As Royals change hitting coaches, could Yost be next to go?
The Royals have lost more games than anyone in baseball over the last three weeks, and speculation about manager Ned Yost's job has begun.
Ned Yost's job isn't safe.
How could it be, with a team that was built to contend this year and has spent the last three weeks losing more games than any team in baseball? How could it be, when Yost pushed for a change in hitting coaches and his promising young hitters look worse than they did last year?
Ned Yost's job isn't safe, but people with knowledge of the situation say the Royals aren't on the verge of firing their manager.
Not yet. The Royals are going to try other changes before they change their manager, and the first of those changes came with Thursday's announcement that George Brett will take over as interim hitting coach. Brett and Pedro Grifol will replace Jack Maloof and Andre David, the coaches who were promoted last winter when Yost pushed for Kevin Seitzer to be replaced.
For now, it seems that general manager Dayton Moore is prepared to stand behind Yost, and also that the Glass family that owns the Royals is prepared to support that stance.
"Ned's been very steady and consistent in the way he has led the team," Moore said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
Moore is very steady and consistent himself, and his support for Yost is well known in the game. But there's also an increasing belief that Moore won't want to wait for the Glass family to demand a change, and a strong belief that if a change is made, Moore will seek a veteran manager to replace Yost.
One name that has already come up: Jim Fregosi, whose son, Jim Jr., joined the Royals' front office last year as one of Moore's special assistants.
Fregosi turned 71 in April, and his most recent job as a manager was with the 2000 Blue Jays. But he has remained active in the game as a scout with the Braves and, at times, has shown interest in returning to the dugout.
Fregosi declined comment, and Moore wouldn't say anything about the speculation.
But if the Royals continue to lose, you can count on that speculation increasing.
They've lost eight in a row heading into Thursday night's game at St. Louis and have equaled a franchise record set last year with 10 consecutive home defeats. The Royals are 1-12 in their last 13 games and have scored just 33 runs in that span (with 39-year-old Miguel Tejada hitting their only two home runs).
Since beginning the season with 17 wins in their first 27 games, the Royals have gone 4-19, losing more games than even the Marlins or Astros.
Moore's winter moves to improve the Royals' rotation have actually worked out pretty well, but the young lineup that was supposed to produce hasn't. Mike Moustakas has just three hits in his last 44 at-bats, and Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez each has just one home run all season.
While the defense and bullpen have also been disappointing, it's the lack of offense that is most stunning.
Yost successfully pushed last year for Seitzer to be fired, saying at the time, "I just felt the offense underperformed all year long." Maloof and David had worked in the Royals' organization and were familiar with the team's young hitters.
Moustakas and Hosmer, in particular, seem to have regressed.
"They don't have the bat speed, and they don't have the impact with their bats they had in the minor leagues," said one scout who closely follows the Royals.
And so the Royals keep losing, taking their eight-game skid on the road to St. Louis and then to Texas. Yost took over as manager in May 2010, and this is the Royals' sixth losing streak of at least six games in the three years since then.
Many people in the game believe that Yost is at his worst in times like this, and his comments after Tuesday's loss to the Cardinals won't change that impression.
"What are you asking me to do?" Yost said, according to the Kansas City Star. "Take my belt off and spank them? Yell at them? Scream at them? What do you want? These kids, every day, we go through the process. We're talking constantly about approach.
"Do we need to make changes? This can't continue. Somewhere down the road, yeah, we're going to have to make some changes."
They changed the coaching staff Thursday. If the losing doesn't stop soon, Yost himself could be the next change.
But the people who make the decisions don't appear to be on the verge of doing that just yet.