Royals manager Ned Yost reached a place where he was ready. He decided he needed to steer the ship through the dark times and the mounting losses of the past two years because he could take the slings and arrows that came his way until a light appeared at the end of the tunnel.
Yost, 65, sees that light and believes the pieces in place put the ballclub in a better place with reason for optimism. With a family anxious to enjoy his presence and a farm waiting for him in Georgia, he’ll step aside following Sunday’s season finale and let someone else guide the ship.
Yost, who took over as Royals manager on May 13, 2010, informed general manager Dayton Moore of his decision after the All-Star break. With the season winding down, Yost informed the team prior to Sunday’s game in Minnesota so they wouldn’t be blindsided when the announcement came on Monday.
“I feel now that the organization is in a much better position where I feel comfortable to say ‘OK, I’ve done my part,’” Yost said. “I’ve gone through the hard part. Losing 100 games two years in a row, that’s not in my DNA. I don’t enjoy that one bit. I feel like that was my personal responsibility to this organization and to this city for what they have done for me and my family.”
During a news conference at Kauffman Stadium prior to Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, the organization that first brought him and Moore together, Yost explained that he saw tough times coming after 2017 with free agents such as Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain set to walk away.
Yost said he “probably” thought about retiring at that time, but the specter of a rebuilding period strengthened his resolve to stay in his role as manager.
“I knew that I had to go through the tough times as a manager because I could take it,” Yost said. “I could take the negative talk, all the stuff that anybody wanted to say. I could take it. I knew that I had to be a part of getting us through that tough time.”
The longest-tenured manager in the American League, Yost entered Tuesday with a franchise-record 744 wins as Royals manager (744-836) and 1,201 career wins (1,201-1,338), which ranks 45th among MLB managers. He’ll retire as the only manager to have led the Royals to consecutive World Series appearances, a run that included the 2015 World Series title.
“Yeah, he was pretty emotional,” Royals All-Star Whit Merrifield said of Yost’s announcement on Sunday. “Obviously, he’s been in this game a long time. He’s 65 years old, and to step away from baseball after all those years — I’m sure it’s not an easy thing to do. It was emotional. It was a little odd because he said his goodbyes, almost, on Sunday, but we’ve still got a couple games to play. It was a good speech.”
Tuesday, Yost joked, laughed and good-naturedly chided members of the media during the session. He also reflected on his tenure and also deflected credit to other members of the organization for the success the club enjoyed.
Royals veteran left fielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvador Perez, the faces of the franchise, both attended the news conference. Perez sat among reporters three rows back, while Gordon sat against the wall about 20 feet from the table where Yost spoke.
“He’s meant everything to this organization for a lot of us players,” Gordon said. “He’s done so much for us. We couldn’t thank him enough. To see him talk about everything, I was kind of choking up a little bit.”
Members of the front office were also spread around the room. Moore, assistant general manager Scott Sharp and senior director of pro scouting/assistant to the general manager Gene Watson were some of the faces spread around the room.
Moore and Yost shared an embrace after Yost finished answering questions and before Moore became emotional while addressing reporters. Moore and Yost first met in 1997 while Moore was in the Braves front office and Yost was the bullpen coach.
“Ned Yost was the absolute right person at the right time to lead this organization on the field,” Moore said. “I consider him a great friend, someone that I love and care about — him and his family. I’m very proud that he’s the all-time winningest manager in Royals history, our baseball operations department celebrates that. I’m very proud that he’s able to go on his own terms as a manager in professional sports.”
Yost said he will take the next year off from the game and spend it enjoying family and time at home.
Meanwhile Moore must fill Yost’s shoes. He stressed the search will focus on finding a “leader” more than just a strategist.
“It’s a simple process,” Moore said. “You seek counsel. You talk to people on your staff. You talk to people in the industry. You evaluate your own players and what they need, the right fit for community and leadership. Ultimately, you want to hire a manager that every player in your organization and every player that puts on a uniform at every level of the game — high school, college — aspires to play for. That’s what you look for in leadership.”
Despite the franchise’s pending sale to Kansas City businessman John Sherman not becoming official before November, Moore said ownership — he mentioned both outgoing owner Davis Glass and Sherman — will have input in daily operations as needed, including the hiring of the next manager.
“I would never hire a manager, not have ever hired a person of a key leadership position nor have I ever extended a manager without complete and 100% support of my authority, my boss,” Moore said. “That’s how healthy, thriving organizations work. It will be no different in this process.”