If you watch Aaron Boone’s postgame pressers, especially the ones after a loss, you can probably guess ahead of time what he’s going to say. The team is battling, “we’re close”, they’re gonna turn it around, etc etc. Boone’s never been the most off the cuff or colorful postgame interview, which is probably one of the reasons why he was hired. But if you’ve been paying attention, the team has turned it around, and looks more like the team we thought we would get in April.
Now, I don’t know how much credit or blame a manager ever actually deserves. Boone became manager of a very talented team that had just gone to the ALCS, and has only added talent since then, so it’s hard to say he’s the biggest reason the Yankees have clawed back into the playoff picture. I also don’t think he’s the biggest reason the Yankees have blown big leads late in games, for example. Really, Aaron Boone is at his best when we just don’t talk about him that much.
But Luke Voit’s comments from earlier in the week are going to serve as a real test for Boone’s ability to run the clubhouse. You’ve heard what Voit said, of course, about his sibling rivalry with fellow first baseman Anthony Rizzo. On the whole I didn’t have any issue with what Voit said — he did lead the league in home runs last year, and he has been one of the best hitters in the AL over the past couple seasons — and it’s certainly helped that he’s backed up his comments with his performance on the field, slashing .433/.469/.833 and driving in 13 runs over the past week.
Still, you wouldn’t be out of pocket to see a little bit of shade at Rizzo, or Giancarlo Stanton, thrown in Luke’s comments. Clubhouses, like water, find their level, but part of the reason Aaron Boone was hired in the first place was because it was felt he was a better mediator and communicator than Joe Girardi. Keeping everyone in the clubhouse on an even keel, and finding enough playing time for all these great hitters, is supposed to be the real asset Boone brings to the table.
Similarly, bullpen decisions take on much greater complexity as we pull out of August and into September. Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton should be the go-to guys at the back end of the ‘pen, but over the past month, it’s really been Wandy Peralta, Albert Abreu and newcomer Clay Holmes that have provided better run suppression. The Yankees are pretty married to bullpen roles, although they have seen some flexibility in the closer’s role this season. Still, juggling the actual good performances of some of the unheralded bullpen arms against the expected good performances of the veterans is a key part of the team’s success in this playoff push.
The Yankees might be at their best when, as fans, we’re not talking about Aaron Boone much. But with the turnaround this team has made, and an opportunity to actually catch the division-leading Rays, he’s going to have to play an instrumental role in getting everyone into the game, and keeping constructive internal competition from becoming destructive distractions. This is largely what he’s paid to do, and if he can pull it off, this team should be playing games deep into October.