Yost skippers with faith in players, coaches
KANSAS CITY -- The story of the Kansas City Royals developing into pennant-winners is not simply a story of talented, young players maturing. It is also a story of a manager becoming secure enough to loosen the reins and share the decision-making.
Here are the Royals, after another stirring comeback, ready for Wednesday night's deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros (8 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). The defending AL champions are alive for another postseason run, and the era of the 29-year postseason drought is ancient history.
Ned Yost took over as the Royals' manager in mid-2010 and he came in fully old-school, particularly after 12 years on Bobby Cox's coaching staff in Atlanta.
"I grew up under Bobby Cox and Bobby was a guy that really wanted no emotion in the game," Yost said. "He didn't like celebrations. He didn't like music. He wouldn't even let them wear Oakley sunglasses back in those days.
"That was what I grew up watching. Somebody told me one time, if you want to be successful, pick the most successful person in your field and do everything exactly the way he does. I thought, that's a good way to start, but I think it finally got to a point in these kids' second year where I realized these guys are different, they're from a different generation than I grew up. It doesn't mean that it's right or it's wrong, but it's who they are."
The young players, in retrospect, understand what Yost was trying to accomplish and what difficulties he faced.
"You look back at the whole process and just kind of put yourself in Ned's shoes in those first couple years ," said first baseman Eric Hosmer, who arrived in the Majors in 2011. "You have a bunch of young rookies coming up in the big leagues with a lot of talent and just certain guys you can lean on for veteran leadership who have only had three or four years in the big leagues, it makes the manager's job a lot harder. You have to kind of teach guys on how to go about your day and how to create your routine on how to prepare for a game.
"I think over the years, he's saw us mature and he saw each and every one of us create a different routine, and saw how we prepared for games and just had that trust in us, and held us accountable for going out and being ready to play every single day."
Yost came to the same conclusion, that promoting individuality, along with accountability, blending it in with the developing talent, could be a recipe for success.
"I think in order to have success, you have to allow them to be who they are," Yost said. "So all of a sudden we started: OK, you guys want music in the clubhouse? Control it. You want to celebrate? And, myself, I kind of like the passion and the energy that young players exhibit.
"So we started kind of laying off the reins a little bit and letting them be themselves. And then you find out, man, these guys are starting to do pretty good when you let them be who they are.
"Again, there's certain things. You want to give them some discipline. You want them to be able to have respect for the game, have respect for the opposition, but be who you are. And our guys have done a great job of doing that. They have total respect for the game, they have respect for the opposition. But they enjoy playing with each other and they enjoy being themselves.
"Allowing them to be that has been one of my biggest adjustments that I've made. I think if you're comfortable being who you are instead of trying to be somebody who wants you to be somebody else, you become more successful at it."
Yost managed the Brewers for nearly six seasons. He took a team that had lost 106 games the year before he arrived and helped build it into a contender. In what still ranks as a bizarre development, he was dismissed in September 2008, two weeks before the Brewers qualified for the postseason as a Wild Card team. Yost's inclination in Milwaukee, he later acknowledged, was to control every aspect of the team and the game as much as possible. He's evolved on that issue, too.
"For me, loosening the reins as a manager means that I trust and use my coaches more," Yost said on Tuesday, after the Royals finished their workout at Kauffman Stadium. "I didn't do that before. I held them to myself. I made every decision. I pre-thought every decision."
Now, Yost says, he consults on all issues with members of his coaching staff, including bench coach Don Wakamatsu, catching coach Pedro Grifol, pitching coach Dave Eiland and hitting coach Dale Sveum.
"Now there's not a thing that goes on where I don't consult with [the coaches]," Yost said. "Everything we do, I'm talking with them.
"And now for me, I never worry about if I'm making the wrong decision, because I've got quality guys standing next to me. There's four opinions there. And generally we all agree on the same thing. So it's not just me making a decision, wondering if it's going to work or if it's not going to work. These guys are phenomenal. They do their homework like I do, and to have their experience and expertise next to the bench, and being able to use it, that makes managing these games extremely comfortable for me"
Ned Yost will not be widely thought of as a new-age manager. But if you consider the emphasis on individuality, and the collegial decision-making, he's made some important moves in that direction.