Tight playoff series often come down to the tough decisions managers have to make. The upcoming American League Championship Series between the Kansas City Royals andBaltimore Orioles looks likely to prove that.
Both teams feature a roster of talented athletes who fought through the long MLB season to make an October run. Both were easily dismissed at various points during the season. Both have been considered teams that would likely fail before the end if they ever got to this point.
But if there is one key difference between the teams, it’s the quality of the two managers. In that area, Baltimore has the advantage.
Prior to this season, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was known as the manager who could succeed in the regular season but not in the postseason. Selected as the AL Manager of the Year twice before, in 1994 and 2004, the pattern suggested that he would be successful again in 2014.
This year, he led the Orioles to a surprising division title in the American League East. For the first time in his managerial career, Showalter was able to lead his team to a series victory in the postseason when the Orioles dispatched of the Detroit Tigers.
Ned Yost, on the other hand, has carried the reputation of a manager who can help a team rebuild. However, there has often been concern that he would not be the manager to lead a team to postseason success.
He struggled to achieve consistency in Milwaukee as manager of theBrewers. Shortly after Yost’s departure in 2008, the team found success under Ron Roenicke. He even struggled in 2012 to turn his Royals team into winners, despite saying himself that it was time to win instead of teach in a previous interview with i70baseball.
Now both managers find themselves matching wits on one of the biggest stages. Showalter has shown poise in the decisions he has needed to make up to this point. Barry Petchesky of Deadspin has praised the manager and even mentioned the potential unbalanced nature of the next series:
That Showalter’s decisions paid off here doesn’t necessarily mean they were smart decisions—though the fact that they’ve been paying off all series and all season tends to point in that direction—it just means, tautologically, that they were good decisions. That’s often more than enough for October, which is much shorter than it feels. Three wins down for these Orioles, eight more to go—the next potential four pitting Showalter against Ned Yost, which projects to a mismatch.
Yost has not received the same appreciation in the press. His managerial tactics, specifically in the Wild Card Game against the Oakland Athletics, led many to question his in-game decisions. Many, including Cindy Boren of The Washington Post, went so far as to say the team won “in spite of Ned Yost.”
Showalter seems to making all the right choices and is poised to break the stigma of his past, while Yost continues to be questioned despite his team’s success.
The two managers will square off in the ultimate game of chess to determine the American League champions.
Many wonder if Ned Yost will be playing checkers.