Following the dismal start of the New York Yankees’ this season (they have the worst record in the American League), fans and many savvy baseball analysts have begun raising the thorny question of whether it is time to replace Aaron Boone as manager.
The team’s 3-8 record over the last 11 games, in particular, has been disappointing and is a good cause for alarm, even if the Yanks have only played 16 games this season.
There’s certainly ample time to turn things around, however, leadership issues with the team have arisen and deserve our attention.
Nearly everyone predicted that this team would win the American League pennant and reach the World Series. Yet, at this point, the Yanks are much closer to earning a very high pick in next year’s MLB draft than reaching the playoffs.
Up until now, I thought Boone was doing a nice job as the Bombers’ manager based on his winning record, but there’s more to it.
I now see that Boone lacks essential leadership skills and is not the right person for this team. Great leaders perform well when the going gets tough. That’s not the case here.
My concerns about his ability to lead a premier baseball team actually surfaced at the end of the 2020 shortened season, when the Yanks finished 33-27. It appeared that the players coasted during the last 10-15 games. And, for whatever reason, Boone didn’t seem to care.
The club finished the season poorly, and there was even a chance that they wouldn’t make the playoffs at the very end. But they did, but the skin of their teeth. Even so, an effective manager would never have allowed this to happen. The Yankees were far too talented to befall the issues they endured.
Based on some of the Yankee players’ public comments, they appear to view Boone as open-minded, respectful, and fair. He has their back, and they like him a lot.
However, it’s evident he has pandered to his players and has bent over backwards to gain their support and affection. In my view, Boone’s hesitancy to discipline them when warranted has now led to a lack of focus, intensity, and fight on the part of the team.
Let’s hope that it’s not too late for the skipper to change his attitude and behavior and get tougher with his players, given their inferior play during the last couple of weeks. It’s early, but the Yankees need to turn this around because it’s about as bad as it gets.
Boone held a team meeting last Friday following an 8-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays (who have been cleaning the Yankees’ clock lately) to let his players know how angry he was about their performance during this early part of the season.
It sounds like it was a spirited meeting. Boone uncharacteristically raised his voice and told them that they needed to up their game and start fighting. How did the team respond?
If Boone thought that his savages came out of the team meeting inspired, driven, and locked and loaded and ready to bang, I didn’t see it. They still failed to field and hit, and they lost the next two games against the Rays: 6-3 on Saturday and 4-2 on Sunday.
Aaron Boone has had managerial issues for years now.
Boone does have good baseball knowledge. He often provided perceptive perspectives as an ESPN analyst. But going from the broadcast booth to becoming the Yankees’ manager, one of the most storied franchises in sports history, is a ridiculously giant leap.
Boone lacks managerial experience and the necessary leadership skills to succeed in the world’s largest sports market. This has become especially obvious recently. What’s also troubling is that he does not have a clear strategic vision for how to move the team forward in wake of this mess. Want some examples?
Absent a rested starter in the rotation, Boone decided to start Nick Nelson, a fine, young relief pitcher, ahead of Michael King, an actual starting pitcher, against the Rays last Friday. But why reverse their pitching roles, removing them from their comfort zones? King should have started the game, with Nelson to follow later in relief.
In a recent piece, I noted how Boone has been too soft on Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres, which has resulted in their continued poor play in the field. It now feels as if that Boone is too concerned about being liked by his players and, therefore, is hesitant to criticize them publicly.
Letting players off the hook who have a ton to prove is simply unacceptable.
Besides, being liked doesn’t automatically translate into success in the win-loss column. Pampering players is never the answer, especially when the stakes are as high as they are in New York.
On top of that, the infield is a total mess. Every day Boone switches the positions of his infield players, thereby preventing them from settling in and getting accustomed to playing in one place (except for Gleyber Torres, and that’s not even working for him). DJ LeMahieu, who has established himself as an all-important piece on this team, should not be bouncing around from second to third to first.
What else? Aaron Hicks still fields well in center, however, his performance as a switch hitter is now mixed. In 2020, his batting average from the right side was over 25 points higher than it was from the left. Thus far early in the season, from the left side, he’s hitting .094, and Boone insists on batting him third for the sake of balancing out the lineup. Not entirely the manager’s fault here, though, since the front office did a terrible job of making sure they had capable lefty hitters.
That’s far from the biggest issue in the outfield, though! Boone informed Clint Frazier that he was the starting left fielder during spring training. But the minute when Frazier began to struggle at the plate, Boone benched him and platooned him with Brett Gardner. Why?
This undoubtedly sent a confusing message to Frazier. And it can’t be good for his self confidence. It would have been better to give Frazier a chance to make adjustments at the plate and bang out of his slump. Plus, his defense is already shaky enough. He needs to work out the kinks during games.
Obviously, this raises the question of what general manager Brian Cashman should do. Should he allow the train wreck to continue and hope that Boone can straighten the team out? Should Boone be replaced? If yes, when and with whom? Who would be the best managerial candidates for the Bombers?
Maybe we’ll explore that next.