BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Good thing the Minnesota Twins came in handy when this Yankees team truly needs it, especially beleaguered Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
After the Yankees sputtered by going 10-18 in August culminating their worst month since going 9-19 in September 1991 and cut their once 15 ½ AL East lead into a five-game lead prior to the Twins series, they still have a comfortable lead thanks to Minnesota helping them out by losing three of four to the Yankees this week. The Twins have always been a chicken soup for the Yankees’ soul. Since 2002 including the postseason, the Yankees are (114-40) against the AL Central patsy. Since 2015, the Yankees are (24-3) at home against the Twins in the AL postseason. Since the opening of the new Yankee Stadium, the Yankees are (40-11) against the Twins. Even the Washington Generals did not get beaten that badly by the Harlem Globetrotters.
Boone could rest easy for a bit. But make no mistake. He knows there’s pressure to avoid a 2007 Met-like collapse that had the Mets choke their first-place lead after spending 147 days in first place and having a seven-game lead on Sept. 12 that season.
The Yankees may not win it all this year, but there’s no way they should be missing the playoffs after a 61-23 start. Not with a $248 million payroll. At one point this year, some dubbed this team to challenge the 1998 Yankees for most wins of the season.
After exhibiting calm for most of the season, Boone has let the losing get to him by arguing with the umpires and expressing his frustration with the way things have gone. His body language speaks like a man that is facing pressure. He has been tossed seven times this season, and no one will ever confuse him for Billy Martin. He looks like a manager that has not had the experience of handling pressure like this.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman hired Boone since he would be the right guy to get through to the players and provide a relaxing environment in a long season. He figured the Yankees would be good enough that they can get by with a manager who never managed a day in his life. Boone was also hired so he can follow orders from his general manager on who to play on a given day.
On the surface, Boone’s regular season record has been impressive with a (409-272) with two 100-win seasons to show for it. But he hasn’t won a World Series championship with this roster.
In Hal Steinbrenner’s world, good enough is acceptable rather than winning a championship, so Boone has been spared from being fired. Yet, he may not be spared if the Yankees somehow miss the playoffs.
Someone has to take the blame. It certainly isn’t going to be Cashman or Steinbrenner. It always happens to be the manager when a team collapses from being in the playoffs to missing the playoffs altogether. Just ask Willie Randolph who was biding time until he got fired as Mets manager in the middle of the 2008 season for his team’s collapse in 2007.
Boone needs to show he can manage a team out of a crisis. He has to put his players in a position to succeed. This means he may have to start benching Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Gleyber Torres to get this team going. This means playing Oswald Peraza a lot more and trusting other young players such as Oswaldo Cabrera. This also means he needs to be engaged in what’s going on in the game and what’s going on with his players. He has to find a way to get through his underachieving club such as executing the fundamentals.
Boone never had that opportunity to manage a crisis until now. Everything came easy for him in his tenure here. We are going to find out what he is as a manager right now.
The Twins are no longer on the schedule anymore since the Yankees can’t play them every day. It’s just not allowed in Major League Baseball. This means it’s time for them to step up against teams like the Rays and everyone on the schedule.
This can’t be hard for them, right? They have enough talent to at least get by in the regular season. This is on Boone to make sure this team is good enough to survive the regular season gaunt. They have 15 home games left, and they do face bad teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. This should be feasible, even with the injuries the team amassed lately.
The Yankees can whine about injuries all they want, but it’s their own fault for fielding a team full of aging players. There should be no excuse for this team to make the playoffs.
Boone is lucky that he doesn’t work for the late George Steinbrenner. Not only he would have been fired a long time ago, but he wouldn’t have been hired in the first place. He works for an owner and a general manager that does not stress about winning championships as the fans do.
Still, how much patience can Cashman and the younger Steinbrenner have on a manager if a team collapses? They can’t be accepting of this, right? If they are, then this organization really has a problem. If Steinbrenner is okay with this, maybe he needs to consider selling this once-proud franchise to an owner who really wants to win and take the responsibility of owning the Yankees.
Time is on Boone’s side here. The Yankees can make a run. They can’t be any worse than they have shown lately. The Twins should give them new life. Just some wins can help them get into a groove. A four-game winning streak could be and should be contagious.
A manager needs to provide answers when a team is slumping. This is what Boone is hired to do. It’s time for him to show the Yankees that he is the guy that can get them out of this.
His job should be depending on it.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6
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