Aaron Boone employs a unique style as New York Yankees manager. So how’s he performing as skipper so far in 2018?
The New York Yankees exceeded everyone’s expectations in 2017 by getting to within one game of the World Series. But management decided it was time for a change.
The more disciplinarian approach of Joe Girardi, while successful, was too old-school for this talented, young group of millennial players. Enter Aaron Boone—a manager with a much different approach.
By all accounts, Boone is a manager that puts a consoling arm over a player’s shoulder rather than a swift foot in their gluteus maximus when required. Boone is honey and Girardi is vinegar.
Aside from the psychological aspects of Aaron Boone’s managerial tenure thus far, just how is he doing so far? There’s no denying that The Yankees are having a great season, hovering around 30 games over .500 but let’s break down his overall performance.
In terms of leadership, Boone does appear to be more in tune with today’s players. He gives them just enough leeway and sets a relaxed tone in the clubhouse and dugout. But there’s a delicate balance between being a friend and being the boss. There is some veteran leadership on the team in the forms of CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner, who will pull a player aside and play the big brother when necessary, which is extremely helpful to a manager.
But aside from the recent Gary Sanchez situation, there has not been any real controversy. The one blemish, and it could turn out to be a big one, has been the Yankees “playing down” to their opponents.
The first place Boston Red Sox are 19-6 against Baltimore and Tampa while the Yankees are 11-11. Boston is 7-1 against NL teams while NY is 10-7. The Sox have been taking care of business when they are supposed to, beating up on lesser teams while the Yanks seem to hit cruise control. Boone needs to keep his team focused and motivated against lesser teams. This has been the difference in the AL East so far and could be on September 30.
Tactically, Boone has played more “small ball” than his predecessor—starting runners, hit and run, sacrificing. At times this has worked but there have been too many head-scratching moves like attempting to steal a base with two outs with the reigning AL Rookie of the Year or reigning NL MVP at the plate.
While getting a guy into scoring position with two outs in a tight game with the bottom of the order coming up is aggressive, doing it with the heart of your order up is highly questionable.
Boone himself questioned his decision on July 13 in Cleveland when down 6-4 in the eighth, he sent Aaron Judge from first on a 3-2 count to Aaron Hicks. Hicks struck out, Judge was thrown out and Giancarlo Stanton led off the next inning—with a home run.
On the whole, Boone has used his bullpen wisely. Notable is his reclamation of Dellin Betances. The reliever came into the season with a big question mark next to his name after a severe case of the yips led to a benching in 2017. This year he has returned to form as one of the nastiest and best relievers in baseball.
The emergence of no-names like Jonathan Holder and A.J. Cole alongside the likes of Betances, Chad Green, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman has made a great bullpen truly elite as it leads the league with a 2.78 ERA and 453 strikeouts while also tallying a respectable 30 saves.
The addition of Zach Britton, despite his rocky performance Saturday against the Royals, gives the Yanks a fantasy-like pen and insurance should a Chapman or Betances get sidelined. Only knock here is getting Chapman and his balky knee into games unnecessarily. Remember when Cubs manager Joe Maddon burned Chapman out in the 2016 postseason?
Overall, Boone has done a good job so far. The Yankees are on pace to win over 100 games. He needs to keep this young group focused down the stretch and take care of the teams that they should. He’s made some mistakes, of course. But has displayed the right accountability.