Royals brand manager Mike Matheny after season 65-97
Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise ended the 65-97 season with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.
The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s 2023 contract during spring training, as the club hoped it would turn the corner from a contender to a contender. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and a lackluster group of veterans, the Royals were largely out of the playoff battle by mid-summer.
“Managing the Royals has been a real privilege,” Matheny said in a statement. “I am grateful to so many, especially Dayton Moore, and the coaches and players I have worked with. I want to thank Mr. John Sherman and the ownership group for the opportunity to lead their team, and everyone involved in this great organization.
“I came to the Royals knowing it was an organization of excellence and care, and that care was shown every day. Royals fans should be excited about this group of players and I look forward to seeing them continue to grow. “
Matheny spent parts of seven seasons managing the St. Louis Cardinals, finishing each with a winning record and winning the National League pennant in 2013. But after being fired in mid-2018, he was hired by the Royals in an advisory capacity. role, then tapped to succeed longtime manager Ned Yost as he retired for the 2020 season.
Matheny was put in charge of a rebuild in the works, going 26-34 during a COVID-19-shortened first season, and looking to make progress last season, when the Royals ushered in a slew of young prospects, finishing 74-88.
Expectations were another step forward this season, but the Royals spent September fending off 100 losses.
Matheny finished 165-219 during his time with the Royals, although the number that may be more important to the club’s future is 29 – the number of players who made their major league debuts during his tenure.
“We are grateful to Mike for guiding us through some unusual times over the past three seasons,” Picollo said in a statement. “He took on these challenges and helped us move forward in a positive way. We thank him for his leadership and know that his influence will have a positive impact going forward.”
Matheny became the fifth big league-manager to be fired this year.
Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa left the team on August 30 for medical tests and said Monday he will not return until 2023.
In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not be returning next season.
Though he was loved at the Kansas City clubhouse, it seemed unlikely Matheny would get another season when Moore was fired last month. Sherman indicated at the time that the change in leadership of the baseball operations division was just the beginning of what would be expected to be widespread shifts across the organization.
The Royals have struggled for years to develop pitching – they had the fourth-worst ERA and worst WHIP of any staff in the majors this season. And the ongoing struggle of their latest wave of young arms was a big reason to let go of Eldred, the pitching coach since 2018.
“The bottom line is it’s time for a change,” Sherman said last month. “There is now a gap between where we are and where we expected to be. … I felt we made progress in 2021, and in 2022 that is not how I feel. There are some bright spots – I like from seeing the young players – but in 2022 we are not where we expected to be.”