BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
On the surface, Aaron Boone’s Yankees managerial record looks good. In the four years of managing the team, he is 328-218. He had a couple of 100-win seasons. He led the Yankees to the playoffs in all of his four years of managing the team. The players play for him.
There’s so much to like about Boone. His even-keel approach benefits the players during the grind of a long season and in a market that demands perfection by the Yankees. He is always accountable after losses. He’s knowledgeable, and he’s experienced.
But Boone doesn’t have a World Series championship or appearance to show for it. That’s what he is judged on, and that’s why Yankees fans haven’t embraced him the way they would with Billy Martin, Joe Torre and Joe Girardi. His team’s playoff exits stand out more than his regular-season wins since the Yankees are judged by championships.
Sooner or later, he’s going to have to win a championship or at least make the World Series for him to keep managing the Yankees. He can only get by for being Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s puppet for so long. At some point, the Yankees are going to want to make a change just to satisfy the people that want change. If someone will be the fall guy for the team falling short of championship dreams, it will be Boone because he is easily replaceable in a sport that has managers being treated like cardboard boxes.
Boone can help himself be in a position to do well. He managed the Yankees for four years to know what he can improve on. If he doesn’t get it now, he never will. This year should be the year that he applies the knowledge he absorbed over the last four years.
For one thing, the Yankees manager can start by connecting well to the young players. He needs to get through to them. In a game that is now a young man’s sport, the young guys are more contributors than veterans. They are valuable. It’s on Boone to get the most out of them.
Gary Sanchez regressed under Boone. The manager offered no answers for the catcher to the point he couldn’t produce anymore. He coddled him too much. It got to the point Sanchez became a lost cause and the Yankees traded him to the Minnesota Twins. If Sanchez turns out to be the star the Yankees tout him out to be, this is a strike on Boone.
He can make up for it by getting Gleyber Torres to play at a high level this season. Not just him, but anyone coming up from Scranton-Wilkes Barre. It won’t be long until he manages Anthony Volpe, the highly touted shortstop. There’s a good chance he may be in the majors sooner than we think like later this year. It’s on him to put him in a position to do well.
Boone has been known more to give the veterans the benefit of the doubt. That’s fine, but for the Yankees to do well, he has to maximize every member of the 25-man roster, which includes young players. That’s what stands out as a manager.
Boone and his coaching staff need to make his team fundamentally better. This is a team that relies too much on home runs. This is a team that often doesn’t hustle. This is a team that makes too many baserunning blunders. This is a team that doesn’t field well. This is where managing matters.
Boone and his staff must do a better job of making the Yankees a well-managed team. That was Girardi’s strength as a manager. The Yankees would never beat themselves under him. With Boone, it’s been a different story.
He needs to manage with a sense of urgency, not manage with a long-term perspective. Yes, there are 162 games in a season, but this is a team that needs to have a better winning culture. Say what you want about Girardi as a manager, but he managed every game like it was a playoff game and it got him results. His players took on his own personality by being taking good at-bats and being intense out there. Since he left, the guys have gotten way too comfortable and complacent. It’s about time the players start feeling a sense of urgency in a division that featured three great teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. It starts with the manager.
The Yankees need to come out of this homestand this week with a point to make. This would be that teams have to fear playing them when they go to the Bronx. This would be that it won’t be easy for the Red Sox and Blue Jays to get wins at Yankee Stadium. This would be that the Yankees are a team that teams need to fear.
The Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox don’t fear the Yankees. This is a problem, and that has to change if the Yankees want to win championship No. 27. It starts with the manager setting the tone for the players and realizing how every divisional game is important in the regular season.
It would also be nice if Boone started to manage on his own intuition rather than relying on spreadsheets or what Cashman tells him to do. He has yet to show he can do that. He needs to manage with his gut, and he needs to have a better feel for the game on what players to play and when to take pitchers out.
The Yankees have a talented team. They can win a championship, but no one takes them seriously because they showed they don’t have the goods to be taken seriously. This team plays well in the regular season and comes up small in the playoffs too many times under Boone.
This can be remedied if Boone can make improvements as a manager.
After four years, it’s time to see whether he has the chops to be better and make the team better.
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