Mike Matheny has been fired after his third season as Royals manager. Pitching coach Cal Eldred was also fired after his fifth season in that role.
Executive Vice President/General Manager JJ Picollo is scheduled to meet local media Thursday from Kauffman Stadium.
“We are grateful to Mike for guiding us through some unusual times over the past three seasons,” Picollo said in a team statement. “He met these challenges head on 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 in the future.”
The Royals have been headed in that direction over the past two weeks after owner John Sherman fired president of baseball operations Dayton Moore, handing over baseball operations to Picollo and his assistant general managers. The past two weeks have been full of front office meetings, including several between Picollo and Matheny, about the future of the Royals and Picollo’s vision of turning the rebuild into rival seasons over the next two years.
Wednesday was Picollo’s first major hit. The club are expected to make further changes to the coaching staff in the coming weeks, along with other personnel changes across the organisation.
The Royals optioned Matheny’s contract during spring training this year, extending it through the 2023 season. But Matheny had been hired by Moore, and Sherman said when Moore was fired that the Matheny’s evaluation and future in Kansas City would be left to Picollo.
Matheny was hired after Ned Yost retired in 2019 after spending a year as special adviser to Moore. It was Matheny’s second stint as manager, following his 6 1/2 seasons at St. Louis from ’12-18. He came to Kansas City determined to handle things differently with media and analytics.
Matheny inherited a 103-game losing streak in 2019. In his first season, the Royals went 26-34 playing a pandemic-shortened 2020 schedule.
The 52-year-old has embraced the young clubhouse of the Royals, including managing 13 players on their Major League debut. But his presence was intense, multiple sources told MLB.com, and some players felt they couldn’t be themselves around him.
The Royals were 165-219 under Matheny, including a 65-97 record in 2022 – a year in which they believed they could improve on last season.
Instead, they finished in last place in American League Central, capped by Wednesday’s 9-2 loss to the Guardians at Progressive Field in which the Royals allowed the division winners 15 hits. Kansas City had MLB’s worst 26-55 on the road this year.
“Managing the Royals has been a real privilege,” Matheny said in a club statement. “I’m grateful to so many people, especially Dayton Moore and the coaches and players I’ve worked with. I would like to thank Mr. John Sherman and the Owners Group for the opportunity to manage their team, and everyone involved in this great organization. I came to the Royals knowing it was an organization of excellence and care, and I was shown that care every day. Royals fans should be excited about this group of players, and I can’t wait to see them continue to grow.
Eldred, 54, spent 14 major league seasons and was a Matheny’s teammate with Milwaukee and St. Louis. Eldred took over as the Royals’ pitching coach in 2017 after serving as assistant general manager/player development the previous two seasons.
The Royals have given Eldred a wave of young pitchers, including several from the 2018 MLB Draft, many of whom got their start in recent years. But it didn’t go as well as they had hoped; the Royals’ pitching staff finished 2022 with a 4.70 ERA, fourth worst among the Majors. The Royals’ 9.5% walk rate was only better than the Reds’ 9.8% this season.
Kansas City also finished last in the AL in strikeouts and allowed the most runs of any AL team.
Brady Singer took significant steps forward in his third season – largely thanks to Eldred’s help with Singer’s mechanics – but the Royals haven’t seen enough improvement over their other starters. , including Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic and Jonathan Heasley.