They say that baseball’s a young man’s game. The sport has never been more full of dynamic, talented players in their early 20s, and MLB is better off for that. It’s not just the players that are younger, though, it’s also the managers. In 2019 the median age of an MLB manager was 51 years old, the youngest at any point in the last ten years.
Aaron Boone is at the forefront of this youth wave. Hired at age-45 with no coaching experience, he was an unconventional choice for one of the highest-profile jobs in the game. Yet his hiring has been matched and echoed by teams around the league. The Red Sox hired Alex Cora after just one year as a bench coach, and while nobody else quite had no experience, several managers have since been hired with less-than-conventional resumes, like Rocco Baldelli, and Gabe Kapler.
Younger managers have their advantages: they’re often far more in line with the analytical tone of modern front offices, or at least they don’t have enough experience to have alternative philosophies. Perhaps more critically, and a key factor in Boone’s hiring, younger managers are expected to build more wholesome relationships with their players.
Joe Girardi was a perfectly capable tactical manager, and he got winning seasons out of some pretty lackluster rosters. The one knock on him was always that he had a hard time relating to the players under his watch, a particular concern as the Yankees got younger and the Baby Bombers became more and more important to the team’s success. This friction eventually led to Girardi and the Yankees parting ways, and the relatability Boone brought to the table was central to why he was the best candidate for the job.
The offseason has already started for 22 teams in baseball, and there are managerial holes to fill. The Padres, Pirates, Giants, Cubs, Angels, Mets and others will need new skippers before spring training. While Joe Maddon will certainly find a job somewhere, it’s not hard to imagine the lion’s share of those roles being filled by guys that fit the Boone mold. Carlos Beltran, a former player with no official coaching experience, was a finalist for the Yankees’ job and has already been bandied about as a possible replacement for Mickey Callaway in Queens.
Baseball is a young man’s game, but it’s also a copycat game. Less successful teams see the moves that more successful teams make, and try to emulate them. The Royals are a hilarious exception to this rule, but the Yankees have shown that hiring a manager with an unconventional background, focused on building as strong a relationship with his players as possible, can yield pretty solid success.
In his first two years in the dugout, Boone has two playoff appearances, 203 regular-season wins and more importantly, effectively shielded his players from media criticism while keeping a relaxed mood within the team. That’s more valuable than people think over a full season, and it’s not going to be surprising if the next Aaron Boone is hired this winter.