Major League Baseball is just about to wrap up one of the most exciting divisional rounds in league history. Three of the series went to game five and the one that didn’t resulted in the St. Louis Cardinals being vanquished by an ancient rival. In addition to thrilling action, the games featured highly likable ex-Milwaukee Brewers.
Carlos Gomez, Lorenzo Cain, Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and Prince Fielder are all key members of their non-Milwaukee teams. It would be nice if they were current Brewers, but it’s best to not think about that and simply enjoy watching them play in the post season. Yet the most successful ex-Brewer has not played in the majors since 1985. This, of course, is former Brewers manager Edgar Frederick “Ned” Yost III.
Ned Yost, as you recall, was unceremoniously fired as Brewers with 12 games left in the 2008 season. This firing was extra-shocking considering the Brewers were tied for the Wild Card lead when Yost was let go. The controversial decision was correct both at the time and in hindsight.
The Brewers collapsed down the stretch in 2007 and their 2008 free fall reached terminal velocity when Yost was fired. Yost seemed far too tense to handle a pennant race in Milwaukee, though this is impossible to definitively prove. However, what you can prove is that his tactical decisions were downright loony. His anti-magnum opus occurred during his last day as manager against the Philadelphia Phillies when he intentionally walked Ryan Howard (a lefty) so Brian Shouse (a lefty) could face Pat Burrell (a righty who mashes lefties). Predictably, that did not work out as planned.
Despite his shortcomings during pennant races with the Brewers, Yost was the perfect candidate for their rebuild. He led the Brewers back to respectability and his teams always played hard. For these reasons he was a solid choice to replace Trey Hillman as manager of the Kansas City Royals in 2010.
Much like the Brewers, the Royals were a hopelessly terrible small market team in the midst of a (perpetual) rebuild. Kansas City showed modest improvement in Yost’s first two seasons as manager and posted a promising 86-76 record in 2013. In later seasons, Yost experienced total reversal of late-season fortune.
The 2014 Royals were a 50-50 team on July 23 and finished the season a remarkable 39-23 en route to their first playoff appearance since 1985. (In contrast, the 2007 Brewers were 56-44 after 100 games and finished the season 27-35.) This success rolled over to 2015 as the Royals ran away with the AL Central.
Now, it’s possible the Royals are simply Ned Yost-Proof. They’re an incredible defensive team with a bullpen deploying relievers ranging from “nasty” to “unhittable.” Then again, they also have a never-say-die attitude that’s propelled them to incredible comebacks. This was first seen in their 2014 wild card victory over the Oakland Athletics and, more impressively, reprised while facing elimination on the road against the Houston Astros in game four of the ALDS. An unflappable belief in the impossible comes from the manager.
Ned Yost deserved a second chance. All things considered, he did a good job with the Crew and got them on the path to success. Somewhere between Milwaukee and Kansas City he evolved and improved as a manager. It’s always great to see someone get a second chance and make the most of it.