The Kansas City Royals were supposed to be a dark horse contender for the AL Central this season. Instead, the dark horse is already on its way to the glue factory now that the Royals have started off the season 3-13 and are mired in an 11-game losing streak. Looking to oust a manager a mere 16 games into the season seems awfully premature, but hey, if the screaming masses in Boston can already call for the head of Bobby V on a platter, why can’t a small market club like KC do the same?
The thing about it is that this isn’t even about Yost as a manager himself. Sure, he has his foibles. His lineup construction is a bit questionable. He is over-reliant on Yuniesky Betancourt, who is actually having a good start to the season, but remains Yuniesky Betancourt nonetheless. His baserunners can’t stop running into outs. His batters are grounding into double plays like it is going out of style. His assignment of bullpen roles is somewhat suspect. None of these are fireable offenses in and of themselves and I’m not sure they are collectively enough to cost Yost his job either, after all, many of the same things could be said about Mike Scioscia who is considered to be a managerial Dalai Lama of sorts.
No, Yost’s problem is expectations. By that I mean that for the first time in a long time, the Royals entered a season with expectations of being something more than the doormat of the American League. Those aren’t even very high expectations, but for a franchise that has only once finished over .500 once (and even then, it was only an 83-win season) in the Wild Card era, not sucking is a lofty goal. That doesn’t mean the goal isn’t worth pursuing despite their wretched start. As so many pundits pointed out when selecting the Royals as their pre-season dark horse, the team is rich with young talent. Now, young players can deliver volatile performances, which is part of the reason the Royals are struggling so mightily, but young players can also be very impressionable. For example, young players that have been in the league for a year or two or three might develop a negative perception of their club or a generally negative attitude overall if that team constantly loses and does almost nothing to stop said losing. That, my friends, is what they call a “culture of losing” and that is the last thing that players of any age should be exposed to, but it goes double for young rising stars that a team might want to lock up long-term.
Do you think for one second that Eric Hosmer isn’t going to remember this double-digit losing streak when KC management approaches him later this year or in the off-season about signing a lucrative long-term contract that sacrifices his first few seasons of free agent eligibility? If he has half a brain he will. But how he remembers it is up to the Royals. If they just allow things to remain status quo right now, he’ll remember it as those miserable two weeks (or more) that the team complacently stood by and watched as they readily accepted their place in the MLB landscape as a glorified farm club for big market teams. Or he could remember it as the time when management stepped up and showed everyone involved with the franchise that this kind of ineptitude will not be tolerated and that this team is going to turn over every stone to become a winner.
If delivering that winning message to Hosmer and company means making Yost the sacrificial lamb, then so be it.