Aaron Boone became the second rookie manager in the AL East. How much of an impact will he have on the division?
At this time in 2016, the American League East was an entirely different place than it is now.
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi was preparing his young squad for a run at a second AL Wild Card spot. The Boston Red Sox, led by manager John Farrell, were looking to not only defend their division crown but make a run to the World Series. The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays were looking to turn the corner and make postseason pushes. Finally, the Tampa Bay Rays were on pace to continue their seemingly never-ending rebuild process.
Well, what difference a year makes.
The Yankees, coming off an improbable run to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, have just hired a first-year manager in Aaron Boone. After winning the AL East again but failing to get out of the first round, the Red Sox have brought in Alex Cora, another first-year manager. The Orioles finished in last place and their window seems to be closing. With a team of aging veterans and notable players leaving, the Blue Jays seem poised for a rebuild. Tampa Bay shocked everybody by finishing in third place and look to be moving in the right direction.
So with all of these changes and shifted expectations, what could be expected of the AL East? More specifically, how could the hiring of Boone impact the division in 2018?
The short answer: this year is the last chance for anyone not in New York or Boston to win the East for the foreseeable future. That’s right, Buck. We’re talking to you.
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With the Yankees recently acquiring superstar power hitter Giancarlo Stanton and a Boston retaliation expected by many to take place soon (J.D. Martinez, anyone?), there is going to be a lot of firepower between the two squads. Despite this, there is still a crucial detail that can’t be forgotten: Both the Yankees and Red Sox are trusting their talented rosters to novice managers.
Like with first-year players, a first-time manager is going to make mistakes; it’s inevitable. The missteps can range from very minor to costing a team a crucial game. But, hey, it’s part of the growing pains that are to be expected when rookies take over.
While Boone and Cora are trying to find their footing, a crafty veteran like Baltimore’s Buck Showalter or Toronto’s John Gibbons will try everything in their power to take advantage of it and sneak their way up to the top of the division.
Despite the opportunity, it’s going to be tough. The Yankees and Red Sox have two of the deepest rosters in baseball. The other teams in the AL East don’t have the same luxury and are very top-heavy. So Showalter and Gibbons can’t rely on and hope for the players to underperform and make mistakes; they need Boone and Cora to show signs of failure.
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The Yankees have a target on their back because of their impressive performance last season. If you think Showalter and Gibbons are just going to let it slide that a rookie manager is running the show, you are sorrily mistaken.
This is their last chance. Once Cora and Boone get their footing on the managerial side, the talent and management will allow for both the Yankees and Red Sox to compete for years to come. If they don’t take advantage now, they won’t ever get an opportunity like this for a long time.
The Yankees and Red Sox are teams that are built for the future but have enough talent to win now. The other teams in the division, not counting the Rays, should be in “win now” mode. Realistically, the 2018 final standings will probably be closer to 2017 than 2016. While there is a chance for another team to get one last run as AL East champ, it all comes down to the skippers.
Just one slight opening, one inkling of hope, can give these other teams a shot at the AL East. One shot, other AL East teams. Show us what you’ve got.