2018 was an interesting year for Aaron Boone. Coming into the season as the new manager of a team that had just fired Joe Girardi after over-achieving, Boone was undoubtedly going to be a slave to scrutiny. He managed the Yankees to the franchise’s first 100-win season since 2009 and had apparently done a nice job in aiding in the development of up-and-comers Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar.
Nonetheless, a season full of bullpen mismanagements, capped off by his questionable decision making in games 3 and 4 of the ALDS, left him out for ridicule from all sides. He was deserving of some blame, but any first-year manager is going to experience some growing pains, 100 wins aside.
Fast forward to March 2019 and the Yankees appeared to be a revamped group from the top-down. They added to their bullpen, their rotation, signed veteran depth pieces, all the while keeping their young core intact. Their offseason was good enough to make them pre-season favorites to win the World Series.
No pressure, right? Not so fast. The Yankees sputtered out of the gate, opening with an 8-10 record. The Tampa Bay Rays, meanwhile, opened with a 14-6 record and an early 4.5 game lead on the bombers. The Yankees were in a hole. There was not too much to worry about, though, they still had Aaron Judge, at least.
Just three days after that 8-10 start, Judge singled on a line drive to right field and came into first base grimacing while grabbing his left side. At this point, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, Didi Gregorius, Troy Tulowitzki, and Aaron Hicks were all hampered by injuries of their own. Now they had lost Judge to an oblique injury and were sitting at 9-10. To make matters worse, the Yankee lineup began to resemble the Railriders. The hope for the Yankees had become less about thriving over the course of the first 50 games, and more about being able to survive. Then the unexpected happened.
The Yankees went out west and took three of four from the Angels, swept the Giants in a three-game set, before losing two in a row in Arizona. Both of those games at Chase Field felt like giveaway games, anyway. The Yankees had gone 6-3 on their west coast trip. Their record jumped to 17-13 and they trailed the Rays by just two games. They came back to the Bronx in the same form, taking two of three from the Twins and three of four from the Seattle Mariners. Now they stand at 22-15, good enough for one of the best records in the American League.
Sure, it’s easy to attribute this unexpected success to Luke Voit, Domingo German, Tommy Kahnle, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela, D.J LeMaiheu, and James Paxton. It’s harder, though, to attribute the success to Aaron Boone. It’s easy to see the torrid starts that Sanchez, Voit, and D.J have had. I strongly believe that Boone deserves a lot of credit for this bounce back, nonetheless.
When the Yankees fired Joe Girardi, they wanted a manager with a “human touch.” That was grounds for a lot of teasing, especially from Yankees fans. Many felt that Girardi was the right man for the job and felt Boone was going to be a puppet to Brian Cashman’s baseball operations department. Even if that is the case, however, why does that matter? The game has become so numbers-based that you need a manager that can remain even keel in times of chaos. Boone boringly reinforces the same sentiment over and over; “we believe in our guys.”
Cashman has publicly admired Boone’s job so far saying, “[Boone] is open-minded, has a presence about him, is extremely knowledgeable, has the family dynamic so he knows or is connected to everybody and, yes, he does have a great temperament,” Cashman said. “He has a real lot of strengths. We went off the grid and picked a really worthy candidate. Despite what has happened [with injuries], people have been in a good position to succeed. You play with what you got and play to get the best optimal outcomes. He works through permutations with staff who to play, where to play them and when to play them. With all the injuries, it takes real discipline not to overplay someone who is still standing” (Credit: Joel Sherman, New York Post).
Boone evidently has the right mindset and temperament to do the job. Even in times of disorder, he seems to create order and harmony with the way he carries himself. That rubs off on the players. He treats his players like adults, like men. He wants his players to feel like a bunch of dudes playing 162 games of baseball. That translates onto the field. Even with the overhauled current roster, there seems to be connectivity from top to bottom. Guys on this team clearly believe in each other. They have the confidence to win baseball games, even though the entire roster has been gutted. It’s hard to quantify, but credit Boone for a job well done.