After the Kansas City Royals’ most dramatic victory of the season – MVP candidate Alex Gordon’s two-run walk-off homer beat Minnesota 2-1 — manager Ned Yost complained of lack of crowd support.
Which in turn incited outrage from media.
Said Yost: “I mean, what, 13,000 people (actually 13,847) got to see a great game? . . . It’s really, really important to have our fans behind us at the stadium. . . . The electricity they provide, the energy they provide, helps you get through games like this. . . . We’ve been working hard on trying to build this team for the last three or four years to . . . contend for a championship. . . .
“I know it was a school night, but I’ve been through this before in Atlanta in ’91, where it didn’t matter what night it was, that place was packed at the end of August. . .”
Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star fired back: “All due respect to Yost’s three or four years of hard work, but the fans he’s talking down to had their hearts broken long before he came here.”
In fact, it’s been 28 years since the Royals made the playoffs – the longest postseason drought by any current team.
Mellinger pointed out that it was 91 degrees on the Monday night of low turnout that brought the heated comments from Yost.
The columnist also noted that K.C. this year is 4-6 playing before more than 30,000 at home — so much for electricity — and that the Braves drew a home crowd of 12,889 on Aug. 26, 1991.
Mellinger called on Yost to apologize for his “rant.”
Dayn Perry of CBSSport.com followed with this shot: “Yost should be happy he has a roster capable of playing above his tactical limitations.”
Frankly, I’m a bit surprised Yost’s comments caused such offense. It seems reasonable he might be disappointed that Kansas City is taking a wait-and-see approach toward the Royals, who on Labor Day held first place in the American League Central.
Traditionally, there’s believed to be great significance in being in first place on Labor Day, with the baseball season swinging into its final month.
Barry Petchesky of Deadspin heard audio tape of Yost’s postgame media conference and disputed Mellinger’s reporting: “It’s definitely not a rant. Yost sounds more exasperated than angry.”
But Yost may be wrong to think Atlanta is more of a baseball hotbed than Kansas City.
I remember in the early 1980s there were 2,000 fans in Atlanta Stadium with Nolan Ryan, the biggest attraction in the sport, pitching for the opposition. You could hear foul balls rattling around the stands, the place was so quiet.
Of course it’s true the fans don’t owe anybody their loyalty. You don’t hear actors complaining when people decide not to flock to their movies. And as Yogi Berra put it: “If the people don’t want to come out to the park, nobody’s gonna stop them.”
In cities such as Atlanta and Kansas City where baseball was bad for years (though it boomed in Atlanta in the ’90s), and the sport is not entrenched as in tradition-rich markets such as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh, the public gets turned off. The fans don’t necessarily get turned on as soon as the team improves.
Yost should understand that, having managed in small-market, low-tradition Milwaukee before the Royals hired him. Still, he should be excused for showing a little frustration – ill timed though it was – when the Royals bandwagon remains parked.