Ned Yost is considered to be a respected baseball mind and a man in an elite group of managers. He is one of the few managers in history to manage back to back pennant winners in the Wild Card era.
Since the format was expanded and played out in 1995, the following managers have completed that feat:
Bobby Cox, Braves – 1995, 1996
Joe Torre, Yankees – 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001
Charlie Manuel, Phillies – 2008, 2009
Ron Washington, Rangers – 2010, 2011
Ned Yost, Royals – 2014, 2015
We will see if Terry Francona or Joe Maddon will join the list this year.
But as late as mid 2014, Yost looked like a manager in over his head who was best remembered for one of the most humiliating managerial firings in the history of baseball.
The former 7th pick overall in the 1974 draft, Yost started his playing career in the Mets system before being swiped by the Brewers in the Rule 5 draft. He played four years in in Milwaukee and even had a plate appearance in the 1982 World Series.
After quick stints with the Rangers in 1984 and the Expos in 1985, his playing career was done.
He left baseball and became a taxidermist. No really. Read this article from the New York Times if you don’t believe me. Eventually he wound up on Bobby Cox’s coaching staff with the Braves.
He was there when they won the pennants in 1992 and 1993 and the World Series in 1995. He stayed through the 1996 World Series and all the way until the 2002 Division Series loss to the Giants.
He looked like he might be the successor to Bobby Cox in Atlanta. Instead he became the manager of the Brewers starting in 2003. The team had not had a winning season since they had Paul Molitor and Robin Yount in 1992.
They lost 94 games in both 2003 and 2004 but in 2005, the team took a turn for the better. They finished at even .500 and looked like they had budding talent. After a set back in 2006, the team contended for much of the 2007 season.
Struggling with the Cubs all season for the NL Central title, they finished just 2 games back and with an 83-79 season.
But all was not well in Milwaukee with Yost. Down the stretch, Yost got ejected three times, got suspended and got involved in bean ball wars with the season on the line. According to New York Times writer Pat Borzi, his own wife wondered out loud if Ned had lost his mind.
Despite having their first winning team in a generation, Yost had his job on the line in 2008. Critics could not deal with his lineup construction and bullpen management. The team stayed in contention for 2008 and made an uncharacteristic move. They traded for CC Sabathia and decided to go for it.
The Brewers responded with a 20-7 August. On September 1, the Brewers had the second best record in the National League. Thoughts of a pennant in Milwaukee was not an outlandish thought. Despite all the craziness, Yost was on the verge of getting Milwaukee their first post season appearance in more than a quarter of a century.
Then the Brewers went on a losing streak. They dropped 10 of 13 games. After a double header sweep by the Phillies on September 14th. They were tied for the wild card with 12 games to go. Time for Ned Yost and company to button down.
Or they could change managers with two weeks to go. That’s what the Brewers did. Dale Sveum became the interim manager. Yost was out. The Brewers went 7-5 down the stretch and won the Wild Card on the last day of the season. They would lose to the eventual World Champion Phillies in the Division Series.
I have never seen a manager fired so deep into the season. Would they have made the playoffs if he stayed on? Who knows? But it was a humiliating dismissal for a manager who, orthodox or not, managed the rebuilding of the Brewers.
Eventually Yost landed in Kansas City, another franchise that had not seen a post season since the 1980s.
He managed losing seasons in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Going into 2013 and in the wake of a controversial Wil Myers for James Shields trade, Yost looked like a desperate manager fighting for his job. He poo pooed sabermetrics and statistical analysis and made unorthodox moves. The things he did that drove him out of town in Milwaukee were going on in Kansas City.
The team had a winning season in 2013 but for much of 2014 looked like non contenders. On July 22, the Royals were a sub .500 team, looking to unload players at the trade deadline which was just a week away. Ned Yost, floundering with a talented team, was all but first.
They won that July 22, and they would win a bunch more. They won 15 of their next 18 games. They went from 8 games out of fist to 1/2 a game on top in 3 weeks. They Royals finished the season 41-23 and took the Wild Card.
The Royals won a thrilling Wild Card Game and then swept the Angels and Orioles to win the pennant. His Royals came within one swing of winning the World Series in a thrilling 7 game set with San Francisco.
The manager who was all but fired and whose career was probably over was now a pennant winner.
In 2015, he showed that his trip to the World Series was no fluke. They Royals were in first place for much of the season and they won the AL Central. After winning a 5 game Division Series with Houston, they topped Toronto for the Pennant and then, thanks to the daring baserunning and deep bullpen, topped the Mets in 5 for the World Series title.
It was quite a turnaround from July 22. Yost went from incompetent to unorthodox. He went from “the guy the Brewers fired down the stretch” to “the guy who turned the Royals from losers to back to back pennant winners” in a few weeks.
He even took a Royals team in 2017 that was supposed to be in rebuilding mode and turned them into contenders.
Now one of the truly respected managers in the game, he looks like he will be in Kansas City for a while.
If it doesn’t work out, he always can fall back on taxidermy.