Aaron Boone is forever remembered for his walkoff home run in the 11th inning in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS off Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Well, now he’s known as the manager of the New York Yankees.
Friday afternoon, it was announced that the Yankees hired Boone to be the team’s new skipper. Boone, the former Yankee third baseman, was previously in the booth as a color commentator for ESPN. With no managing or coaching experience to show in any way, shape, or form, Boone’s hiring is bizarre, to say the least.
Ever since management opted to let Joe Girardi walk after 10 years as the team’s manager, the case could be made that the Yankee job instantly became the most appealing opening. And with well-known, respected names such as John Farrell, Dave Martinez, Alex Cora, Gabe Kapler, and many internal options available, the Yankees had a handful of options to choose from to be their next manager. The Yankees’ managerial position ultimately had six candidates — in their eyes.
Over the past month, the names linked and interviewed by general manager Brain Cashman and the Yankees for the managing vacancy included: Hensley Meulens (who was reportedly in the mix until the very end), Carlos Beltran, Eric Wedge, Chris Woodward, third base coach Rob Thomson, and Boone. Out of the six candidates, Beltran (fresh out of retirement) and Boone held zero managerial and base coaching experience. Meulens (a former Yankee player and current bench coach for the San Francisco Giants), Wedge (the former Indians and Mariners manager), Woodward (the Dodgers third base coach), and Thomson all had a reason to be named manager based on their resumes. So what was it that made the Yankees say “YES!” with Boone?
Well maybe the Yankees reasoning for opting to hire Boone was for him to be a robot, or someone who embraces the numbers. As Mike Mazzeo of the NY Daily News noted on Friday night, it is believed that Boone was the Yankees’ choice because of his “polish” and ability to embrace analytics.
While it is key for a manager or head coach in any sport to be able to communicate with their team, and relate to players, it’s never an easy adjustment when you’ve never called the shots as a team’s skipper — which is the situation Boone finds himself in.
Naming Boone the team’s manager after going through with the interviews they held is odd and shocking to some; it was probably the reason why Thomson opted to leave the Bronx to be the Philadelphia Phillies bench coach. When you leave Thomson hanging in a job interview for over a month — which isn’t a frequent occurrence in MLB — and then give the job to an inexperienced face, it’s not realistic to expect him to be content with reassuming his previous role the ensuing season.
Could Boone end up being a sneaky good hire for Cashman and the Steinbrenners? Sure, why not, you never know with these type of hirings. But is a first-year manager best suited coaching a team whose aspirations are as high as the World Series?
After exceeding expectations in 2017 and nearly knocking off the Houston Astros in the ALCS, the Yankees will, for sure, be looking to make it to the Fall Classic with their young core of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and Greg Bird, along with some established veterans. Girardi’s ability to manage and keep their relatively young team in check was a big reason for the outrage towards management for not bringing him back.
The Yankees made it clear that letting Girardi walk was the plan all along, and there’s nothing wrong with them doing so; sometimes change is necessary in order to succeed. But when you go from a former World Series champion to an inexperienced face, it’s misleading.
No one has ever said Boone is a bad baseball mind, or not capable of one day being a respectable skipper. But a hire such as Boone’s should be coming from a young team that’s still a long way from competing; the Yankees are the utter opposite, as they’re in position to compete for the World Series.
Some of the phrases being associated with Boone’s name are a bit worrying. When you hear a manager is analytics-driven, it’s a sign that’s he’s going to be making decisions based solely on the numbers. Even the most successful analytics-driven managers know that there are times when they just have to follow their gut; it’s unclear whether Boone has the necessary experience to have those useful gut reactions.
Also, when then term “Baseball IQ” is brought to the table, it’s usually because there’s nothing more to say about the manager based on little knowledge of what he brings to the table. Any manager or player is, of course, familiar with and knowledgeable of the game; it’s the big leagues for a reason, folks. You never hear about Joe Maddon or Terry Francona‘s Baseball IQ, or any other big-name manager, because it’s a given.
Boone’s hire in itself is bizarre, and sends a lot of mixed messages. It took nearly six weeks to decide on hiring an inexperienced name? Something smells funny in this situation and while it could very well pay off in the long run, for the moment, Boone’s hiring is puzzling to no end.