Gregorian Chants

Columnist Vahe Gregorian offers musings about the sports scene in and around Kansas City

Royals manager Ned Yost is a throwback who is easily misunderstood

03/06/2014 2:47 PM

03/06/2014 2:47 PM

Yes, Royals manager Ned Yost can be cranky and abrupt. Sometimes, he seems to be contrary just to be contrary. But this also is a complicated man

who is easily misunderstood.

And mostly, he’s a throwback, country baseball guy whose personality emerges in speaking with a few reporters in the comfort of his office in spring training every morning.

The scene couldn’t present a more different dynamic than it does from the ones you might most know him in: sitting in the crosshairs of microphones and TV cameras at a postgame news conference, or swarmed and surrounded by a couple dozen of us close-talkers in the dugout before games.

Yost likes to hunt, not be hunted. So his shields go up, and that’s not hard to understand.

Unfortunately for Yost, a lot of the public perception of his demeanor comes from the 324 times he’s in those situations in the regular season. He tends to come off as a smart aleck or defensive in that light, especially since it’s the clips or bites in which he reacts thusly that get the most play and attention.

This is only a theory, but I believe some downgrade what they think of his managerial aptitude based on that frame of reference.

He’s responsible for how he comes off, of course. It’s part of the job he signed on for, and he would do himself a favor to ease up under the spotlight.

But that’s also a warped prism to see him through exclusively.

And it seems like a more valid view, or at least an appropriate counterbalance, to see him in his natural environment.

Sure, even here he might growl over a question or give a minimalist answer, just like about anyone who’s been in a manager’s seat over the generations.

But he’ll listen to what you’re asking. He’s apt to offer unexpected insight and, honest, he’s fun to be around.

He can laugh at himself, joking at one point that he needed to “up my dementia pills,” and he’s something like glad to see us come in the room.

He engaged the moment the six of us enter, teasing one writer for taking someone else’s usual seat. He wondered if another is on suicide watch because he’s got no shoelaces in his sneakers, and he jabbed another for not seeing Alex Gordon foul a ball off his foot the day before.

“Are you watching the game or you sleeping?” he said.

Half-jokingly, Yost was told that many in the Internet era are too busy writing about what they already saw (since stories have to be posted instantly at game’s end) to be watching it all as closely as they’d like.

Which leads to some banter before the conversation turns to Luke Hochevar’s injured elbow and a debate of the precise injury.

After a reporter miscalculated the location of the medial collateral ligament, Yost deadpanned, “That’s in your knee, Jack” to someone not named Jack.

Under a camera, or on radio, this might look or sound like an attack. It was anything but that. In the give-and-take of conversation, it was just something an old-school baseball guy says to a writer, who smiled, retorted and moved on.

None of which means that Yost is always a breeze to deal with, and spring training is nothing if not a time of abundant optimism.

But it’s a reminder that Yost has more depth and personality than he’s always comfortable revealing or that show up in snippets.

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