Royals Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon remains uncertain about his future, but he has no doubts about who deserves credit for the success he’s enjoyed.
Gordon sat in on manager Ned Yost’s retirement news conference, perhaps months away from holding one of his own, and paid respect to the man who helped reverse his fortunes as a baseball player.
Yost’s imprint was been present in multiple facets of the build up to the American League and World Series championship runs of 2014 and 2015, including in the progression of players such as Gordon.
“He turned my career around, actually,” Gordon said Tuesday. “In 2010 when I moved to the outfield, I remember the meeting we had when I first came up. It was in Yankee Stadium. He called me in his office. He said I don’t care if you go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and three errors. As long as you play hard, that’s all I care about.”
Gordon, 35, nears the end of his 13th season in the majors. Originally a third baseman, the move to the outfield proved a pivotal development in his career.
He earned three All-Star selections, six Gold Gloves and a World Series championship, all under Yost.
Following the team meeting on Sunday when Yost informed the players of his decision, Gordon made it a point to go to Yost’s office and personally thank him for everything and give him a hug.
“It’s nice to have a manager that believes in you,” Gordon said. “That’s what he was. He believed in all the guys that he had. That’s how he made you feel. When you go out on the field and you know the guy that’s running the team has your back and believes in you, it means a lot.”
Gordon will decide on his future after this season, but he has already stated he doesn’t want to play for any other organization. While there’s a $23 million mutual option on the final year of his contract, Gordon acknowledged that if he comes back he’d likely re-negotiate a one-year deal with the club.
The Royals were under .500 for each of Yost’s first three seasons as manager. He remained confident in the core that eventually led the club to back-to-back World Series appearances.
“Dayton can remember one of my first meetings that we had when he hired me was arguing about Alex Gordon,” Yost said. “Like what are we doing here? How do we not value this kid as a huge prospect because I could see what he had in him. I didn’t know he was going to be the left fielder that he turned out to be, but I knew he was going to be a great player.”
Yost took great pride in his ability to believe in players, but he also credited the work of Royals general manager Dayton Moore and his front office lieutenants such as Gene Watson for the homework they did on players.
Yost’s belief in others extended throughout the organization.
“(He was) very positive and optimistic about the players, believed in players, understood that our front office and our scouts and our player development people all have an important role,” Moore said. “The synergy of those departments is so important. The manager helps set the tone for the synergy of those departments because they get involved with the discussions at those various levels.”
Moore had to pause multiple times as he fought back tears during the news conference.
Yost and Moore share a baseball lineage dating back to their days in the Atlanta Braves organization. Moore came up through the scouting department and front office, while Yost coached under Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox.
Yost initially joined the organization as a special adviser to Moore a little more than three years in Moore’s tenure with the Royals.
“He brought a breath of fresh air to us at a time in time when I felt that we were struggling a little bit mentally as an organization,” Moore said.
“We were building. We were going through some tough challenges as we’re trying to put a winning team on the field and build a championship culture. Ned came on board at a time when we really needed that freshness, that enthusiasm, that individual that helped get us over the top. Then we had an opportunity,obviously, to hire him as the manager.”