KANSAS CITY, MO – Manager Mike Matheny and shooting coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas City Royals Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise ended the 65-97 season with a 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.
The royals exercised their option over Matheny’s 2023 contract during spring training, when the club hoped to turn from penalty spot to contender. But due to a poor playing field, struggles from young players and a lackluster group of veterans, the Royals were out of competition in the playoff by midsummer.
Disappointing producer and owner John Sherman last month prompted the firing of front office CEO Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back MLS champions and the 2015 World Championship team. He was replaced by one of his longtime teammates, JJ Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.
“Running the royal family has been a true privilege,” Matheny said in a statement. “I am grateful to many, particularly Dayton Moore, and the coaches and players I have worked with. I would like to thank Mr. John Sherman and the Property Group for the opportunity to manage their team, and everyone who has been involved in this great organization.
“I came to the Royal Family knowing it was an organization of excellence and sponsorship, and it showed us this interest every day. Royal Family fans must be excited about this group of players, and I look forward to watching them continue to grow.”
Matheny spent parts of seven seasons managing the St. Louis Cardinals, each finishing with a winning record and winning the National League title in 2013. But after being sacked midway through 2018, he was appointed by the royal family in an advisory role, then hired He succeeds longtime coach Ned Yost when he retired before the 2020 season.
After being in charge of rebuilding in the works, Matney went 26-34 through the first season of COVID-19, then seemed to show progress last season, when the Royals heralded a slew of young prospects and finished 74-88.
Expectations were another step forward this season, but the Royals spent September battling 100 losses.
Matheny finished 165-219 during his time with the Royal Family, although perhaps the number that is most important to the club’s future is 29 – the number of players who made their league debuts during his tenure.
“We are grateful to Mike for leading us through some extraordinary times in the past three seasons,” Piccolo said in a statement. “He has faced 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 senior coach to be fired this year.
Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thompson, who engineered a miraculous transformation to lead the Phillies to the playoffs. The Angels replaced Joe Madon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s John Schneider succeeded Charlie Montoyo on July 13, and Rangers’ Chris Woodward succeeded Tony Paisley on August 15.
Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa left the team on August 30 for medical checks and said Monday that he will not return for 2023.
Plus, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he won’t be back next season.
While he was well-liked at the Kansas City club, it seemed unlikely that Matney would be given another season when Moore was fired last month. Sherman noted at the time that the change in leadership of the Baseball Operations Division was just the beginning of what were expected to be large-scale transformations across the organization.
The Royals have struggled for years to develop the promotion – they had the 4th worst ERA and WORST WHIP of any major corporate cast this season. And the constant struggle by the recent wave of youth was a big reason to give up Eldred, shooting coach since 2018.
“The bottom line here is that it’s time for change,” Sherman said last month. “There is a gap now between where we are and where we expected to be. …I felt like in 2021 we made progress, and in 2022, that wasn’t how I feel. There were some bright spots – I love seeing the young players – But in 2022, we were not where we expected to be.”
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