How ironic would it be for all the keyboard baseball managers in their basements if Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost defeats Buck Showalter, the proclaimed genius of baseball, in this American League Championship Series?
It might almost be as bad as Yost, who is considered so bad at baseball in the year 2014, defeating Bob Melvin’s Oakland Athletics and the Moneyball god, Billy Beane, in the wild card game, and then suffering through Yost sweeping one of the most respected managers of the game, the Angels’ Mike Scioscia, in the AL Division Series.
Ned Yost — a manager perceived to be so clueless that sportswriter Joe Posnanski came up with the term “Yostify” to define illogical decisions followed by illogical explanation — may be on the verge of being Kansas City’s Joe Torre.
That would be a painful loss for Showalter, who had to watch Torre take over the team he helped build in New York and go on to win four World Series and six American League pennants.
Before Torre took the Yankees managing job in 1996 — after Showalter was let go following the Yankees’ first postseason appearance in 14 years — no one else would take the job under George Steinbrenner. Torre was thought of as a losing manager. Maybe not a clueless manager, but then again, millions of baseball fans didn’t judge managers then like they do now, or have a vehicle like social media to express those judgments.
Torre had a record of 894-1003 in 14 seasons before he took the Yankees job. He had five winning seasons over that time. The New York tabloids ridiculed the hiring.
Yost built up a reputation of being a sour-pussed buffoon during his tenure as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, where he had limited success, but was ultimately fired after six seasons, with a record of 457-502. I mean, he was fired in the middle of September 2008 when his Brewers went on 3-11 skid and were in danger of falling out of the wild card race. Dale Sveum took over, and the team went 7-5 over its remaining games, winning the National League wild card before being swept by the Philadelphia Phillies in four games in the Division Series.
The impression was that Ned Yost was the problem — and, like Torre, there were plenty to snickers when the Royals hired Yost to take over the Royals after firing Trey Hillman in May 2010. Despite a 128-163 record, Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore — a George Mason University graduate who also coached baseball at the Northern Virginia college from 1990 to 1994 — saw something in Yost that no one could see from their computer keyboards and gave Yost a contract extension.
They laughed at that, as well, even after Yost led the Royals to their first winning season since 2003 last year, and then followed that up with an 89-73 mark and a wild card berth this year.
Well, after six straight playoff victories this postseason and a 2-0 lead over the genius on the other bench, maybe the laugh is on us. Either Ned Yost knows his team so much better than the rest of us that it sometimes defies logic, or else he is the Accidental Genius — thrust into success despite himself.
Nationals manager Matt Williams wasn’t so lucky. His moves and explanations in the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants certainty fit the “Yostify” profile. But that was future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy in the dugout across from him. The outcome was hardly as stupefying as what is happening in the Orioles-Royals ALCS.
Every button Ned Yost has pushed so far has worked — even if they have had to use large type and color code the buttons for him. And Buck Showalter, who probably built the machine with the buttons, can’t seem to make the right moves that he did all season with this team.
He still may push the right buttons — the series, going back to Kansas City for Game 3 Monday, is hardly over despite the Royals 2-0 lead. Too do that, “Bucktober” is going to have to have to hope that “Yostify” hasn’t been replaced by “Yostelligence.”
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.