Okay, let’s be honest. How many of you thought a few weeks ago that the New York Yankees would be in serious contention for the top AL Wild Card spot with only five games left in the season? Raise your hand.
Our hand certainly isn’t up! It felt like it’d take a miracle for the Bronx Bombers to play themselves into a Wild Card spot, given their consistent underachieving and the need to really turn the tables against one of their division rivals who have owned them.
But after disposing of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park this past weekend (didn’t you love the sour expressions of the Red Sox fans every time the Yanks pulled ahead in each game?), it seems like this miracle is closer to a reality.
Of course, the season isn’t over yet, and the two Wild Card positions are still up for grabs in the American League. Right now, the tough Toronto Blue Jays and the AL East champion Tampa Rays lie in the way of the Yanks.
The Boys in Pinstripes took care of business this past weekend by pummeling the Red Sox in three straight games. Whether they can continue to play that well against the Blue Jays (at Rogers Centre) and the Rays (at Yankee Stadium) remains to be seen.
Surprisingly, manager Aaron Boone largely did a good job leading the team against the Red Sox. For example, thank goodness he pulled Jordan Montgomery when he did in the third game instead of following Alex Rodriguez’s ridiculous suggestion of leaving him in for another two or three innings so that he can become a “real” starter. Boston’s hitters were teeing off on Montgomery at that point. A rare sign on the part of Boone for having a feel for the game.
Disclaimer: I am not a fan of Boone. I have argued that the Yanks should replace him before the 2022 season for several reasons.
But what if Boone can manage the Bombers into this postseason as a Wild Card team? Should he be rewarded with a contract extension?
A fair question. Let’s evaluate and discuss.
The fate of Yankees manager Aaron Boone under different postseason scenarios
As most Yankee fans know, the club finished 100-62 in 2018 and 103-59 in 2019. While these are impressive win-loss records, the Bombers failed to make it to the World Series either year after choking big time in the playoffs (and possibly being the victim of sign stealing).
And during the shortened 2020 season, Boone’s Yankees finished 33-27, representing a substantial decline in performance from the two previous years. The club barely made it into the playoffs and, once again, choked in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Rays.
Numerous baseball analysts and insiders expected the Yanks to win the American League pennant and play in the World Series in 2021 given how just about every immediate contender surrounding them got worse while the Yankees had only improved and figured to finally enter a season fully healthy.
Instead, the lackluster performance in the pandemic season bled into the first half of 2021. As a result, general manager Brian Cashman brought in a posse of reinforcements before the July 30 trade deadline (Anthony Rizzo, Joey Gallo, and others) to improve their inconsistent hitting, relief pitching, and defense. The trades helped, and the team had flashes of greatness in August and then again in late September.
So, what’s Boone’s contribution to getting the Yanks where they are this week? In my view, very little. His most consistent trait as Yankee skipper has been the inconsistent way he has managed the club. Many players are unsure of their roles on the team and are unsure where they fit on the roster.
For example, why did it take Boone 140 games to move Gleyber Torres back to second base?
In fact, I would argue that the Bombers are in their current position in spite of (and not because of) Boone at the helm. He has made too many bad decisions, often involving … just about everything. His bullpen management draws the ire of many. His benching of Luke Voit has drawn criticism. We can sit here and go through many of his questionable moves.
To be sure, the Yankees are winning now because they are an excellent team … not because of Boone’s vision, strategies, and decision-making. Of course, there remain places on the roster that still must be improved (e.g., catcher, shortstop and center field). Such deficiencies can be corrected during the offseason and likely will be.
Yet, the most significant missing piece right now is a skipper who can bring discipline, savvy tactics, vision, and inspiration to the clubhouse. The Yanks need someone who can communicate clearly and consistently with the players, both young and old. Making it to the playoffs does not absolve Boone of everything he’s done wrong. Many might say the Yankees are in this precarious position because of him.
Then again, this entire discussion changes if the Yankees can go on a deep run. If they make it to the Fall Classic, you’d have to think Cashman and Co. would have no other choice but to re-up Boone, especially after they parted with Joe Girardi when they were one game away from the World Series back in 2017.
But will any run be spurred by Boone? Or will it be the result of the superior talent on this team rising to the occasion regardless of the decisions made by the team’s manager?
Whatever happens, Boone’s future in the Bronx will be a layered, polarizing discussion.