Mike Matheny is the favorite to replace Ned Yost as Royals manager; what would the ex-Cardinals skipper bring to K.C.?
Matheny was fired in summer 2018 after a largely successful run with the Cardinals
On Monday, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost announced he would retire at the end of the season, concluding a 10-year run that saw him win two pennants and the 2015 World Series. Yost's departure has been rumored for the better part of the year. So too has the idea that the Royals already have their new manager in mind: former St. Louis Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny, who came on board last November as a special adviser for player development.
It didn't take long after Yost's announcement for Matheny to surface as the favorite, either:
Matheny, of course, was fired last July by the Cardinals after a six-plus year stint that saw him win 55 percent of his regular-season games, the 2013 pennant, and three division titles. That's an impressive résumé, but there's always been a debate about how much credit he deserved for it, as opposed to how much belonged to a roster that was able to win in spite of him.
Throughout Matheny's time in St. Louis, he was often criticized for questionable tactics. The most common response was that he was a good communicator and people manager. Yet when Matheny was canned, numerous stories painted that assertion as a stretch -- if not an outright myth. For example, consider this excerpt from a Bernie Miklasz piece on The Athletic:
He kept his distance from players he didn't like, or players he didn't think were fans of his managing. And one sure way for a player to get on Matheny's wrong side was to challenge him. Not publicly, but privately. He claimed to have an open-door policy; it was mostly fiction. It depends on the player and his status with Matheny; that was the basis for his door being open for frank discussion. But cagey veterans easily knew how to play Matheny, who was easily manipulated. Tell him what he wanted to hear, make sure he knew how much you respected him, and you're good to go.
There's something to be said for learning from past mistakes, and it's certainly possible a year-plus away from the manager's seat will have aided Matheny in a way that makes him a better all-around skipper. But stories like the one above are concerning all the same.
If there is good news for the Royals, it's that they're in the middle of a rebuild. The manager in 2020 might not be the one in charge when they get serious about competing again. Matheny, if he is the hire, could serve as a bridge manager between Yost and whomever comes next.
There's also a chance Matheny doesn't get the gig and the Royals turn to someone else -- be it bench coach Dale Sveum, former franchise favorite Raul Ibanez, minor-league skipper Tony Pena Jr. (whose dad used to manage the team), or whomever. Lord knows the early favorite doesn't always get the gig.
Matheny may prove to be the exception -- and if so, the Royals will just have to hope he's learned from the past and can lead them to a better future.
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