Aaron Boone was introduced as the 33rd manager of the New York Yankees before crowds of media last week. Jack Curry said afterwards that Boone was “terrific” in the press conference. Hal Steinbrenner has described Boone as a “polished” communicator. With accolades like these, it’s worth a closer look at what Boone said during the press conference and what Yankee fans heard, or might have heard.
Boone said he aspires to be a manager who does not just chase wins, but who gets “locked into the process” of developing and impacting young players to become more successful at the championship level. The Yankees had a 91-71 season and teetered on the brink of a World Series appearance in 2017. Boone’s comment that he won’t just be “chasing wins” may be a way of hedging his bets in his rookie season — he has clearly been hired to develop relationships with the young players, such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, and Greg Bird as they strive to fulfill their potential to become elite players. While he stressed again and again that he is being tasked with developing these young talents, we did not hear how he plans to do this beyond establishing trust with each player. Will establishing relationships with the players translate into wins? Championships?
The Joe Girardi firing was prompted, as Cashman has said, by a need for better communication with the players. Specifically, Sanchez was mentioned as a young, talented player who Girardi may not have been able to communicate effectively with. With the Boone hiring, it’s almost as if the front office was willing to bank on Boone’s interpersonal skills alone to take the young Yankees talent to the next level.
Of course, since Boone has no prior managerial or coaching experience, what else is there to bank on? There is the Boone family history — three generations of big league baseball players. Boone made much of the fact during the press conference that he has been sitting on the top step of the dugout since he was three years old watching and analyzing baseball. He said, “If there’s one thing I’ve known, lived, and am, it’s baseball.” But how far does the nebulous experience of living a life in baseball coalesce into managerial wizardry?
There are many examples of players turned managers who did not have successful managerial careers. Michael Gwizdala for bronxpinstripes.com has written:
“The hiring of Aaron Boone as New York Yankees manager marks the ninth time the franchise has hired a manager with zero major-league or minor-league managerial experience. Of the previous eight, only Lou Piniella lasted two consecutive full seasons. Yogi Berra managed two, but 20 years apart.”
Boone also said that for his coaching staff, “Experience is important, but it’s not the be all, end all. I want smart sitting next to me. I want confident sitting next to me.” There has been some speculation that Eric Wedge would be a good bench coach for Boone, but don’t look for that to happen given what Boone has said here. Experience, it would seem for the Yankees in 2018, is overrated.
Boone himself has smarts and confidence in the place of experience and Yankee fans will have to wait and see whether these, along with his much vaunted interpersonal skills will translate into good managerial performance. Of course, the ultimate expectation of ownership and fans alike, is that Boone will bring a championship to the Yankees in 2018. Will his pinstripe pedigree, family tree, and swagger be enough to help him accomplish this goal?