Following the Yankees’ ignominious exit from the ALCS, having been swept in four games by the Astros, the team has some serious questions to answer in the coming months. Fans were justifiably upset at the unceremonious end to the season, many calling for a shakeup in leadership. Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman are the most frequent targets of their ire (including here). However, it does not appear that either man will be used as the sacrificial lamb.
Speaking with reporters at the Yankees’ player development complex in Tampa, FL, owner Hal Steinbrenner threw his support behind the team’s manager, confirming that Boone would be back for the 2023 campaign. Steinbrenner also touched on preliminary conversations with Cashman, given that the general manager’s contract expired at the end of the season.
The AP has Hal Steinbrenner saying not to expect a change regarding Aaron Boone. The bottom of the story adds that Steinbrenner has had discussions about the upcoming offseason w/ Brian Cashman, so it sounds like he'll be retained as well. Cashman is on an expiring deal. #Yankees https://t.co/3x3DTl2bjB— Gary Phillips (@GaryHPhillips) October 26, 2022
With regard to Boone, this was always the likely — if uninspiring — outcome, regardless of the team’s performance in the postseason. He had just been signed to a three-year contract prior to the start of the season, so a split between the two parties after Year One of the deal never felt realistic.
Furthermore, it’s only fair to acknowledge the success Boone has had as Yankees manager. In guiding the team to a 99-win season to finish atop the AL East, Boone became the first person to reach the playoffs in each of his first five seasons as manager. At the time of his hire, he was seen as an expert in communication both to his players and with the media, and to that end he’s done an adequate job.
That said, there are legitimate questions to be asked about Boone’s managerial decisions, particularly in the playoffs. This goes back beyond just 2022, as well. His deployment of the pitching staff, both in the rotation and bullpen deployment, has drawn the most scrutiny. Boone’s usage of Lance Lynn in Game 3 of the 2018 ALDS against the Red Sox, J.A. Happ in Game 2 of the 2019 ALCS against the Astros, and Deivi García as opener in Game 2 of the 2020 ALDS against the Rays stand out as notable recent examples.
Given the expectations surrounding this season’s team, Boone’s choices over the last two weeks were viewed with even greater magnification under the microscope. Deploying Jameson Taillon as the first man in extra innings during the eventual ALDS Game 2 loss against the Guardians backfired. Going to Clarke Schmidt in the ninth inning of Game 3 with Clay Holmes ready to go yet unused out of the bullpen was even more baffling, and caused some players to publicly question the move.
Things did not improve in the ALCS. Boone once again called on Schmidt over more experienced arms in Game 1 against Houston, the two runs he surrendered proving decisive. Pulling Gerrit Cole with the bases loaded in the sixth inning of Game 3 was an error compounded by going to Lou Trivino — perhaps the team’s fourth-best reliever. The final nail in the coffin saw him leave an injured Nestor Cortes out there in the final game of the series after a mound visit with the trainer, a move which proved fatal. It’s also worth mentioning that starting a different shortstop in the first three games of the ALCS created a (perhaps unavoidable) level of instability in the lineup and infield.
All of this comes with the caveat of uncertainty over Boone’s actual duties. Ever since his hire as a first-time manager, questions have persisted regarding the level of Boone’s autonomy over in-game decisions. The front office has constructed a robust analytics department that many have speculated to have significant input in tactical and player personnel decisions. Depending on one’s view over said level of input, the responsibility for the aforementioned lineup and pitching decisions may not rest on the manager’s shoulders, making it difficult to scapegoat Boone for the questionable choices made.
That brings us to the pending decision over Cashman’s future, though it appears the longtime general manager will also be retained. Given the close working relationship between owner and GM, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Cashman wouldn’t return for next season and beyond. He’s assembled a team that are perennial playoff contenders (which appears to satisfy Steinbrenner), and the lack of available veteran GMs to potentially replace him means the Yankees would have to turn to a first-time hire, a move which feels eminently unlikely.
That said, Cashman’s decisions in roster construction deserve perhaps more scrutiny than Boone’s performance. Sure, he’s had his successes in player acquisition, with the trades for Clay Holmes, Jose Trevino, and Harrison Bader (after initial skepticism) standing out as prominent recent examples. However, for each of those successes, it feels like there have been as many if not more missteps.
The stubborn adherence to the stopgap shortstop plan in an offseason replete with impact free agent shortstops backfired in a big way. The team’s blockbuster winter deal saw them take on all $50 million owed to an over-the-hill Josh Donaldson while handing the six-hole reins to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, despite his meager bat and lack of much experience as a starting shortstop. The trade to acquire Frankie Montas looks like a major mistake, especially when you consider the stellar performance of Luis Castillo — the other impact starting pitcher dealt at the deadline — down the stretch.
The coming months will see Yankees ownership forced to make decisions that have major implications for the direction of the franchise over the next few years. All eyes will be on Aaron Judge and whether his future will be in pinstripes or another uniform. That said, two men’s futures appear much more certain, with Boone on course for a return and Cashman perhaps close behind. Thus, the two men who are the focus of so much fan consternation appear to have two of the safest jobs in baseball.