A lot of people comprise the behemoth that is the New York media, and collectively this group has a reputation for being extra harsh and critical. Because the Yankees are constantly the subject of such unyielding attention, the players and Yankees manager carry an additional responsibility of being available to reporters, maintaining a public image and navigating tricky questions. Managerial changes in the Bronx are interesting precisely for this reason — the person who gets the job takes on so much. It’s like calling out, “Hey! Who among you wants to inherit a gigantic legacy with nearly unmeetable expectations?” Most people don’t want that.
Needless to say, the manager of the New York Yankees is subject to intense scrutiny, and so much of it. It’s unlike any other MLB managing job and the person who gets it must be savvy enough to deal with New York media. Communicating with the pack of people who cover the team comprises enough of the Yankees’ manager’s job that, with enough time, Yankees managers become known for their individual communication styles. Fans remember that Joe Torre was forthright and relaxed, Joe Girardi was thoughtful and stern, and Aaron Boone is increasingly known for the way he sugarcoats the truth with vague understatements.
I thought it would be interesting to compare how Torre, Girardi, and Boone’s communication styles with the press manifest during postgame interview. Let’s take a look at how these managers answer tough questions about failures and slumps, injury updates and intentional hit-by-pitch scenarios.
Here is a typical example of Torre, Girardi, and Boone’s answers when asked about the struggles of a particular player, why the team lost, or a team’s failure to score runs:
Torre had the nicest ways to say “my team stunk today.” It sounds like he is talking to a friend and tells it like it is. Torre is forthright and acknowledges the significance of a player’s mistake without sounding angry, or like he’s expressing discontent. His mood is pretty neutral and his demeanor is calm and lowkey. The New York accent is distinctive.
Watching Boone’s video after Torre’s made me notice Boone’s lack of eye contact at times — he’s looking down and his brim is pulled down low. His sentiments about the team come across as genuine, but he says the same thing three different ways, and the redundancy makes it sound like Boone is trying to convince himself that this time, the team really is going to turn it around.
Girardi gives very specific details. If someone asks why a pitcher struggled, Girardi wants to explain as accurately as possible. It’s extremely precise. None of what he says is fluff. Also, concealing his emotions isn’t Girardi’s strong suit. The exasperation in his voice is palpable. He’s transparent and betrays how he feels about whatever he’s talking about. The tone is less casual and he gives off teacher vibes.
Here is a typical example of Torre, Girardi, and Boone giving an injury update:
Inquires about a player’s injury are always tricky because the manager is divulging a player’s personal medical information. This kind of information also has the potential to affect a player’s value or leverage in free agency. The manager is tasked with revealing just enough, but not too much, and he must do that while remaining honest. Torre’s humor wins over the crowd and also deflects the question about the injury.
In this second clip, Torre responds to a question by informing everyone that no, Jeter is not OK. Aaron Boone might say the same exact thing as Torre, but he would probably say yes, then explain why the player is not healthy. There is a lot of cognitive dissonance with Boone’s answers.
Girardi could be surprisingly unguarded, as he is here when he admits he forgot to prepare for the question. He doesn’t reveal much, but offers a casual take on Jacoby Ellsbury’s injury.
Torre has his distracting humor, Girardi is self-deprecating, and Boone never quite landed on a signature way to navigate injury questions. Boone doesn’t offer much detail, except when he is asked explicitly about the MRI. Every injury is an injury that every player who plays that position has to deal with from time to time.
Intentionally hitting batters in baseball is a custom that is changing, which makes intentional HBPs hard to explain. Let’s see how the three managers articulate and explain sensitive hit-by-pitch scenarios.
If the Yankees decide not to renew Boone’s contract, it will be interesting to see what communication style the Yankees seek out next.