Aaron Boone was hired to Manage the Yankees, not the media. In a time of adversity, soon, we’ll know if Boone is a Baseball Manager…
Already, Aaron Boone is under scrutiny in this season of 2019, his Sophmore season as manager of the Yankees. If you read, as I did, Ken Davidoff’s column in Saturday’s New York Post, you have to begin to wonder if Boone has a handle on what it takes to manage in the big leagues today.
Davidoff takes the reader through a litany of questionable calls Boone has made in just the first six games of the 2019 season. He’s kind enough to skim over the mysterious pitching decisions Boone made during last year’s playoff series against the Red Sox.
Strategy and baseball acumen is one thing, but there is another more significant element to Boone’s job as Manager of the Yankees, and it points to the reason why he was hired over dozens of others with more experience and control of managing a baseball game.
Boone follows two consecutive Yankees managers in Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, both of whom are about as straight-laced as they come. Aloof is the operative word when describing how both men related to their players.
Despite this, Torre achieved wealth and fame when his team went on a wild run of World Series wins in the late 1990s. Joe Torre commands respect in this game largely because of the person he is, but not necessarily as a baseball manager.
A monkey could have “managed” the 1998 Yankees, blessed with the Core Four plus Bernie Williams. This was a group of seasoned professional ballplayers who required little if any, managing. They, in effect, managed themselves.
Aaron Boone: That Was Then, This Is Now
Aaron Boone inherited the same kind of clubhouse last year. Hands off, don’t piss anyone off, let Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, and CC Sabathia do their thing in the clubhouse, sit back and count the “W’s”.
Fast forward to the first few days of the 2019 season, though, and Aaron Boone is likely to look around asking, “Where’s my team”? Yankees fans know where the bulk of the team is – reference the newly named MLB Injured List.
Seasoned veteran Troy Tulowitzki, himself recently added to the list of “can’t play” Yankees, admitted he’s “never seen” anything like the rash of injuries which have hit the Yankees in such a short span of time.
Yeah, well so what? There’s still a game scheduled for tonight and another one tomorrow afternoon. Aaron Boone will fill out his lineup card and the Yankees will field a team.
But this is hardly business as usual for the Yankees, and certainly not the way Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone mapped out personnel for at least the first half of the season.
Aaron Boone, Yankees fans will recall, was hired mainly for his “communication skills”, a tag mostly earned during his tenure as an analyst for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Boone transferred those skills well to his new job, and for the most part, he is treated gently by the New York media, making himself readily available.
Aaron Boone: The Great Communicator?
But this is different. Joe Girardi struck out completely in his attempt to bring Gary Sanchez on board, admonishing Sanchez in full view of YES cameras during a game, losing Sanchez in the process.
Four errors in the first six games, three home runs with only three RBI and a .000 average with runners in scoring position is the line on Gary Sanchez entering Saturday night’s game. Projected out over 525 at-bats, Sanchez will hit 60 home runs, with 60 RBI, and a .190 batting average for the Yankees 2019 season.
Will Aaron Boone invent a different approach to Gary Sanchez, other than the current mantra he preaches to the media, “Don’t worry, Gary will be there”.
Similarly, Aaron Boone has a 22-year-old prize in Gleyber Torres who comes to the ballpark not sure where he will play that night. Mature above all expectations, Torres is a regular in the Yankees lineup.
He is not Ben Zobrist who leaves three or four gloves in his locker waiting to get the call as to where he will be playing, if at all. Boone either decides Torres is my shortstop until Didi Gregorius comes back, or he’s my second baseman.
Similarly in the Yankees bullpen. Does each man know his role, because that’s important to a bullpen team? At 31, has Aroldis Chapman lost a beat and perhaps deserving of a demotion, taking one for the team in favor of Adam Ottavino or Zach Britton?
That’s Aaron Boone’s call, and it’s his job to communicate his decision to those involved, with why’s and wherefore’s players expect and deserve today.
In sum, last year Aaron Boone was in a position where it was fair to say to him, “Just don’t screw this up“. This season, not so much.
Boone, for instance, should also be making it clear with his team that he supports (or doesn’t and recommends a change to Cashman) the efforts of the Yankees hitting coach, Marcus Thames, who is advocating for a toned down approach of swinging for the fences and trying to do too much.
Going the other way, situational hitting, small ball – whatever you want to call it – the Yankees are NOT the Bombers with their current lineup. But again, it’s up to Boone to LEAD the team…i.e. manage the team.
Unlike the Red Sox, the Yankees are not in a dive worthy of panic-driven moves and changes to the team. Having said that though, the Yankees most certainly need to see a new “face” from Aaron Boone.
This is not television where words you say today are generally forgotten, no matter how ingenious or stupid they sounded on Sunday night with a safety net below from the TV booth.
Like Ken Davidoff, I have my reservations about Aaron Boone’s ability to slip into a genuine role as Manager of the New York Yankees, but that’s what they need, and I hope he proves me wrong.