Despite coming into the 2022 season with expectations of hovering around .500 or possibly even pushing for more (depending on who's asked), the Kansas City Royals' 63-93 record entering Friday's play has cast a dark cloud over the organization.
All year long, Kansas City has tried to walk the tightrope between fielding veteran players and getting youth in the lineup while also developing starting pitching. Not all of those efforts have been successful, and a lot of the club's failures led to the recent firing of former president of baseball operations Dayton Moore.
With the emergence of Royals Chairman and CEO John Sherman as a voice within the organization and someone who wants to win sooner rather than later using more data-driven decisions, it's easy for questions to arise. One of the most pressing ones pertains to the manager position, a post of which Mike Matheny has served since 2020. In his three years with the club — one partial and two full — Matheny's 163-214 record (.432 winning percentage) leaves a ton to be desired. National media outlets are beginning to take notice and shed some light on it, too.
In a Thursday night article on the New York Post, reporter Jon Heyman briefly discussed the future of Matheny (among others). Here's what he had to say, citing players' hope for the club to move on as a top reason why Kansas City's skipper could soon be gone:
Mike Matheny was hired by Dayton Moore, who’s now gone. With players hoping for a change, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be back.
It didn't stop there, though. On Friday morning, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic dropped a bombshell of an article (subscription required) discussing the futures of eight different teams and managers. He opened the article by saying the Royals are a team that "almost certainly will make changes in the dugout," and he went on to elaborate on his reasoning later in the report. Here's the section on the Royals:
Mike Matheny is held in high regard by the club’s decision-makers, but the most prominent of those decision-makers, Moore, is now out of a job. Additional changes are likely, and few would be surprised if those changes include Matheny, even though the Royals in March exercised the manager’s club option for 2023.
In three seasons under Matheny, the Royals have gone 26-34, 74-88 and, with six games to play, 63-93. Some with the team have wondered if Matheny’s relentless intensity is too much for a young club. New chairman and CEO John Sherman has spoken of the need for “more data-driven decisions,” and that desire likely extends to the manager’s office.
Sherman’s choice of general manager J.J. Picollo to replace Moore would seem to suggest the new owner values stability. Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol would be a leading candidate to replace Matheny, if the team again wanted to stay in-house. Sherman, though, clearly wants the team to think as progressively as the Al Central champion Guardians, for whom he previously was a minority investor. Someone like Quatraro, who was Cleveland’s hitting coach from 2014 to 2016 before joining the Rays as third base and then bench coach, would appear a logical fit.
That's a lot of information from two different places to digest, but the fact that two national reporters brought Matheny's future into question within a 12-hour span doesn't spell good news for Matheny. Reports of tension within the Royals' clubhouse came during the summer, and it's been rumored for quite some time now that Matheny's managerial tactics and style don't always jive with the team. With an immensely disappointing 2022 campaign soon to be in the books for good, it's worth wondering now more than ever whether the 52-year-old will be back with the club despite his 2023 option already having been picked up.