankees are making them look even better than normal. Verlander in fact didn’t have his A-game stuff, yet only gave up 3 hits over 8.1 innings last night. A lot of this has been dumped onto Rodriguez, but let’s be honest. A-Rod is 37; he is not able to catch up to fastballs the way he used to. He is in the twilight of his career, so you can’t expect him to be the guy who was polishing up his Hall of Fame plaque in his early 20’s. Either way, the Yankees are one loss away from being gone from the playoffs, and one wonders if there will be a major overhaul with this team come the winter. I can’t lie; I’ve gotten joy out of the Yankees losing in such epic fashion. In some ways, baseball needs the Yankees, as a lot of baseball fans like myself watch to see them lose. There is something to be said to having the evil empire in the playoffs and then for them to fall on their face.

Field Boss??

So the Colorado Rockies are seriously considering hiring Jason Giambi as their manager? I think my jaw dropped a bit when I first heard this news, as it just didn’t seem fathomable. I know baseball has been thinking outside the box as of late and hiring managers like Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura, guys who had no managerial experience before their hire. Luckily for both of those teams, those hires have worked out for them. I don’t know either way if Giambi would be a good manager, and a part of me thinks he would, even if it took years before he settled into the gig. But for a franchise that needs a major reboot, taking a chance on someone like Giambi could set them back even farther. It does appear that Giambi has been a good father figure for the younger players in Colorado, and has their respect. But being a mentor in the clubhouse and actually helming the team are two completely different things. I really hope the Rockies organization does their homework here, and if they hire Jason, they hire him because they honestly feel he is the man for the job. If not, it could blowup in their face. This organization can’t afford another major fall back. This decision has to be the right one, all the way around.

Beantown’s new Boss?

Word came out this past week that Tony Pena is being considered for the Boston Red Sox managerial opening. Now, this can be taken a few different ways. One, Pena has been a coach for the New York Yankees for a number of years now, and it has to be a good baseball learning experience to work under Joe Girardi, who IS  a good manager, even if you hate the Yankees. Two, I don’t think it is possible that he can be worse than Bobby Valentine. Valentine was the oil to the Red Sox water, and there was no way that relationship wasn’t going to end badly. Now, when it comes to Pena, i am biased. Pena was once the Kansas City Royals manager, and for awhile he did a really great job. He was able to get the 2003 Royals to buy into what he was selling and that team is the only Royals team in 18 years to come away with a winning season. Pena did a great job working with that bunch, but the next year it came apart. The Royals lost 104 games in 2004, and after the starting the year 8-25 in 2005, Pena resigned. Pena showed that under pressure, he just couldn’t handle it. You would hope that he learned something from that, but if not, Boston is not the job for him. Boston is a pressure cooker and if he got the job, it would be constant pressure from not only the fans, but the media as well. Pena should know that, as he is a former Red Sox player. Maybe Pena has changed and could steer this team back to respectability. Or maybe nothing has changed and Boston could continue to flounder. It might be wiser for the Boston brass to look deeper into Brad Ausmus and Tim Wallach as managerial candidates.

The Kansas City Royals have one major need this offseason, and that would be starting pitching. The two main targets this offseason are Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse. Sanchez is currently helping lead the Detroit Tigers into the World Series and so far has been spectacular in the postseason. Sanchez would probably fill in as a solid number 2 or 3 starter on most pitching staffs, but in Kansas City there is a good chance he would a number one. Well, we might never find out, as Sanchez has bumped his value this postseason and might have priced himself out of the Royals price range. To be honest, if it meant signing him for way over value, I don’t think I want the Royals to do that. It’s one thing to pay a bit extra, especially since a lot of players don’t want to go to Kansas City since the franchise has lost so much over the years. But paying extra to a pitcher, especially in a long term deal, could be disastrous. We’ll see if Sanchez is still in Kansas City’s price range, but my first thought is that he is already looking for greener pastures.

Kyle Lohse is in close to the same boat as Sanchez, at least when it comes to money. Word floated out this week that Lohse would probably net a contract this offseason in the $60-75 million dollar range. Now, I don’t hate Lohse the way others do. There are a lot(and I mean A LOT) of Royals fans who detest Lohse and want nothing to do with him. I don’t. He seems to be a different pitcher than he was earlier in his career for the Twins and Reds. In fact, Lohse pulled off his best season in the majors this season, going 16-3, a 2.86 ERA, a WHIP of 1.090 and a WAR of 3.9. Lohse has turned into a ground ball pitcher and with the Royals defense and large ballpark, he would be a nice fit. But there are problems. One, who knows if him playing in the American League again would bring back some of his old tendencies. The National League is much easier on pitchers and going from getting a break when facing the pitcher in the lineup to facing lineups loaded from 1 thru 9 on the order could be a rough task. Second, Lohse is 34, I would be very, very leery to give a guy his age a long term deal, and I’m pretty sure that is what his agent, Scott Boras, will be asking for. Lohse is someone that would be a good deal at 2 years for $10-12 million a year. Anything over that seems to be a major reach, which once again could price the Royals out of the market. The Royals actually have a decent relationship with Boras(he also represents Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer) but I highly doubt he would give the team a discount in this regard. I as much as anyone want David Glass to spend more money on this team, but you also have to be smart about it. Paying extra for a guy who has a shady past probably isn’t the wisest of investments.

I hope everyone is enjoying the playoffs this month. As baseball fans we’ve gotten lucky, as it has been nonstop excitement pretty much from the start. We are not too far away from the World Series(in fact, I think it is a week away)and I really hope we get another seven game series this year. Just remember, we only have a few weeks left, and then no baseball till February. Enjoy it now, folks. We only get this kind of suspense once a year.

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