Managerial decisions made during the heat of battle are always fun to play with, especially after everyone has seen the outcome. Yankees manager, Aaron Boone, is getting tarred and feathered for a decision he made in Sunday’s loss to the Blue Jays. Not so fast, though, and here’s why.
Let’s begin with the fact there were many disgruntled Yankees fans, myself very much included, resulting from yesterday’s giveaway win to the Blue Jays. And when Justin Smoak hit that 3-2 pitch delivered by David Robertson for a grand slam home run to win the game (and here below, it is again because it hurt that much), sending the Yankees home at 2-2 instead of 3-1, the decision to walk Josh Donaldson ahead of Smoak became immediate fodder for Monday Morning Managing.
But let’s back up a little bit because bashing Aaron Boone rashly is just as rash as the decision Boone made himself. For starters, when the Yankees held their “Pitcher’s Meeting,” as all teams do before a series begins, who do you think the Yankees marked as the guy who we can’t let beat us, Donaldson or Smoak?
If you answered Smoak, you haven’t been paying attention to the last several All-Star Games and who’s playing and who is not. Yes, Smoak has developed into a fine player with an uppercut swing that can drive the ball out. But Smoak was also 0-5 with four strikeouts against Robertson previous to this at-bat, while Donaldson was 3-8 with two home runs against the Yankees veteran righthander.
Let’s back up even a little further because we know baseball is driven by that all-important analytics column these days, and therefore, the Yankees and Boone knew long before the “decision” was made that the Yankees would want no part of Donaldson. Even though, Donaldson is reportedly inhibited by something his shoulder. But then again, Donaldson over his career has always been ailing from something.
So, you put all these “buts” together and what do you have? You end up with a volatile situation that’s going to be decided, one way or the other, in the next five minutes or less.
I don’t know for sure, but I think that once Boone walked to the mound with no immediate signal to the bullpen for Aroldis Chapman that Robertson was his guy. And with that, the first thing Boone might have asked Robertson is, “Who do you want to pitch to?” Robertson had been there a hundred times in his career before, and Boone could have, and maybe did for all we know, have deferred to his trusted veteran reliever who replied, “Gimme Smoak.”
Who learned what from this? That’s the only question we should be asking of the Yankees today.
Mickey Callaway, managing across the river, has said he will take analytics so far, reaching a point where his “gut” will tell him what do, especially when it comes to his pitchers. We’ll see how that turns out for him, but it’s undoubtedly something Aaron Boone may have to grow into over time.
If major league baseball teaches us anything, it’s that nothing is written in stone. What works today crumbles tomorrow. The guy who’s up today is down tomorrow, and vice versa. You roll with each game as it plays out. Yes, the book says to do this, but what if I feel my hitter at that moment in a game should do that?
This is where management earns their keep and their money. Aaron Boone is new at this. Granted, he’s managing the New York Yankees and not the Florida Marlins – but he still deserves time to grow into his responsibilities. And after all, Boone did not throw the fateful pitch to Smoak.
Gabe Kapler, manager of the Phillies, is almost to the point of being run out Philadelphia after a couple of apparent goofs he made over the weekend. And that’s wrong too.
But I have a final question to ask of those who were watching or listening to the game yesterday. Immediately after seeing Aaron Boone raise those four fingers signaling an intentional walk to Donaldson, did you say to yourself, “Oh no, here goes the ballgame.”?
Heck, on a snowout day, at least we have something to mull over. One game does not a season make. I’ll settle down if you agree to do the same.
The game tomorrow, by the way, is set at 4:00 PM EST. Where that came from, who knows? But at least it means it’s game on (TV) when work is finished for the day.