Aaron Boone "grew into his job" in 2019, with lots of help

Aaron Boone, rightfully so, is a candidate for the 2019 American League Manager of the Year.

While the baseball community at large isn’t surprised by this candidacy, it’s safe to say that Boone, in spite of leading the Yankees to 100 wins, was not in the running in 2018.  Boone faced his fair share of critics in his rookie year as the Yankees’ manager, and filled the shoes of a predecessor who brought a very different management style to the Bronx (a style that fans grew used to after ten years of loyal service). 

So, what brought Boone over the top during the 2019 season?  Why wasn’t 100 wins and a playoff bid as a rookie manager enough to be considered for the honors of Manager of the Year last year? Why is Boone already a top contender for the award?

Photo Credit: The Athletic

2018 Aaron Boone
Yankees fans, even the most critical of us, can't take away the fact that Boone led the 2018 Yankees to 100 wins last season.  Especially for a rookie manager, that number is quite an accomplishment.

But, that is not to say that Boone deserves all of the credit for the success his team garnered in 2018.  While the discussion surrounding injuries is, rightfully so, lengthy this year, the Yankees faced a number of injuries in 2018 as well.  They were able to rise to the challenge of the American League Wild Card Game, and earned themselves a postseason bid. 

In addition, Boone had the advantage of inheriting a team that came within one game of the 2017 World Series.  In the cases of the Yankees who were part of Joe Girardi’s 2017 squad, they were ready to make a winning run.  That drive to win would be a part of the team’s makeup, regardless of its manager.

As far as the metaphorical nuts and bolts of Boone’s managing, he made a number of questionable managing decisions over the course of both the regular season and the postseason.  A standout mishap came during the 2018 ALDS, in which Boone left Luis Severino in the game for two innings too many.  Also, the fact that Sevy didn't start his warm-up until eight minutes prior to the 7:40pm first pitch was a big bone of contention here.

That game was a definite highlight (or lowlight), and is a moment that allowed fans to come away from the 2018 season questioning Boone's competence.  Not only was Severino left in that game for too many innings, but he also went to Lance Lynn in relief, instead of Dellin Betances or David Robertson.  Then, the Yankees’ bullpen grew so depleted that Boone went to Austin Romine to pitch the ninth inning.  Oh, and the fact that the Yankees couldn't get past the division series.  The fact that he logged 100 regular season wins was sent far into the rear-view mirror.  To boot, the fan base blamed that one game for the Yankees' postseason demise in 2018 (rightfully so… who goes into an elimination game the following evening ready to win, after that horror show?).

In addition to leaving Sevy in that infamous game for far too long, Boone left in starters and relievers alike for more innings than they probably should have.  This change in strategy was significantly noticeable to both the Yankees and their fans, as everyone grew used to Joe Girardi’s more cautious approach with his bullpen.  During a September 2017 match-up against the Tampa Bay Rays, during which the Yankees were vying for a playoff spot, Girardi pulled then-starter Jaime Garcia after he successfully recorded 14 outs on about 75 pitches.  In that same game, Girardi even pulled Betances one out before he normally would, and brought Aroldis Chapman in for the last out in the eight inning.  That game was just one example, but “Binder Joe” didn’t leave pitchers in for too long, especially when a playoff berth was on the line.

While Boone had his moments in 2018 during which he fought for his players against new-age, oversensitive umpires, he logged just three ejections over the course of the whole season (as opposed to Girardi’s five in 2017).  The 2019 season hasn’t even wrapped yet, and he’s already logged five.  That’s not to say that number of ejections is a high statistic to strive for; however, a passionate exchange with an unfair umpire is the mark of a manager who wants to win, and cares about his players.

2019 Aaron Boone
Thanks to his ability to rally the “next man up,” and to fire up his “savages in the box,” Boone is a contender for the 2019 American League Manager of the Year.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Of course, it’s important to look at how Boone, as Brian Cashman told the fan base in 2018, “grew into [his] job.”  Naturally, a manager has a chance, after a year, to get to know his players better than he did in the past -- and vice versa.  Both Boone, and the 2019 Yankees (or most of them, anyway), were able to do just that.  Additionally, Boone grew into the “Yankee Way” as well as the players; thanks to a year of coaching and management experience that included a short postseason run. He thus gained a greater understanding of both the Yankees Front Office and their use of analytics.

However, while Boone was able to, as the expression goes, “do a lot with a little,” considering all of the injuries the Yankees have endured (and are still enduring) over the course of the season, the players deserve a great deal of the credit for the Yankees’ successes.  The Yankees who were part of the 2018 postseason roster returned to Spring Training this past March hungry for a win (much like the returning members of the 2017 squad in 2018).  A big win.  Hopefully, World Series win #28.

But, the confidence that the “Savages” have needs to start with their manager, and it’s clear that he possesses it.  Whether proven by his animated ejections that came from defending his players, or from his calm and collected press conferences, it’s clear that Boone is confident in his players, and his players are confident in him.  His clubhouse style is notably different than that of his predecessor.  As such, an argument can be made for the idea that a more encouraging and less “old-school” atmosphere promotes confidence -- which leads to more wins.  The 2019 Yankees are a close-knit, spirited group, and that sort of camaraderie is needed to win a championship.  While there are leaders within the roster, that sort of teamwork couldn’t exist without a manager that promotes it.

Of course, Boone hasn’t been perfect this year in his managerial decisions -- but no manager is.  If he were perfect, he never would have allowed Gary Sanchez to steal any base, ever.  While the discussion surrounding this decision would most likely be a moot point if Sanchez wasn’t injured as a result (especially since the Yankees won that game in Detroit), it is, regardless, a very questionable call.

In conclusion: while it is apparent that Aaron Boone “grew into his job” this season, he cannot come away from the Yankees’ success with all of the credit.  Yes, he’s still an excellent candidate for American League Manager of the Year.  He learned his job, he learned from his mistakes in his rookie year and he learned the personalities of his players.  He dealt with more injuries than any MLB team has ever faced over the course of a single season, and the recoveries aren’t finished yet -- a fact that is probably the main reason for his Manager of the Year candidacy.  But, the 2019 Yankees are hungrier than ever to win their organization’s 28th World Championship.  Chances are, they’d still be hungry, regardless of their manager.

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson


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