Aaron Boone's mysterious quote hints Rays can do something Yankees can't
By Adam Weinrib
Want to solve a mystery? Want to chase the carrot Aaron Boone presented last weekend very purposefully before trying to walk things back? Of course you do.
After the Yankees dropped Game 1 of their road series against the Rays last week, Boone hinted that Tampa Bay's brass is able to "do some things [the Yankees] can't do," allowing them to thrive despite a major payroll disparity.
This was news to the gathered media. Everyone knows the Yankees have always strived to emulate the Rays' player development methods. Hell, they've even tried to swipe their in-game strategy, starting Deivi Garcia for one inning of a playoff game before pulling him for JA Happ. They tried that against the Rays. It did not work.
When the media scrum pressed Boone on what he was referring to that his Yankees could not do, he didn't relent, instead mixing up a fresh word salad and claiming New York would never try to "mimic" the Rays, despite the fact that they've famously done that already.
See if you can discern what Boone was attempting to stir up, then walk back.
What is Aaron Boone hinting the Rays can do, but the Yankees can't?
So ... what's he talking about? Tampa Bay's unique ruthlessness? Their willingness to burn out starters and relievers, watching them die on the vine while knowing they have three replacement pitchers nipping at every rostered player's heels? The Yankees could do that. Clearly, the Rays have gotten away with it for years. Maybe Boone believes the Yankees couldn't burn-and-churn in New York, considering how vitriolic the public already is about their existing injury problems. Or maybe he just wouldn't do it because it's an extremely callous way to run a baseball team. That would be refreshing.
He can't be talking about the Rays cutting bait and trading stars as they approach their most expensive contract years, either. The Yankees certainly could do that, too. They don't because they have enough financial flexibility to avoid doing so (though they tried to trade Gleyber Torres several times over this offseason).
Keep in mind, as difficult as it is to think about when Tampa Bay is running away with the AL East and the Yankees are languishing, that this machine-like Rays system hasn't produced a title since 2009, either. They've won one American League pennant (2020, the COVID season). They haven't won a World Series. They're a model franchise without the requisite hardware, just like the modern Yankees. They've gotten to the line. They haven't gotten over it, either.
If Boone was referring to making calculated and ruthless decisions, much like the NFL's New England Patriots, he might've used the wrong descriptor. The Yankees could do that, and would be well-loved by their fans if they managed to guess right more often than not. The Boston Red Sox have cleared Mookie Betts ahead of his long-term deal and declined to pay fan favorite Xander Bogaerts this offseason, and both moves were decried at the time (and rightfully so). And yet ... here are the Red Sox, led by Masataka Yoshida (signed with Bogaerts' money) and Alex Verdugo (traded for Betts), and their fans have suddenly chosen to give up their fight with ownership and embrace the roster. Because they're winning. As usual.
Maybe Boone meant that the Yankees choose not to be ruthless because they've made enough mistakes in recent years when they've tried to "go for it," and risk losing the fan base entirely if they trade a beloved player too soon and watch it blow up in their faces. Maybe Boone knows Brian Cashman doesn't have the same kind of leeway as the under-the-radar Rays, who can commit baseball crimes in the dead of night.
Winning the big one fixes everything, but the Rays haven't managed to do that, either. Therefore, putting themselves in postseason contention without upsetting the apple cart is the Yankees' preferred method of operation, and might actually (gulp) be better than entrusting Cashman with the alternative.