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Ned Yost Is Right Man To Lead Kansas City Royals' Renaissance

The steady hand of the Royals manager has the young, upstart Royals performing above expectations.

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 17:  Manager Ned Yost #3 of the Kansas City Royals watches from the dugout during the game against the Seattle Mariners on April 17, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 17: Manager Ned Yost #3 of the Kansas City Royals watches from the dugout during the game against the Seattle Mariners on April 17, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Friday marked the one-year anniversary for Ned Yost as manager of the Royals. It hasn’t been the easiest of roads traveled for the 55-year-old two-time major league manager, but Yost knew when he accepted the job that it would take some time to make necessary changes and get things headed in the right direction.

Yost had been with the Royals’ organization as a special assistant to general manager Dayton Moore at the time he was tapped to replace former manager Trey Hillman. So he was an eyewitness to the team’s mounting frustrations and widespread problems on the field. After all, he was inheriting a team that had seen but one winning season in 15 seasons.

He also knew, though, that the Royals had the best accumulation of minor league talent waiting to make the jump to the major leagues of any franchise in baseball. And that was worth waiting for, while taking care of business in the present.

Kansas City’s 5th manager in the past decade, and 11th since the Royals last made the major-league playoffs, Yost spent his first season at the helm assessing the strengths and weaknesses of his roster and where the Royals were in their individual and team development and ability to successfully compete on the field and in the standings.

Right after assuming his new managerial role, Yost identified the immediate need to change the team’s mental outlook. They step on the field every day, the Royals’ manager said a year ago, expecting something negative to happen. We’ve got to change that mindset, he said, of "jeez, ‘I hope we can win’ to walking through that clubhouse door knowing deep in their heart they can win.

"That’s a bit of a process, but it’s not a big a process as you think," Yost said.

The Royals were 11-23 when Yost made those initial observations. They finished the year at 67-95, going 56-72 under their new manager. That may not seem like much of an improvement, but it amounts to about 15 more wins on the year than the Royals would have had under Hillman, given the pace they were on at the time of his departure.

Fast-forwarding to the 42nd game of the 2011 season, Yost appears to have had a positive effect on turning around the Royals’ losing mindset. That is a dramatic difference in this year’s edition of the Royals. Last year’s team took the field wanting not to lose; this season, Kansas City never feels it is ever out of a game. And the fact is, there have only been a handful of games all season – notwithstanding Monday night’s embarrassing, record-setting 19-1 debacle, at home no less, to the resurgent Cleveland Indians – that the Royals have been completely out of. And they have the most walk-off wins in baseball through the first quarter of the season.

Yes, Kansas City off-season free-agent additions right-fielder Jeff Francoeur and center-fielder Melky Cabrera have had a lot to do with the team’s early-season success, as has a much stronger albeit younger bullpen, but if you ask me, it is the influence and inspiration being provided by former Big League player, coach and manager Yost that has been the biggest contribution to the Royals steady, upward process since the new KC skipper took over a year ago.

Asked to reflect on his first year on the job, Yost said: "It’s been about what I expected. Maybe we’re a little ahead of schedule."

He reminds us that he predicted upon taking the KC managerial job that the Royals had a prime farm system – which the top minds in baseball are calling the best in the game – that was prepared to burst forth. And he believes that is happening.

The first of those promising prospects, first baseman Eric Hosmer, was just called up from Class AAA Omaha a little over a week ago. In his first eight major-league games, Hosmer is batting a modest .241 with 15 total bases. He hit his first two major-league home runs earlier this week in his first-ever trip to Yankee Stadium.

It probably won’t be too much longer before we’ll see another rising star who the Royals are counting on to be a big part of the team’s future, Mike Moustakas, a third baseman, is a name Kansas City fans are going to hear a lot about in the coming years, along with Hosmer. Moustakas has six homers and 26 runs batted in already this season at Omaha. Look for pitchers Mike Montgomery and Danny Duffy probably to be elevated to the Royals’ Big League roster before this season is out, as well.

Despite the Royals’ good start to the season and a much-improved record at home thus far (15-10), attendance at Kauffman Stadium does not reflect the team’s improved performance. Royals’ attendance is averaging just 18,293 through 25 home dates this season. That’s less than 500-a-game better than an year ago, and 15 percent below this time in 2009, when KC got off to an 18-11 start.

The Royals’ average home attendance this year ranks only ahead of Tampa Bay and Cleveland out of the 14 American League cities. Kansas City can take small solace in the fact that both Tampa Bay and Cleveland lead their respective AL divisions. With school still in session and a number of as-to-be-expected cool-weather days during the first six weeks of the season, it’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions from the early-season attendance data.

There shouldn’t be any question that the Royals are playing a more exciting brand of baseball this season than they’ve shown in what now has been too many years to count. As we approach the hotter summer months, the game attendance should pick up. Of course, the Royals will have a lot to say about that as well.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s going to be a really fun summer.