Kansas City Royals fire manager Mike Matheny – ESPN

Kansas City Royals fire manager Mike Matheny - ESPN

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise ended the season 65-97 with a lackluster 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals exercised their option on Matheny’s 2023 contract during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles of young position players and a lackluster group of veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by midsummer.

The disappointing on-field product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office manager Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League championships and the 2015 World Series title team. He was replaced by one of his longtime assistants, JJ Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

“Managing the Royals has been a true privilege,” Matheny said in a statement. “I thank so many, especially Dayton Moore, and the coaches and players I have worked with. I would like to thank Mr. John Sherman and the ownership group for the opportunity to manage his team, and everyone involved in this great organization.

“I came to the Royals knowing it was an organization of excellence and care, and was shown that care 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 his firing midway through 2018, he was hired by the Royals in an advisory role, and then tapped. to succeed longtime manager Ned Yost when he stepped down prior to the 2020 season.

With a rebuild in the works, Matheny went 26-34 during a COVID-19-shortened first season, then seemed to show progress last season when the Royals promoted a host of young prospects and finished 74-88.

The expectation was another step forward this season, but the Royals instead spent September battling 100 losses.

Matheny finished 165-219 during his time with the Royals, though the number that may be more important to the club’s future is 29 — the number of players who made their major league debut during his tenure.

“We are grateful to Mike for guiding us through some unusual times these past three seasons,” Picollo said in a statement. “He met those challenges head on and helped us move forward in a positive way. We thank him for his leadership and know his influence will have a positive impact going forward.”

Matheny became the fifth major league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who made a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Charlie Montoyo of Toronto was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and Chris Woodward of the Rangers by Tony Beasley on August 15.

Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa left the team Aug. 30 for medical tests and said Monday he will not return for 2023.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he would not return next season.

While he was beloved in the Kansas City clubhouse, another season seemed unlikely to Matheny when Moore was fired last month. Sherman indicated at the time the change in the leadership of the baseball operations department was just the beginning of what was expected to be widespread changes throughout the organization.

The Royals have struggled for years to develop pitching — they had the fourth-worst ERA and the worst WHIP by far of any staff in the majors this season. And the continued struggles of their latest wave of young arms was a big reason to let go of Eldred, the pitching coach since 2018.

“The bottom line here is that it’s time for a change,” Sherman said last month. “There’s a gap now between where we are and where we expected to be… I felt like in 2021 we made progress, and in 2022, I don’t feel that way. There were some bright spots — I love seeing the young players — but in 2022, we are not where we expected to be.”

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