The Yanks, as they so often do, seemed bound for a snooze-worthy loss in which they left a cavalcade of men on base early, their opponent hit exactly one home run late, and they went home down by a run when they could’ve won by five.
In 2021, every Yankees-Red Sox game has looked like this. Every Yankees-Rays game has looked like this. Every Yankees-Blue Jays game has looked like this.
Same old, getting extremely old.
But then, like a flash of 2019 in the ninth inning, Gleyber Torres tied the game on an 0-2 pitch from Matt Barnes, scoring Aaron Judge from first on a line-drive double. What was this feeling? There was hope to be extinguished again!
With a chance to win the game, Gio Urshela then struck out. Rougned Odor, with an intentionally-walked Gary Sanchez on first, extended the inning with a walk…according to everyone on earth except the home plate umpire, who took the bat out of his hands with a strike called on a pitch 4.55 inches off the plate.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone deferring anger over Rougned Odor strike 3 call to Phil Nevin was…wild.
So, how would Aaron Boone and the Yankees respond to this egregious call? Light up extra innings with an offensive explosion after being buoyed by a “Savages in the Box”-style blow-up from their manager? Or sit solemnly in the dugout waiting to die?
Unlike the 18,000+ Yankees fans in the building night after night, Phil Nevin actually got his money’s worth Sunday. And while that’s wonderful for him, a man who moved heaven and earth just to be back in the dugout this weekend, it’s an awful look for the team’s embattled manager, who sat on his hands in the season’s biggest moment.
Ask yourself: what has Boone been good for?
Nevin, of course, just returned to this team after battling COVID-19 for weeks after getting vaccinated, losing 22 pounds to a staph infection in the process. He’s been cleared to sit in the dugout, and was likely advised by his doctors not to blow a gasket…yet still followed his natural instincts and screamed to an iron wall of bad umpires after his team was jobbed in a must-win game.
His team. He really seems to feel like the Yankees are his team. Has Aaron Boone felt that same passion in two years? Can a figurehead drum up passion like that?
Boone, of course, had his own health scare this spring, leaving the team during spring training for heart surgery. It was a scary few days, and has certainly left us questioning the resulting lack of fire we’ve seen from him. If that fear is leading to inaction, though, isn’t that all the more reason to remove Boone from the dugout and the day-to-day rigors of this job?
Ask yourself what exactly is being gained by every day Boone spends in charge of this team. If he’s a front-office puppet, then can’t the front office do just as well or better in this scenario? Has there been a single net positive to Boone’s participation in the 2021 season?
At an inflection point for this deeply disappointing season in which the Yankees have wholeheartedly proven that the concept of a team still matters and exists despite individual accolades, Boone sat and watched while the weariest and most damaged member of his dugout fought to his last breath. In the other dugout was Alex Cora, presiding over a karmic turnaround with the same roster that went 24-36 last season, seemingly turning the tides with his managerial ability alone.
Even if Boone isn’t dragging the Yankees down by himself, can you ever envision him providing the same type of boost as Cora? Maybe in 2019. Not anymore.