1. Aaron Boone’s Failure With the Yankees
As I have written before, I was pleased when the Yanks announced that ESPN color commentator Aaron Boone was hired as the new manager of the Bombers in December 2017. However, now that I have seen what has transpired this year (and last year), I admit that I was wrong to feel this way. He was a poor choice to lead the Yanks, a team with great promise and potential and part of the most storied franchise in baseball history.
Many fans will quickly point out that his Yankees teams finished 100-62 (.617) in 2018 and 103-59 (.636) in 2019. These represent impressive won-loss records for sure. During the abbreviated 2020 season, Boone’s team finished 33-27 (.550), a drop-down from the two previous years.
And the boys from the Bronx also made it to the playoffs all three years. So, what is my problem?
I would argue that the 2018 and 2019 Yanks were so good that even a manager with no prior experience could achieve terrific won-loss records. These teams were exceptional, receiving stunning offensive seasons from many key contributors (38 homers for Gleyber Torres in 2019?!) and they should have made it to the World Series, but they didn’t. Yet, when the going got tough beginning in 2020 (with injuries and players not meeting expectations), it was clear that Boone was over his head.
The main problem is that Boone has no strategic plan on how to get the Yanks to play better.
This inability (or unwillingness) to develop and implement such a tactical plan is why Yankee fans should begin to accept the reality that Boone is incapable of making adjustments, adopting new approaches, and changing course. Simply put, he lacks a tactical focus, actively seeks acceptance and admiration from his players, and seems uncomfortable taking risks.
His inability to make well-thought-out changes involving his players in particular, and his team in general, is mainly responsible for the dismal season the club has experienced thus far. His easy-going style doesn’t lend itself to instilling in his star players a sense of urgency, a strong drive, and the motivation to win. He is either letting the front office run the show, or nobody’s running it at all.
One gets the feeling that he is someone who believes that things will eventually take care of themselves. Don’t panic. He seems to think that the players by themselves will figure things out, and the Savages will start playing better and winning ball games.
In my opinion, the idea that “only” one-third of the season has elapsed and there are a lot more games left to play is becoming a less and less compelling source of hope. On what basis should one believe that the team will eventually improve given what we have witnessed thus far? Given his unwillingness to make changes, his fear of being disliked by his players, and his dread of failure?
Good hitters who experience slumps make adjustments in their stance or swing. Pitchers who hit a rut reassess their delivery and mechanics, pitch selection, and location and make changes. Managers must do the same.
Yet it is becoming increasingly evident that this is not in Boone’s nature and that he is therefore incapable of honestly and accurately assessing the prevailing conditions, making informed decisions, and making changes along the way.
His likely view of the present situation suggests that he wants to avoid conflict with his players at all costs. The ESPN announcers Sunday night asked him about Gary Sánchez and the quality of his play. Boone said that Sanchez “has shown improvement the last few weeks and is now making good contact.”
Did he totally forget that his catcher struck out four times a couple of games ago and has consistently had trouble driving in runners in scoring position at critical moments during games? What about his frequent mistakes on the base paths?
And, after telling the world that Kyle Higashioka, who admittedly is in a slump at the moment, will now have more playing time, he’s begun to insert Sanchez in the starting lineup more often rather than continue to play Higgy so that he can battle his way back to the way he was hitting before.
Thus far, Boone has shown that he is incapable of making the decisions and hard choices required to save the Yanks. A healthy blend of “new school” with “old school” is now required, given present conditions and the need for the team to improve and advance.
It is now time to remove him while a significant part of the season remains and is still salvageable. Buck Showalter and Mike Scioscia have a lot of experience and can turn things around. The selection of either one to replace Boone would be a wise move.
As far as 2022 is concerned, I would lobby hard to hire the experienced, shrewd, and battle-tested Bob Melvin to replace Boone long-term. Given his superb record managing a small market team, one can only imagine what he could do with a lot more financial resources as the Yankee skipper.