This past Wednesday, the Yankees officially introduced Aaron Boone as their new manager. Boone signed a three-year deal to coach the Yankees and is inheriting quite the team. It’s very rare that a new manager is given a team fresh off a run to the ALCS, but here Aaron Boone stands. Before I dive into Boone as a manager, I’d like to take a moment to look back on how the Yankees got to this moment.
The Yankees this past season, led by Joe Girardi, greatly outperformed expectations. Going into the season, everyone, including the Yankees, viewed this season as a rebuilding year. A year to give their new core of youngsters time to get at-bats, appearances and gel together as a unit. I was fully expecting and ready for the Yankees first losing season since 1992 (an absurd run by the way). But right out of the starting gates, the Yankees were firing on all cylinders. I kept expecting them to fall back to earth, which they eventually did in a sense, but they still continued to perform and succeed all the way up until their loss in game seven of the ALCS. Like other Yankee fans, I was heartbroken by the loss, but I was wildly excited by our performance and was looking forward to next season.
Then the news broke…
Joe Girardi would not be returning for the 2018 season. I was shocked. I assumed that it was a personal decision on his part due to a desire to spend more time with his family, but quite quickly it was revealed that it was the Yankee’s decision not to bring him back. Their claim was that they desired a manager who was better at communicating and was more of an analytical-type. What can really be deduced from all of this is that the Yankees Front Office wants to be more in control and they are looking for a yes man.
It’s very mind-boggling for me that an organization would let their manager walk after not only coming within one game of the World Series, but also with a team that was not even expected to make the playoffs. Yes, there were some questions about his decision-making during the ALDS against the Indians, but the Yankees still ended up on top. Also, it’s not like every manager is perfect, everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and I do not even consider the choices he made to have been that detrimental. There are various factors that play into every decision a manager makes and they always have more information than we do. That’s why they are in the position they are in. There’s a reason that I am not a manager and he is. Far too often fans act as if they know best, but they do not know what is going on in that dugout.
To try and better understand this situation, let’s back up a bit. Joe Girardi was hired before the 2008 season by the New York Yankees after having managed the Florida Marlins for one season in 2006, a year in which he won manager of the year, mind you. Girardi led the youngest and lowest paid team in the league at the time to a 78-84 record that year after starting out the year 11-31. But in the end, Girardi’s great performance was not enough to keep him around. Due to conflict with Jeffrey Loria, the team owner, and the rest of the front office, Girardi was fired and quickly replaced by Fredi Gonzalez, a minor league manager in the system at the time. In his first season as Yankee manager after taking a year off, Girardi led the team to a 89-73 record, which sounds great, but was only good enough for third place in the tough AL-East. Girardi then took a huge leap and led the team the following year to a 103-59 record and a World Series title to go along with it. Over the course of the Girardi’s tenure with the Yankees, Girardi had a 910-710 record along with a World Series win. Not only is this record great, but Girardi did it with some less than ideal teams. Gotta give the man credit for leading the 2013 Yankee team to an 85-77 record. A team that featured the likes of Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells.
Girardi led his teams to the playoffs six out of the ten years he was with the Yankees and never had a losing record (probably should’ve in 2013). Girardi was far from being a garbage manager and was showing even more promise with this new Yankee team. He appeared to be well-respected among the young guys as well as the veterans. Many looked up to him and he seemed to have a great impression on the entire clubhouse. Girardi was always ready to stand up for his players whether it be in a post-game interview or out on the field defending his player in an argument with the umpires. And he was never afraid to get tossed for the cause. I will never forget when A-Rod got plunked by Ryan Dempster (bitchass) and Girardi came charging out to defend his player and ended up getting ejected in less than 20 seconds. That type of fire is what I loved most about Girardi and is a trait that not many managers have, and I believe to be a trait that is vital in managers. Managers need to stick up for their players and Girardi never shied away from that. He had passion like no other and yet the Yankees did not feel it was what the team needed.
So what went wrong? What led the Yankees to letting Girardi go? Well this is something that no one but Girardi and the FO will truly know. What is stated as the reason is hardly ever the full reality. All we can do at this point is speculate. Over the past few seasons, Girardi had been criticized about his pitching decisions, especially when it came to bullpen decisions. Many felt he brought pitchers in when he shouldn’t have and even overworked pitchers. One case I remember in particular was with Dellin Betances a couple years ago. Betances was lights out in the first half of the season, but then as the year went on, he got lit up quite frequently, which led Betances to finishing the year on a bit of a low note. Many felt that Girardi had overused Betances, thus burning him out for the back-end of the season. Now of course this one instance or flaw should not be enough to fire someone, especially with a guy like Girardi who has had such a great deal of success with the organization. What I think ultimately led to the demise of Girardi in pinstripes was his relationship with the front office. I think Girardi was unwilling to let the FO get as involved as they wished to be. Cashman seems to want more control over what goes on with the team and Girardi wasn’t willing to roll over, so Cashman gave him the boot and sought out more of a yes man. This theory could be backed up by Girardi’s fallout with the Florida Marlins. Despite winning manager of the year, Girardi was fired due to conflict with upper management, leading him to going to New York and becoming the Yankee manager.
Did Cashman get his yes man? We’ll get to that. To replace Girardi, Cashman went out and brought in Aaron Boone, a former player who has had no managerial experience, for a three-year deal. Boone is most famously remembered for his game 7 walk-off home run in the 2003 ALCS against the rival Red Sox. Because of this moment, many associate Boone with the Yankees, but in reality, Boone only spent 54 games in pinstripes, 71 if you count the postseason. Boone was never a earth-shaking player, minus that one moment, but he was still a solid player with a good amount of experience. After his playing career, Boone spent his time as a commentator and analyst for ESPN.
It’s tough to gauge what exactly Boone will bring to the table, but so far Boone seems to have a passion for the game and a passion for winning that I believe will translate well into his managing. Since he isn’t too far removed from his playing days, Boone should be able to have a good relation with the players, being able to relate and understand where they are coming from. Most importantly for the Yankees’ FO, Boone is a new face. Being a new face allows Cashman to have more say in what goes on with the team because he will be able to guise it as helping Boone get accustomed to the team and the league. This then gives the Yankees the yes man I believe Cashman desired. The FO will be able to use more analytics and numbers like they’ve been hoping for. If a fresh face is what the Yankees wanted, though, I personally would have gone with Carlos Beltrán, although he was probably deemed too recently removed. I feel Beltrán would’ve had a great relationship with the players, especially the young guys, which is vitally what this team needs moving forward. Plus he would be able to communicate greatly with the international players with him being from outside the United States as well, which is a trait I think goes overlooked sometimes.
Overall, I feel Boone will see success with the organization. He’s inheriting a hell of a team that has all the potential in the world. The Yankees will win based on skill alone. I doubt who is at the helm will really play that big of a factor until the playoffs come, which the team I wholeheartedly believe will see in each of the three years that Boone is so far signed on for. Do I think he’s better than Girardi though? No. Not at all. But I will be rooting for him to succeed in this league like I would with any other man chosen to lead this new age Yankee team.