KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Once the new year rolled around, Ned Yost turned his attention to the upcoming season, the new pieces that the Kansas City Royals brought in and the possibilities for new lineups.
He made the prospect of a contract extension seem almost like an afterthought.
"I think we're in great shape headed into this year," Yost said Tuesday, shortly after the club announced their manager's one-year boost through the 2016 season.
"We came as close as you can to winning a world championship last year," he said, "and when you don't do it, it leaves a taste in your mouth. It's something you strive to do, and I think everyone in that locker room will tell you they want to finish this thing off."
Yost became the Royals' manager in May 2010 and presided over a massive rebuilding effort that culminated with the end of a 29-year playoff drought this past season. The Royals took San Francisco to the seventh game of the World Series, leaving the tying run on third base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, before their season finally ended.
With most of the major pieces of that team back, combined with free-agent acquisitions such as Alex Rios, Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez, hopes in Kansas City are higher than ever that the long-downtrodden franchise will be able to compete for the postseason again.
"As we all know, baseball is a very tough business," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "You're always striving for organizational harmony, and we have our key leaders — in this case the manager — signed through the next two years, it helps to create that harmony."
The longest-tenured manager in club history, Yost will soon become its winningest. He already has 373 victories, trailing only Dick Howser (404) and Whitey Herzog (410), and should eclipse two of the franchise's iconic names by the time summer rolls around.
Yost's contract was due to expire after the upcoming season, but there was little question that he would receive an extension. He has a close relationship with Moore dating to their days in the Braves organization, and Yost's ability to guide a young and unproven lineup to its first AL pennant since the Reagan administration only strengthened his organizational standing.
Not everything has gone perfectly for Yost, of course.
He has often been lampooned for his in-game adjustments, including a questionable decision to use starter Yordano Ventura out of the bullpen in the playoffs. And his often-surly nature, which has seemed to mellow with time, has drawn the ire of some longtime Royals fans.
"He came to our organization in a point in time when we needed to be re-energized, and Ned brought a lot of hope and optimism," Moore said. "Those are the character traits that we believe are very important for a successful major league manager."
Yost said he's been busier this offseason than ever, doing appearances and events just about every weekend since the season ended. But even as he sat in a deer stand on Tuesday, waiting for something worth shooting to amble by, his thoughts were already on the upcoming season.
"I go back and I look at the World Series and there's not much I would have done different," Yost said. "I feel like we were in every single game. You look at the matchups we had, the situations that ended up costing us, they were all matchups we wanted. ... They just didn't work out. But you still have that taste, you know? You were that close to winning the World Series."
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