Hillman conveys support for successor
Dismissed KC manager wants to fight on, but backs Yost
KANSAS CITY -- Trey Hillman, still wearing his No. 88 Royals jersey even though he no long was team manager, came into the Kauffman Stadium interview room and addressed a throng of reporters.
"You want to do the game notes? Seriously, I don't mind," Hillman said.
So he talked awhile about the Royals' victory that ended their seven-game losing streak and his career as manager. Then he got into what the reporters most wanted to discuss: His dismissal and the hiring of Ned Yost as his successor. He wished Yost and the Royals well.
"Hopefully the cavalry is coming sooner or later for the people of Kansas City and the Royals," Hillman said.
No, he wasn't surprised -- he felt it coming and he learned about the final decision before Thursday's game.
"I'm not happy I'm leaving at all. It's the last thing I wanted. I want to keep fighting. There's 127 games left, there's a lot of season left, a lot of good things can happen for this club," he said.
But they didn't happen under Hillman. After he gained a solid reputation of building a winner with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, Hillman reportedly was viewed as a possible successor to Joe Torre as the Yankees' manager. But general manager Dayton Moore got to him first. Yet Hillman couldn't lead the Royals out of the doldrums as Buddy Bell's replacement.
His 2008 team was 75-87 and finished fourth in the American League Central. His 2009 team slipped to 65-97 and tied for fourth. This year his club was 12-23.
Yost's managerial record
"Having just 12 wins on May 13 is not what you're looking for," Hillman said.
He was asked why it didn't work in Kansas City, but he wasn't specific.
"A lot of pieces. Maybe I'm not pushing the right buttons at the right time. I'd like to think, with my history, I don't know why I wasn't pushing the right buttons. Sometimes a different face, a different voice is a good thing," he said.
There was a segment of fans who wondered about his handling of the pitching staff or why he didn't give a home run prospect like Kila Ka'aihue a shot or why he didn't use the hit-and-run more often.
"I believe this team will be better. I think people are sometimes slow to realize that this is a process," he said. "I've got a pretty good idea of what works. It's a difficult process and it will work if people give it time to work."
But his time ran out. Only a few players remained in the clubhouse after the news conferences for Moore and Hillman concluded, but they expressed support for the ex-manager.
"I think he's gotten better each year and I feel like he just keeps improving as a manager," pitcher Zack Greinke said. "It is part of baseball, but it's the players' fault. If we win, this doesn't happen."
Hillman gathered his players in the trainer's room after the game to give them the news.
Infielder Willie Bloomquist said the players were surprised by the move.
"As far as seeing this coming? No, I don't think to a man anybody saw this coming," he said. "It blindsided a lot of people."
Bloomquist insisted that the players held Hillman in high regard.
"As far as him losing the team or losing the clubhouse, it's probably the farthest thing from the truth," Bloomquist said. "I think everyone respects him and likes him. Not only as a manager but the guy genuinely cares about you on and off the field. And in this business, it's tough to find somebody like that. And it's very unfortunate that he's not still here."
Typically, before leaving Hillman ran though a long list of people that he wanted to thank, from the Glass family -- the Royals' owners -- to the clubhouse attendants.
And he wished the best to his successor, Yost.
"I think he'll come in here and turn this thing around and I'll be cheering my butt off for him," Hillman said.
Then he went to clean out his office. He wanted to leave things tidy for the next occupant.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.