I was never really into sports growing up. It wasn’t until I got to college in 2008 that I truly became engrossed by sports. Living in a dorm, surrounded by people who followed closely, I couldn’t escape. That’s when I truly started paying attention. Because of my late entry into the game, I never got to see Joe Torre as the Yankees manager.
I’ve read a lot about him, his strengths and his weaknesses, but none of that is like watching someone first-hand. Despite all his faults, Torre is still extremely highly regarded among Yankees fans. Back-to-back-to-back championships and four in five years can earn someone a lot of leeway. The two I’m mostly familiar with are Joe Girardi and now Aaron Boone.
I was always a huge fan of Girardi. I thought he was one of the best managers in baseball when the Yankees decided not to bring him back. I’ll never forget him raging out of the dugout in defense of Alex Rodriguez. It was my favorite Girardi moment, and his neck vein still holds a special place in my heart. Still, he couldn’t escape criticism either. Having “only” one championship in ten years (regardless of the fact that he had to deal with the 2013 and 2014 rosters) doesn’t earn anyone leeway, not in New York.
The amount of “FIRE GIRARDI” posts, comments, and tweets out in the world were absurd. I figured Yankees fans wouldn’t be happier with the fact that he was finally gone. Until they named his replacement. People had ideas or dreams of who the Yankees would bring into replace Girardi, but no one expected Boone.
Front offices have shifted drastically over the last few years and they have more say on in-game decisions than ever before. The manager’s role has become more of a player liaison. They still have to make some in-game decisions, but that’s all largely based off the information provided to them by the office.
Since his hiring, Boone’s in-game management has been called into question quite often by fans. Where with Girardi, I thought the rage was overblown, for Boone I sometimes get it. I call into question his in-game decisions often as well. That’s the problem with hiring someone who’s never managed or coached a baseball team to manage the New York Yankees. Every move comes with doubt. Forget a track record of success, there’s simply no track record.
That lingering doubt makes every move of his all the more questionable. Even if he’s just working off the data and instructions given to him, he’s still the manager and in-game decisions are solely his responsibility. Last year should have been a “give me” year for Boone, even with the weird timing. The Yankees being setup to contend isn’t exactly what I’d call the time for a rookie manager, but I’m not the general manager of a baseball team.
Coming into this year, though, there were expectations for Boone to be better. “Expectations” might be too strong a word, maybe it was just hope. He obviously wasn’t hired for his in-game ability, but he still needs to show competency there. Thus far this season, it hasn’t been there.
This past Saturday, Aaron Boone had Jonathan Holder come in relief of J.A. Happ against the Orioles. The team was coming off an off day because Thursday was Baltimore’s home opener. So everyone was rested, yet when Holder was clearly lacking a bit, Boone stuck with with the right-hander, trying to squeeze some extra outs from him. Why? Who knows?
On Monday, Boone did something he’s been doing often in the early goings this year. Masahiro Tanaka was pitching a solid game against the Astros, yet didn’t come back out for the seventh inning. He kept one of the best — if not the best — teams in baseball in check to the tune of one run in six innings, and Boone chose to go to his bullpen.
Now he has what should be the best bullpen in baseball, so it’s not a controversial decision, but they haven’t been lockdown so far this season. Tanaka, meanwhile, was only at 78 pitches when he was pulled. Boone also went to one of his elite relievers in Zack Britton, so again, not that controversial. It just seemed like an unnecessary move at the time. He could have let Tanaka go back out for the seventh with a short leash, especially since he was dealing.
Clint Frazier saved Boone on the Holder decision, but the Astros offense did him no favors on Monday. Boone’s been relying on his bullpen a lot this year and it’s cost him.
Yankees have 4 losses when tied at the end of the 7th inning. That's the most in MLB this season. https://t.co/aw9PK14VOz— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) April 10, 2019
That’s not his fault, however. This is supposed to be the best bullpen, so the losses aren’t on him. It just seems unwise to turn to them when he doesn’t have to. The starting pitching has been great for the team and he should try and rely on them more instead of just being grateful for what he managed to get out of them. His fault or not, he has to be better at putting the team in the best position to win and knowing what’s working and what’s not.
Even if Boone hasn’t explicitly cost the team any wins, he’s still the one accountable. We can’t blame him too much for using the elite talent at his disposal and using the best players possible.
Through all these “questionable” decisions, Boone strongly has the confidence of his front office and most importantly, the clubhouse. Again, Boone wasn’t hired for his expertise managing baseball games and most of his decisions are made for him before the games even start. He was hired to manage the relationships of his players and make sure they are put in the best position to succeed.
Girardi’s biggest public flaw was his relationship with the players, especially the younger ones. That’s why he wasn’t retained, and that’s what Boone was brought in for. He’s seemingly at least doing a great job at that. He’s been exactly what the front office wanted when they brought him in.
There’s still time for Boone to turn things around with regards to the in-game decisions. This year is still young, but even beyond this year he’ll have a long leash, as Joshua Diemert noted before he was hired. He has the clubhouse’s confidence because of what he does behind the scenes, but he has plenty of work to do in order to get Yankees fans feeling great about him. If he keeps making decisions that directly or indirectly hurt the team, he could eventually lose the clubhouse too.