Yankees manager Aaron Boone has a mantra he never varies from. Always quick to praise, never to criticize – it’s sounding stale – and failing.
Aaron Boone is as frustrated as anyone as he watches the Yankees fall from grace in recent weeks. But for some reason, Boone is not able to let it out.
The Yankees do not need a cheerleader; they need a leader – and therefore, Boone’s tendency to hide behind empty cliches about the performance of his team and players is falling into an abyss that only heightens the frustration.
Aaron Boone reminds me of my high school physics teacher who told me after I received a failing grade on the New York State Regents Exam, “Steve, you tried real hard”. Thanks teach, but that doesn’t erase my failing grade, I recall thinking.
And so it is when Boone continues to remind us how hard Gary Sanchez is working to improve his defense behind the plate, and how he’s “been taking good swings” in his last few at-bats. (right)
Steady is a relative word. You can say the weather is steadily improving, but when you look out your window, you can see it’s still raining a torrent.
Aaron Boone: A Personal Experience
A personal experience I had with Aaron Boone reflected the same form of flat optimism. During Boone’s final year as an analyst for ESPN, one of their producers contacted me asking me to do a promo story on a Sunday Night Baseball game at Yankee Stadium.
I hooked up with Boone by telephone at his New York hotel. Pleasant and ready to talk, he opened with, “Okay, fire away”.
This, I did. At the time (2017), the Yankees were having their (surprise) problems with starting pitching. In particular, Sonny Gray and Michael Pineda were unable to put two reliable starts together, and then Yankees manager Joe Girardi was on the media hot seat.
Throwing the usual horrible numbers out there to support my argument, Aaron Boone quickly interrupted. Paraphrasing, because I don’t recall his exact words, “Steve, hold on. You have to stop to realize the upside these two guys have”.
“Upside” is the word I recall again and again in our conversation, and it remains Boone’s refrain about everything these days as well.
Aaron Boone, Billy Martin, And Joe Maddon
Now, Aaron Boone is not Billy Martin, who once stormed into the Yankees’ clubhouse after a loss to toss the banquet table over as his players stood by agog.
With COVID in full force, there is no longer food served in the clubhouse, but there is an in-between manner for a manager to deal with frustration when things turn south.
Joe Maddon, in his inimitable way, once said, “You’re only what your record says you are”.
There. Simple, forceful, and accurate.
Gary Sanchez is lost in space. Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres are making too many errors. James Paxton is looking for excuses – “I couldn’t get all of my pitches going because of the shortened Spring Training” – and it goes on and on.
Aaron Boone: Spoiled By Brian Cashman’s Replacements
Look, Aaron Boone has two consecutive 100+ win seasons behind him. But the difference between last year’s injury-plagued season and this year is the Yankees have no replacements to replace the replacements.
What do you do with a 2020 team that is batting .234 with an on-base percentage of .329? What do you do when your two power studs disappear into thin air again, and your third big guy has thirteen hits to show for the entire season and strikes out in half his at-bats?
The Yankees are what their record says they are – a .500 team for the first time in September since 1995 – and fighting for their lives to make it to the final wild-card spot in the playoffs.
As Yankees fans, we’re all cheerleaders, and we wish only the best for the players. But aside from Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu (right), unlike last year when contributions came from everywhere, and Aaron Boone could do no wrong in filling out his lineup card, that’s all gone.
Rather than sounding phony, or worse even fibbing about a situation, Aaron Boone can step up to a question differently. “I have no idea when we’ll see Aaron Judge again this year”, or “I have nothing to add on that today”, or “He’s struggling, but he’s in my lineup tonight” – and leave it at that.
Luke Voit Sends A Breath Of Fresh Air To The Conversation
To draw the contrast between Aaron Boone and his players, here’s Luke Voit with a breath of fresh air honesty expressing the Yankees situation (video), followed by Boone’s measure of dismay in what Voit dad to say:
Downplaying Voit’s honesty, Aaron Boone replied: “I saw some of his comments, and again, that is part of being a big-league ballplayer, especially as an offensive player, as a position player you deal in a world of failure even when it is going well. You got to be able to turn the page and dive in the next day.”
As though Luke Voit doesn’t get that? C’mon, Aaron.
The Yankees And The Coronavirus
To put it in another context, you can say we are beating the coronavirus, and it’s not as bad as some say it is – or you see that 1,200 Americans died yesterday with causes relating to the virus and say – this is unacceptable and we are not winning this war.
With the Yankees and Aaron Boone, this season’s war will not be won with platitudes and false praise. It can only be won on the field and by players like Luke Voit, who sees things as they are – and not how they might be – could be – or should be.
Luke Voit knows he’s sucked over his last eight games, and he’s not afraid to say it. It would be heartening to hear Aaron Boone say the same thing.