Like most other leaders, baseball field managers must provide their players’ with support and encouragement while also criticizing them for poor performances when warranted. Yet, managers want to be liked by their players since this is assumed to be one measure of leadership success in the modern era.
Sometimes, however, players screw up and must be castigated for their lackluster play. Failing to call out players for their mistakes tends to lead to repeated mistakes by the same players. If managers fail to hold them accountable, players are unlikely to change their behavior or work harder toward a specific goal.
Most consider Aaron Boone to be a good manager of the New York Yankees. His record speaks for itself. The club went 100-62 in 2018, which was his first year on the job, and 103-59 in 2019. The club has advanced to the playoffs every year he has been manager.
The Yankees players appear to like Boone a lot, too. They consider him to be open-minded, respectful, and fair. Clint Frazier and his teammates produced a cheerful video for their field general when he went into the hospital for pacemaker surgery. It’s clear these guys have his back.
While repeated and, in many cases, prolonged injuries have made it difficult for the Savages to reach and win the World Series with Boone at the helm, they believe this will be their year.
Thus far in 2021, the Yanks are off to a mixed start. They have failed to hit with runners in scoring position, yet again. In particular, their defense has been problematic as well.
Unfortunately, Wednesday’s agonizing loss to the lowly Baltimore Orioles included hints that Boone has not been tough enough on his players.
First, Gary Sanchez failed to run out hits on two occasions, nearly being thrown out in one instance and likely costing the team an extra base in the other. It was a terrible look.
Second, Gleyber Torres made an awful throwing error in extra innings, which allowed a run to score with two outs. Torres’ poor throw put the team in a bad position, and was the likely reason they lost.
Sanchez’s behavior is nothing new. On top of his difficulties fielding behind the plate, he’s exhibited a lack of hustle in previous games. And we are all aware of the continuing challenges Torres has been facing playing shortstop with fielding and throwing.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone is not hard enough on his players.
In both cases, this déjà vu all over again strongly suggests that Boone has not been hard enough on either one of these two players. Obviously, whatever casual efforts he has made to correct their mistakes and behavior have failed.
Sanchez’s behavior, however, is totally inexcusable. His lack of hustle is disrespectful to the team and the fans, and it reflects poorly on everyone.
Managers must always chastise their players when they engage in behavior that is costly to the team. Everybody should be on the same page when it comes to effort and a will to win.
Of course, Boone supporters could point to the success he had mentoring and riding Frazier. The manager wanted him to improve his play in the outfield and mature as a human being. Frazier was disciplined and was hardly given anything. He had to earn his way onto this roster. At least that what it feels like.
And now look at him! He was a finalist for a Gold Glove last year, and he was named the starting left fielder in Spring Training. Why can’t Boone implement similar managerial tactics with Torres and Sanchez?
The difference is that Frazier all along was trying to make the team and was not a regular starter like Torres and Sanchez. Maybe Boone treated Frazier harsher because he was a new and green player.
Fans have long felt Boone is too tolerant of and not hard enough on his starters. He’s had ample opportunities to hold players accountable in postgame interviews and he always opts for the diplomatic response. Even when he does allude to a poor effort or performance, he treads extremely lightly.
It’s clear that whatever he did with Frazier certainly worked and whatever he’s doing with Torres and Sanchez is not. Maybe it’s an organizational problem? Who knows. But just because you’re an incumbent starter on this team doesn’t mean you should be impervious to being held accountable.