Nov. 1 Ned Yost pregame interview
Q. I want to know your mood right now. You are just potentially a few hours away from accomplishing something you've always wanted to do as a manager, something you probably dreamed about growing up. I know your feet are on the ground. I know you're not predicting anything. Are you excited right now? Are there different emotions pulling on you right now?
NED YOST: No, I'm focused. I've been to the World Series eight times. I've seen a lot of things. And I know that it's a big game for us but it's not over until it's over. They've got a tremendous pitching staff over there, they've got a tremendous team. And you're as focused for this game as you would be for Game 1, Game 2. I don't allow myself to think past that right now.
Q. How long do you get to enjoy a moment like last night before you realize, okay, this is fun, but, hey, we've got to do it again tomorrow?
NED YOST: Two and a half hours. Until I hit the sack and when I wake up. It's funny because as soon as the game is over, it's a great relief, you enjoy it. But as soon as you go home, you get in bed, and when you wake up, you're back to business.
So that day was over. Today's a new day and we've got business to take care of today, too.
Q. You and Terry both managed in the Minor Leagues, Big League coaches, as you know more and more guys are getting hired without that resumÃ©. How much do you think you've benefited from that experience?
NED YOST: I benefited a lot. When I first signed, it was funny, Hank Aaron is the one that hired me to be a Minor League player. It was player/coach the first two years. And Hank called and said, "Look, I just got through playing." And Hank was farm director for the Braves, and he said, "We've got some really nice pitching prospects in Double-A, and we would like a veteran catcher to go down there and work with them." I said, "That would be fun." So I went there.
The young pitching prospects that they had were Tom Glavine, Pete Smith, Kent Mercker, Tommy Greene. They just had great young pitchers. But also on that team it was Jeff Blauser, David Justice, Ronnie Gant, Mark Lemke, you know, they had the nucleus of that club that would go on to win the division 12 straight times.
So I did that for two years and managed for three years. But the best experience I had was being the bullpen coach and third base coach for Bobby Cox for 12 years. That's where the majority of the lessons that I've learned came from him.
I couldn't have been luckier to spend 12 years with a Hall-of-Fame manager and watch his every move and talk to him about moves, and be there with him through that all that time when we were just ultimately successful. My first year was '91. That was the first year they went to the World Series. I was there 12 years, we won the division all 12 years. And ended up going to the World Series five times. That was the greatest experience for me.
Q. As I'm sure you know, it's not just the Royals that have gone a long time in Kansas City without a championship, it's the Chiefs, as well. I was wondering if you night be able to share any anecdotes that demonstrated what it might mean to the city if you finished this off?
NED YOST: We saw what it meant for the city last year. I mean, it just bonded the city with our organization for young kids. There's nothing more satisfying to get in your car and drive to the store, even drive to the ballpark and every kid that you see is wearing a Royals hat, and there's Royals stuff everywhere. It wasn't like that in the beginning.
But the appreciation for this team, especially after what we accomplished last year has been unbelievable how our fans have embraced us, how our fans have supported us. It's a big deal. It's a big deal. For us, if we can win this world championship, it's going to mean a great deal to our city, as well as our organization.
Q. I know you guys said from the beginning of this year you expected to be back here. The fact that you were able to get back here, do you think this shows people, people who may have thought it was a one-year thing, that this is team that is built for a long time? And also bringing in new players, this is a place they're going to want to come?
NED YOST: For sure. Players like to be on winners. It was hard to attract players when I first got here. We were a team that we weren't very good back at that time. But kind of like the Braves' scenario, I could see that the young nucleus of guys that we had in the Minor Leagues were going to put us one day in a position where we could compete for a world championship. So I think that helps. That helps incoming free agents. Alex Rios was so excited. Chris Young was so excited to be able to come, and Kendrys Morales the same way.
We felt it all along. We all kind of laughed when all the numbers came out predicting us to win 72 or 73 games, you know. We just thought that was really funny because we had a very strong sense of where we were headed, and how we were going to get back there.
So it's just been a confidence that this group has had from day one.
Q. You talked about the bonding with the community over the last couple of years. How much of that is just, hey, you're winning and the team hasn't won in a while, and how much might be the way you play? It's fun to watch, to see the defense, see the speed. It isn't a bunch of guys waiting around for a home run.
NED YOST: It's a lot of both. Winning -- we saw it in Atlanta. When I was in Atlanta, I think the year before we won in '91 we drew 800,000 fans, and then we're drawing three million, three million-plus. When I went to Milwaukee, we were really bad. My first year there they came off losing a 106-game season. Then we were back to the point where they were a playoff team, and threw over three million fans. Winning does that. It excites your fan base. They want to be a part of it. So winning does it.
But again the style of play that we have, I think last year the country fell in love with our team because we play the game with such enthusiasm, with such passion, not only for the game, but for each other. It's kind of refreshing to see that.
So I think it's a high degree of both.
Q. When you ask people about Wade Davis and his success, often people talk about how many elite-level pitches he throws. But most closers just have two. Why do more closers not have three or four pitches the way he does? Is it just really hard in that role to do it?
NED YOST: Yeah. He's got a special talent. It's very hard to not only command two pitches, but three pitches. It's tough to do. And you find yourself in the elite class when you can control and command more than two pitches.
But a lot of it has to do with having a closer's mentality, too. Wade never, ever gets worked up. Shields when he came over he said that his nickname in Tampa was the "Silent Assassin", and you can see that in him. When the situation gets tougher, he gets tougher. He takes his game to another level. He doesn't shy from it. He's not in fear of it. The greatest example was Game 5 of the LCS when he had runners -- had a runner at third base with no outs, and runners at second and third with one out and ended up getting two big strikeouts to help us win the American League.
