Patience, trust hallmarks of Yost's success
Royals manager's faith in young players pays off in World Series title
NEW YORK -- Of course Royals manager Ned Yost trusted Christian Colon when he had a World Series to win.
Colon hadn't appeared in the postseason until the 12th inning of Sunday night's 7-2 victory in Game 5, when he delivered the pinch-hit, RBI single that ignited the five-run rally that brought the Royals their first title since 1985. The fact Colon has just 64 regular-season appearances over two years certainly didn't faze Yost.
One reason Kansas City is the capitol of baseball is that Yost, 61, trusts his players, especially young ones.
"It was special because I've been through all of these kids," he said. "I've seen most of these guys when they were in A-ball and when they were in Double-A, and watched them come up to the big leagues and watched them have success and watched them struggle a little bit, and finally get to the point where they developed as not only Major League Baseball players, but as great men."
Part of Yost's reliance on youth results from the fact he has managed a couple of small-market teams -- the Brewers (2003-08) and the Royals (since 2010). But there's a difference between putting players on the field because you have to and actually believing in them and building confidence.
Colon -- the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 Draft -- is merely the latest.
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar, Minor Leaguers with the Brewers when Yost was with the big club, joined the Royals in a 2011 trade for pitcher Zack Greinke. Yost immediately put them in the lineup. Cain has reached in a club-record 20 straight postseason games and Escobar extended his postseason hit streak to 15 games with an RBI double in the 12th.
"You've got to let young guys play," said Cain, who set a club record with six stolen bases this postseason. "You've got to let them go out there, get experience and face the best of the best competition. You can't get better sitting on the bench, so he allows us to play. Although a lot of us struggled our first one or two years in the big leagues, he continued to stick with us. It's rewarding for everyone now."
Yost rode with righty Luke Hochevar through early-career struggles as a starter, a conversion to the bullpen and a 2014 season lost because of Tommy John surgery. Hochevar was the winning pitcher in the clincher.
Left fielder Alex Gordon in particular believes he benefited from Yost's patience.
The second overall pick in the 2005 Draft out of the University of Nebraska, which practically made him a local to the win-starved Royals faithful, Gordon struggled with injuries and growing pains after debuting in 2007. But in '10, the Royals committed to Gordon in the outfield after he had trials at third base and first base. More importantly, Yost committed to him.
"When I came back up from Triple-A, my first game I think I was in right field," Gordon said. "He called me into the office and told me, 'I don't care if you go out there and strike out five times and make two errors, as long as you play hard, I believe in you. We're going to get it done.'
"That meant a lot to me."
Managing through such trials takes patience, which Yost has always had, but had to learn how to exude. Yost wasn't in Milwaukee for the long haul because some felt he became tense and rigid late in his seasons there. He has avoided that with Kansas City, and the result is a free and loose group of players.
"Ned is a completely different person from when I first worked for him in Milwaukee," Royals hitting coach Dale Sveum said. "He is much more laid back now, very easy to play for. He doesn't hold things back. He doesn't worry as much as he did then.
"But it was the same thing as in Milwaukee [in terms of] a lot of young players, a lot of patience -- which he's always had. Ned is probably one of the most patient managers I've ever been around with young players, and that pays off."
The Royals made the Series last year only to lose to the Giants in seven games, leaving the potential tying run at third base. While some preseason predictions suggested that their 2014 was an aberration, Yost exuded the belief that the Royals -- constructed much the same as last year -- could find that one more victory.
"Hey, we're going to get back and they were going to finish the deal this time," Yost said. "So from Day One, there was no doubt in my mind that they wouldn't accomplish it. There was no doubt in their mind that they wouldn't accomplish it.
"And the cool thing about this team is everything they set out to accomplish they did. They wanted to win the division; they won it by 11 games. They wanted to win home-field advantage for the playoffs; they did. They wanted to win the World Series; they did."