Aaron Boone has to consider himself the luckiest man on our planet. Handpicked by one of the best minds in baseball, he inherits a team stocked with both young and veteran talent, with possibilities that are unlimited. Think again if there’s no pressure inherent in those circumstances.
Brian Cashman went through the rituals of interviewing several candidates for the Yankees managerial job that was vacated by Joe Girardi, who managed the team to within one out of the World Series, and when the stove of expectations was only tepid. Aaron Boone, his replacement, now leads a team where all four burners are flaming blue, and expectations continue to soar every day. And all he has to do is sit back and not screw things up.
Well, of course, it’s not quite that simple. But unlike his counterpart across the river in Queens, Mickey Callaway, Aaron Boone is blessed not only with super-talented players but with a professionally led team of management and ownership. In fact, the entire Yankees organization sizzles with professionalism.
It reminds of the date you finally get after pursuing and asking several times for a chance to go out with that someone special. And then, suddenly, you find yourself sitting across the table at dinner with that person thinking to yourself, “Oh God, don’t let me screw this up.”
They don’t provide WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for managers – and for God sakes, please don’t anyone run with that idea – so there’s no way of telling how many, if any, of the Yankees 50 wins Aaron Boone is personally responsible for. But more telling with Boone would be a LAR stat (losses above replacement). Because with this Yankees team, there is no way Aaron Boone can win Manager of the Year.
But let’s take a look at the job he’s done far. He quickly saw the benefits of placing his Whiz Kids, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, in the eight and nine spots in the lineup, and they are responding as no other team of rookies in the league. More recently, Aaron Boone saw the wisdom of giving his firestarter, Brett Gardner a couple of extra days to mend a balky knee, despite Gardner’s pleas to “put me in coach, I’m ready to play.”
Aaron Boone has also quietly wilted down the days Gary Sanchez is in the lineup as the catcher. Plus, he hasn’t been bashful in sitting Sanchez altogether, due to his inability to reach the Mendoza Line with his batting average.
Aaron Boone has also stuck to his guns placing Aaron Judge in the two hole, where Judge if he doesn’t produce a run, draws enough walks to put him among the leaders in the American League.
Essentially, Boone’s bullpen operates on auto-pilot, and it’s just a matter of juggling his aces there to ensure they have proper rest between appearances. Anyone who can count to three can do that. The blossoming of Dellin Betances following a rough start and Aroldis Chapman, who is now second in the American League league with 22 saves has been particularly noticeable and helpful.
And to his credit in the face of jeopardy, Aaron Boone writes the name Greg Bird in his lineup virtually every day, continuing to spout enthusiasm about Bird “breaking out of it” any day now. Ditto for the strikeout-prone but still productive, Giancarlo Stanton.
Boone is still weaving his way through the New York media, and there are no guffaws on his record to date. By all appearances, the media is reserving judgment on him as well.
Again, unlike the poor fellow in Queens, Aaron Boone is assured that he has a General Manager working hard every day to position the Yankees for a second-half run, which with a tweak here and there will solidify a season reminding of the late 1990’s, and perhaps even set a couple of records that move beyond the 1998 Yankees team.
Make no mistake, this is not a cakewalk for Aaron Boone, and in some ways, the pressure is even higher on him than as a manager on teams that are losing.
And much like A.J. Hinch, the manager of last year’s World Champion Astros, the target for Aaron Boone only needs to be – stay out of the way and let your players play.