It's a combination of everything, his makeup and his stuff.
Q. The influence that Bobby Cox continues to be on you, give us a for instance. Even this week, what has stuck with you, that helped you?
NED YOST: Nothing really this week. I mean, Bobby's texting me all the time. We're texting back and forth. But last year I would call him in the playoffs, and again my mind is always churning about our bullpen usage. I'm always afraid that I'm going to overuse guys. I'm going to burn guys off. We were in the middle of playoffs last year and guys were doing what they've done here the last couple of days, going two and three days in a row, Holland, Wade Davis, Herrera. It was making me very nervous. And I called Bobby one day on the way to the ballpark. I said, "Bobby, man, I feel like I'm burning these guys up. How did you do it back in the day when our relievers would go two and three days in a row?" He said, "Ned, it's very simple: You trust them. If they tell you they can go, they can go. If they tell you they can't go, they can't go. And they're going to be really, really honest with you. It's a special time of year and they're not going to jeopardize anything. But if they tell you they can go, you pitch them."
And that helped me relax a lot more, you know. We check them, "How are you feeling?" "I'm ready to go." "Boom, you're in there." Doesn't matter if it's been two days or three days in a row.
I'm still very close to Bobby. I talk to Bobby all the time. But he's definitely helped me through this process.
Q. Do you ever get a sense your ballclub does a great job when an opportunity pops up, but is there ever a sense of combination of fine play and fate to this team this year? It seems like a pop-up drops in, a little ground ball rolls through. Did you feel fated sometimes that things are on your side?
NED YOST: Yeah, I do. I really do. I felt from the beginning that this group, after what they accomplished last year and saw the heartbreak in their eyes after Game 7, that we had unfinished business to do. And, yeah, I sit there sometimes and think this is just the way it's supposed to be.
Q. You mentioned earlier about 73, 74 wins as a prediction for this year, and so many considered your great accomplishment last year to be a fluke. Did you take any of that personally? Were you offended by that?
NED YOST: I did not. I laughed at it. I thought it was a joke. But the players did. I think the players took it personally. They thought what they accomplished last year was special, and for people to call it a fluke, I think deep down inside some of them took that personally, yeah.
Q. I understand most No. 1 catchers like Salvador get to call their own games. Many managers like to call a number of pitches in each game. How important is it for the whole pitching staff to know that the catcher is always in charge? And how long did it take you to give Salvador this confidence for him to call his own game?
NED YOST: Again, I think our job as manager and coaches is to teach the players the game. And when Salvy came up, when Hoz came up, when Moose came up, you knew that you had to give them opportunities to make mistakes, so they could learn and become better players. And from day one I've always been a real proponent of, "Salvy, you call your game." It's the same way, I think a lot of managers want to control the running game; I don't. I want Salvy to be able to control the running game.
So you teach them how to do it. You teach them what to look for. You teach them when to slide-step, when to hold. And he's learned his lessons well. Again, that's why I don't try to manage or micromanage every game. If a guy feels like he wants to bunt, I let him bunt. There are certain times, but I said it's only been like four times that I put a bunt sign on all year long. You give them the freedom to play. They know the style of baseball that they love to play, and if you give them the freedom to play it, I think you're going to be more successful.
Q. Are you past the point of asking Perez if he's okay to play, the way he gets banged up?
NED YOST: Yeah.
Q. You just wait, someday he might say something?
NED YOST: Yeah, he's never going to say nothing. He's one of those types where -- we did a better job of it this year, giving him days off than we did last year, because we had a big lead and we could afford to do it. He's as tough as they come. You just know that even if you ask him, he's going to tell you he's fine. So, no sense of asking him.
Q. Last night he was hit in the throat?
NED YOST: It was right in the collarbone, right here (indicating).
Q. He looked like he was pretty winded?
NED YOST: He was hurt. He was having a little trouble catching his breath after that. He's sore, but not to the point it's going to affect his play.
Q. My main question was, I remember talking with you in Spring Training, and you mentioned that at the end of the World Series last year, you felt that that team was going to come back and find a way to win that game. And you still hadn't gotten over the fact that Sandoval made the catch on Perez's pop. I wonder how much of a motivational factor was all of that in getting back all the way here to where you are right now?
NED YOST: Well, all of it. When you get that close to winning a World Series and you fight -- I mean, all through the playoffs and you get to Game 7, and you've got the tying run at third base, and you're convinced in your mind that you're going to win, and Sandoval catches that ball, I think I was just kind of dumbfounded, like, what happened? But when you get that close and you don't achieve it, it's a hard feeling. It's hard to go through.
So I just think that everybody's mind, from day one of Spring Training, mine, the players' was, we don't want to feel that again. We're going to set forth and we're going to try to get this thing -- we're going to try to win that final game this year.
So we're close. Not there yet, but we're close.
Q. The approach that a lot of your players have fouling off a lot of pitches, handling fastballs, do you think that's something that you guys do differently from other teams or do you just do it better than other teams?
NED YOST: I think we do it better than other teams. And I don't know, you know, there were times last year and the year before we would drive everybody crazy swinging at everything. Well, why don't they take more pitches? Why don't they try to get in better counts? Why don't we do this? Why don't we do that? It's not their style, you know. It's like I told Esky when I put him in the leadoff spot, "Don't change a thing. You be yourself." "Gordy, be yourself. Don't go up there looking for walks." But they've just gotten to a point now that they continue to grow and evolve and get better. They're putting more balls in play. They're starting to become a little more disciplined. Those two walks that Cain and Zobrist had last night were huge. It set that whole inning up.
But it's just the fact that they continue to grow as young Major League players, and they continue to get better and they continue to get better and they continue to get better.