Aaron Boone did just fine in his first year as New York Yankees manager. He must be leagues better next season.
On the whole, Aaron Boone’s first season managing the New York Yankees can be considered a success. He won 100 games as a first-time skipper despite having to deal with multiple injuries. Moreover, his transparency with the media was endearing.
Now Boone is finding himself directly in the line of fire, and fans’ fingers are on the triggers. A series of puzzling decisions led to the Yankees’ elimination from the playoffs in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. Even worse, defeat came at the hands of the hated Boston Red Sox, fresh off a 108-win season with Boone’s fellow first-year manager Alex Cora.
Yes, Boone’s decisions in the postseason may have sunk the team, but he still has two years left on his contract. Yankees management isn’t going to let him go after a 100-win season despite an early playoff exit. That’s not only counterproductive to hopes for the future, but Boone would have to be paid what’s owed on the deal anyway.
Rather, Aaron Boone should and will use this experience to better himself for 2019. If he can do that, the sky’s the limit for this New York Yankees team.
Big shoes to fill
Taking over as manager of the New York Yankees is a prestigious job, and also one of the hardest ones. So many names have passed through Yankee Stadium’s hallowed halls and done so much good for the franchise; Casey Stengel. Joe Torre. Miller Huggins. The list goes on and features several Hall of Famers, and Yankee fans demand results. They hold those associated with the team to a high standard.
To be blunt, managing the Yankees is like jumping out of the frying pan and into a blaze reminiscent of The Towering Inferno. It’s a fun ride but when it turns ugly, it’s just that and then some.
In Boone’s case, he was hired to replace Joe Girardi, who spent ten years on the job and won a World Series in 2009. Girardi also led the Yankees to four consecutive AL East titles, so he got the team to buy into his philosophy. But for all of Girardi’s strengths, communication was his weakness. His alleged inability to connect with youngsters led to his contract not being renewed. Keep in mind, this was after bringing New York within a win of the World Series. The Yankees were ready to win but made clear Girardi was not their guy.
Boone, on the other hand, was affable where Girardi was stoic. When asked about in-game decisions, he was transparent where Girardi was churlish and stand-offish. His ability to just be one of the guys was endearing despite his lack of experience.
Flaws in the hire
As good an overall season Boone had, however, his inexperience shined brighter than Tatooine’s twin suns at multiple points. I could list several examples of mistakes he made throughout the season, but will instead focus on two specific areas.
First, his laid back personality was such that the team often looked like it was sleepwalking through certain games. Specifically, this happened against teams the Yankees should have beaten heavily. New York was 12-7 against the last place Baltimore Orioles this year, a team they should have destroyed under any and all circumstances. They split a season series against the Miami Marlins, who traded away all of their top players including Giancarlo Stanton ahead of 2018.
New York also had a subpar second half, going 38-29 after the All-Star Break. Granted, a lot of this had to do with long-term injuries to sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, but the Yankees looked lost without either man.
But where Aaron Boone really dropped the ball was his mishandling of the pitching staff. All too often throughout the season, it was clear that any Yankees starter would not have his best stuff on a given night. Rather than pull them and let the bullpen take over, Boone would leave the starter in and only pull them after the damage was done. Yes, conserving the bullpen is important, but at what cost?
Now, a lot of that may have been from Boone deferring to pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who was retained before Boone’s hire. I even touched on Rothschild’s flaws in a separate article. Still, Boone is the manager. He is the man in charge. He has every right to say to his coaches, “I value your opinion, but I’m making my own call here.”
How to improve
Right there is how Aaron Boone can improve as the Yankees’ manager in 2019. While it was great that he embraced his inexperience and deferred to more seasoned coaches at times, he has to take control. Rather, he needs to embrace his inner Joe Girardi and let it out at times.
This means talking to the umpires more when he doesn’t like a call instead of just barking from the dugout. If he gets angry and is ejected, so be it. It’s part of the game. I mean, who didn’t enjoy this particular moment?
Aaron Boone is already a dark horse contender to be named AL Manager of the Year. If he can enter next season with some more bark and bite with his calm demeanor, he can win the award.
Moreover, he could come home with a World Series ring too.