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.

 

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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