Though his job status was in flux after another early playoff exit, manager Aaron Boone will manage the New York Yankees yet again. The franchise gave him a three-year contract with an option for a fourth, a length of time some found surprising after the deep disappointments of the 2021 season. Another failure of a season in 2022 could cut that contract short, but it was still somewhat surprising to see him get a multi-year commitment, especially considering the managerial hiring trends that gave Boone the reins have appeared to peter out.
Boone’s hiring ahead of the 2018 season was notable in that he had never managed a major league club before. While he’d been a longtime player (and was around the game even before that as his father played while he was growing up), his connection to the game at that point had been as an ESPN broadcaster. And the Yankees were far from the first to pick a manager in this vein—a younger man, who was familiar with the game but had no managerial experience, who could theoretically communicate well with the front office as well as the players and the media—and who wouldn’t complain about the front office’s influence on lineups and other game day decisions.
The Philadelphia Phillies’ Gabe Kaper, San Diego’s Jayce Tingler, Chicago’s David Ross, and the Seattle Mariners’ Scott Servais were all hires like this picked between 2015 and 2019, with Ross being the most recent pick. Kapler was fired by Philadelphia, but brought the San Francisco Giants to an unexpected division title this season. Tingler was fired shortly after the end of the 2021 regular season amidst rumbles that he lost the clubhouse. Ross and Servais are still in their posts, but Ross is now expected to lead through a rebuild. Servais’ Mariners have had generally low expectations on them, but he led them to the cusp of a playoff spot this year.
Boone, then, is one of the last of these managers still in charge of a team expected to make a deep run through the playoffs. Since 2018, MLB front offices have seemed to have decided that at least some experiences managing in the minor leagues could be an asset.
After firing Kapler, the Phillies took a totally different route and picked up Joe Girardi as his replacement, who of course has years of big league managing under his belt and is known as being tougher on players than the hippie-ish Kapler.
When the Cincinnati Reds needed a new manager after the 2018 season, they picked David Bell, who had spent four years as a manager for their AA and AAA squads. That same offseason, Toronto hired Charlie Montoyo, who started managing in the Tampa Bay Rays system in the late 1990s.
Some teams have gone even harder in the opposite direction of a Boone-like hire when they had a vacancy. The Chicago White Sox stunned the world by taking Hall of Famer Tony La Russa out of retirement to lead a young, diverse team, and though they were defeated in the ALDS this season, players like Tim Anderson have said they’d like to see him come back. And the Houston Astros picked Dusty Baker to take over the team in the aftermath of their cheating scandal, believing an old veteran would be able to protect his players and keep them focused amid lots of noise—and by all accounts, that seems to have worked.
These new hiring trends are part of what made it surprising to see Boone return on a three-year deal. Throughout the 2021 season, he was accused of being too casual or positive when the players may have needed a more forceful presence to help them get out of their funks. Perhaps a more seasoned and confident manager would have been able to do that. If that’s not the case, Boone will have a bit more time to prove it. If not, the Yankees could follow the rest of the league in searching for a more seasoned hand.