As he climbed onto the dais in the interview room at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night, the din of fireworks going off in the distance behind him, Royals manager Ned Yost shook the offers of congratulations off.
The Royals had just beat the Yankees 5-2. Jakob Junis, who’s been Yost’s most reliable starter since receiving a consistent chance to start in the major leagues in August, had proven again he was more than a back-end-of-the-rotation type of pitcher.
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And in the process, Yost won the 1,100th game of his career as a major-league manger. He has the sixth-most victories among active managers. Bruce Bochy (1,875), Mike Scioscia (1,595), Buck Showalter (1,517) and Clint Hurdle (1,144) have more. Yost has been a manager since 2003 and since taking the reins in Kansas City eight years ago, he’s become the winningest manager in franchise history.
But settling into his chair, his under-shirt drenched by what Royals vice president of communications Mike Swanson said was water, Yost didn’t share much about reaching the milestone.
“After waiting for a week or so (to get it) it felt pretty good,” he said.
He’d done a similar thing last week in Cleveland. He sat in the visiting manager’s office at Progressive Field before a loss that started a five-game skid last Saturday and downplayed his achievement. After win 1,099 last Friday, all he’d wanted to do was get his team back on track.
He knew then and knows now what the Royals’ struggles look like to outsiders. He doesn’t care to put much stock into his individual accomplishments — not when his squad is floundering. Not when the last American League pennant and World Series championship trophy he helped deliver to Kansas City are getting farther away.
But he relented enough to joke that maybe two of his managerial choices contributed to these 1,100 wins.
“It’s not an easy job what he does,” Royals catcher Salvador Perez told The Star in Spanish. “It has its ups and down. We’ve written stories with him here. We’ve gone to the World Series with him twice, we won once, we went to the Wild Card game, played in the playoffs, we’ve gone to the All-Star Game together. It’s a lot of memories we’ll never forget. And that’s the important thing.”
He’s not long for this job.
Although he won’t admit the wins mean much, being here for the Royals as they embark on a rebuild does.
“Bobby (Cox) had 2,000 wins. I ain’t making it that long,” Yost said. “My ultimate goal was to stay in the game as long as I’m having fun and making progress and the players are responding to me. If any of those things fall off that list, then it’s not worth doing.”