Manager of the Year is always a finicky award to evaluate. We each have our different definitions of what makes a “manager of the year.” Is it the manager who did the most with the least? Is it the one who had the best record? Is it the one who defied expectations?
With all due respect to Rocco Baldelli and Kevin Cash, Aaron Boone has a legitimate case to win this award.
First of all, Boone checks most of the boxes that I just mentioned. While the Yankees were expected to be the juggernaut they were this year, those expectations were with a fairly healthy roster. Instead, Boone had to deal with a historic amount of injuries to his team. Every member of the starting lineup (except Gleyber Torres) missed time, and several players had repeat trips to the injured list. This could have very easily limited the Yankees’ success, much like it did in 2013.
Although the Yankees’ replacements were far better this year than they were in 2013, Boone deserves credit for his adaptability. I was one of the biggest Joe Girardi fans out there, and there were multiple times this year where I remember thinking, “If Girardi was doing this, we’d call him the Manager of the Year.” Why doesn’t Boone deserve the same treatment?
Boone also had to make a competitive pitching staff out of a subpar unit. Management never added the starter the Yankees needed, so Boone devised a plan centered around excellent regular season bullpen management. No reliever pitched three days in a row during the season, and he made expert use of the Scranton Shuttle to ensure fresh arms. One year after Boone was lambasted for leaving starters in too long in the playoffs or pulling them too early in the regular season, he showed much better judgement.
Boone also showed more fire this year, culminating in his famous “Savages” rant. Yankees fans wanted to see Boone become his own man, and not just someone viewed as Brian Cashman’s “puppet,” and he did that this year. He stuck up for his players no matter the cost, which is all you can ask of a manager. Although his press conferences can be stale and humdrum, this is probably for the better. Boone didn’t make many headlines this year, which is a great attribute for a manager.
Now that we’re done making Boone’s case, let’s look at his opposition. Rocco Baldelli in Minnesota probably has the best chance at this award after turning a non-playoff team in 2018 into a 101-win team in 2019 that hit more home runs than any other in history. Baldelli undoubtedly deserves major credit for this, but his team also went down with a whimper to the Yankees in the ALDS, getting swept.
Given the award is based primarily on the regular season though, Baldelli does have a convincing case. I picked the Twins to make the wild card before the season, but I never would’ve had them winning 101 games. Granted, some of those wins had to do with facing the historically bad AL Central for half of the season, but the Twins have turned themselves into a possible contender in the future. Baldelli deserves credit for that.
Kevin Cash has also done a good job with the Rays. However, he has a slightly weaker case than Boone or Baldelli. The Rays were already a 90-win team last year – they had expectations to make the playoffs, and they met them. Cash’s innovation, such as pioneering “the opener,” deserves props, but I’d bet on Boone or Baldelli getting the majority of the votes.
Boone is far from a lock to win the award, and if I had to guess how the BBWAA will vote, he’ll probably come in second behind Baldelli. The idea that the Yankees were supposed to be great and that Boone is merely Cashman’s on-field lieutenant will hurt him in voting, but he definitely has a legitimate case. As anyone who watched the 2019 Yankees all year can attest, this team faced a lot of adversity, but kept a remarkably even keel.
That’s credit to Aaron Boone.