Aaron Boone’s Yankees won 100 games in his first season as manager, but he fell in the shadow of Alex Cora and his 108-win Red Sox team. Boone’s second year as manager, however, has gone even better than the first. In fact, he’s building a strong case for AL Manager of the Year by steamrolling the rest of the league with an injury-riddled lineup day in and day out. He has plenty of competition, but Boone should now be considered a frontrunner for the top spot among AL managers in 2019.
First, consider Boone’s strongest competition. In the AL East, the Rays’ Kevin Cash will garner consideration for the award by leading the team with the MLB’s lowest payroll to yet another winning season and Wild Card contention. It’s hard to argue with Cash’s success, but the Rays own a 5-12 record against the Yankees this season, so it’s advantage Boone in that department. Regardless, Cash has never won the Manager of the Year award and it would be hard to argue if he finally took it home this season.
Another young coach that should contend for the award is the Twins’ Rocco Baldelli. The 37-year-old rookie manager has led the Twins to an AL Central leading 82-51 record after a sub-.500 season in 2018. The Yankees are much improved this season, but no other AL team can boast that level of improvement.
The AL West features two serious Manager of the Year contenders in the Astros’ A.J. Hinch and the A’s Bob Melvin. Melvin won the award last season, which likely takes him out of consideration. The American League has never had a back-to-back winner and the only NL back-to-back Manager of the Year winner was Bobby Cox in 2004 and 2005. Hinch, much like Boone, has taken a talented roster and led his team to a dominant season, but the Astros haven’t faced the level of adversity the Yankees have injury-wise.
The case for Boone can start and finish by looking no further than the way he’s handled a roster decimated by injuries since the very beginning of the season. Don’t forget, Boone lost his ace and his record-breaking setup man before the season even began, and his Opening Day three-hole and five-hole hitters just days later. The Yankees lead the league in IL stints, but there are times one can forget Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Luis Severino, and Dellin Betances are supposed to be on this team. That’s a testament to players like Gio Urshela, Domingo German, and Mike Tauchman, but it also says a lot about the “next man up” mentality Boone has instilled in the clubhouse.
“Culturally, when you’re here, you’re going to be counted on and you’ll have the full support of the team. It’s just time to attack with a lot of positivity and enthusiasm,” Tauchman said earlier this month. In an era where in-game decisions are largely dictated by data analytics, creating a positive clubhouse culture represents a huge indicator of managerial success. With tremendous depth comes a lack of opportunity for some players, and additional buy-in required from all parties. The 2019 Yankees have juggled that as well as any team in recent memory.
The Yankees’ injured stars have been wholeheartedly supportive of their replacements, and the replacement players have stayed ready whenever they’re given opportunities. Only Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu have played 120 of the Yankees 135 games this season, and the team is 11 games ahead of Tampa Bay and 15.5 ahead of the defending World Series champs. Give credit to the front office for building the league’s deepest roster, and the players who have stepped up to fill important roles. The team-first culture and ultra-flexibility that has defined the 2019 Yankees. however, has Boone written all over it.
Consider this, the Yankees’ most common lineup has only been used five times this season and they’ve used a total of 115 different lineups in 135 games, according to Baseball Reference. The one constant is that the Yankees just keep winning, and barring a September collapse, it would be a disappointment if Boone is not ultimately crowned the American League Manager of the Year in his second season.