As a frustrated, baffled and now-sedated Yankees fan watching the 2021 season’s exercise in lifelessness, my mind keeps wandering back to one question: could anyone else possibly do a worse job of managing the various pieces of this team than Aaron Boone?
Other than Bobby Valentine, it really doesn’t seem like it.
If you don’t believe by now that a leadership change is necessary — whether it’s the manager, the GM, the hitting coach, or some other type of creative attitude injection — I’m not sure what to tell you. There is no tangible reason this group of baseball players should ever be outworked, let alone every time they step on the field. The Red Sox take the extra base as often as the Yankees give a base away.
As of now, this not a competitive team that shows up every day looking for advantages to creatively exploit — and, even with as much talent as they do have, that’s a necessary thing that every winning team must do. We’re not asking for the Yankees to shy away from analytics. We’re asking them to creatively embrace them in the search for talent and in their daily operations.
In other words, say no to inconsistent, disorienting lineups and strikeouts looking. Say yes to athleticism, smart baseball and value selections.
On Sunday, the Yankees’ broadcast booth — led by former pitcher and current enthusiastic hybrid source of analytics knowledge and feel for the game David Cone — broached the final frontier, crossing the kind of line a team employee isn’t supposed to breach until they’re sure it’s true.
Cone accused the Yankees of being unprepared to play a must-win game, as well as compete in a must-win series based on their previous two losses, and he was both correct in diagnosing their biggest flaw and in throwing his hat in the proverbial ring to lead this team out of the doldrums.
We once eyed Cone as a perfect pitching coach, but perhaps we should’ve aimed higher.
Could David Cone be the next Yankees manager?
It’s possible no analyst in the modern game is as adept as Cone at a concept most color commentators can’t even conceive of: simplifying “analytics” to its elements to strip the dirty word of all its most negative implications.
Too many baseball fans believe analytics to be a demonic pronouncement that power hitting is the only way, and singles hitters and bunts should be banished to the Astroturf ’80s. Of course, too many Yankees fans believe that a reliance on analytics is killing this team and squelching out a glory era before it began.
Of course, Cone realizes the truth. “Analytics” is not a catch-all term for what’s killing baseball. In fact, the Yankees using their analytical knowledge improperly is likely far more responsible for their downfall. The Rays and Red Sox are heavily analytical operations. So are the Dodgers. “Analytics” are the reason Tampa Bay is so fungible every year and why Boston was able to reload so quickly by employing fringe-average players who create a good team once their best traits are emphasized.
Spending gobs of money in free agency only to patch your largest holes once every four years isn’t analytics. Hitting 22 singles out of 25 total hits during a weekend at Fenway is definitely not analytics. Cone’s most impressive trait is being able to sell the positives of the phenomenon while working to explain and finesse the negatives, as he did during Sunday’s broadcast. He might be the only man in the Yankees’ orbit who can empathize with players who feel left behind by the movement and work with the entire roster towards exploring their own skills for the franchise’s benefit.
On top of everything else, Cone is a prideful Yankee and a consummate winner. The “analytics” portion of my program seemed well-founded in logic and reason; this segment, however, is admittedly my most illogical argument and yet also something every Yankee fan can feel.
Cone won the 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 World Series with the Yankees. He was a three-time champion at the late-career secondary peak of his powers, then gutted it out to contribute one final massive out on the Shea Stadium mound as his arm was wilting to secure his fourth Bombers title.
Aaron Boone, ostensibly, was hired to be a voice for the players, a front office go-between, and someone who could speak on the Yankees’ winning mentality to a new generation. In reality, though, he received one hanging knuckleball in the late innings of a worn-out fight and deposited it where it should’ve gone. His team did not have enough left in the tank to win the World Series. He was gone the next spring after a basketball accident, giving way to the A-Rod Era of excess that helped to nearly ruin the Yankee Mystique.
In reality, Cone is the willing spokesman for a prideful dynasty that Boone was thought to be, and he’s spent the past 15 years embracing modern baseball and learning to speak its often-inscrutable language. He’s the perfect figure to deliver both the gravitas and bombast this particular organization requires as well as the analytical sermons a winning baseball team in 2021 needs to buy into.
“Analytics” is, at its core, about doing more with less. Has any manager in Yankee history ever done less with more than Aaron Boone?