A Longer Leash Than Many (Really… Any)
by Paul Semendinger
Note – This piece was originally published here on April 17, 2021
Reprinted: September 12, 2021
Let me be clear from the start..
When the original decision was made, I was not in favor of the Yankees making Aaron Boone their manager. I thought it was an uninspired choice. The Yankees were on the precipice of greatness and they already had a very good manager in Joe Girardi. I saw no reason to change.
Making matters worse, the Yankees gave the team to a person who had never managed or coached any team anywhere. It made little sense at the time. In many ways, it still makes little to no sense.
Why would a team on the edge of greatness take a chance on a complete unknown?
I wrote of this at the time. I also looked back at the history of baseball and inexperienced managers and demonstrated on these pages that the results of first year managers with no experience most often were not good. Managing a baseball team is not easy. Managing the New York Yankees is even harder. Managing the New York Yankees when they are primed for a World Series is more difficult still. No matter how well a person might talk or communicate in any number of interviews, entrusting such a team to a person with no track record, at all, was foolish (at best). (Even if it had worked out, it was still a foolish decision.)
Now, a few years later, that decision is having its ramifications.
If the goal is for team to win the World Series, the hiring of Aaron Boone has not resulted in that mission being accomplished.
If the goal was to just reach the World Series, it has, similarly, been a failure. Aaron Boone has not been able to get his team there. (To be fair, an argument can be made that the cheating Astros stole that chance from the Yankees, but the bottom line is that the Yankees have not reached the promised land.)
Part of the reason that the Yankees have not fulfilled their mission under Aaron Boone is that he has been learning on the job.
Under Aaron Boone, many players have regressed. Under Aaron Boone, the Yankees go through periods (often to begin the year) where they play extremely poorly. Under Aaron Boone, the Yankees play sloppy baseball. They make mental errors. Under Boone, the teams plays an uninspired brand of baseball. This trend is now in its fourth season.
But still, even though I was against the Yankees hiring Boone in the first place, all who have read the blog this entire time know that since that first season, I have advocated season-after-season for the Yankees to keep Aaron Boone as their manager. My biggest argument (“He has no experience”) was null and void after that first season. I kept hoping that, after a season, and now many seasons, that he would begin to get a feel for the game, that he would bring the team around, and that he would make this talented squad play like champions.
I kept hoping that he’d learn from his mistakes so that other managers didn’t run circles around him.
In many ways, he hasn’t.
The 2021 Yankees look terrible. They look absolutely horrible. When a team begins a season playing so poorly, by logic, it has to be a direct reflection of how prepared they were at the start. That preparation comes from Spring Training. And running Spring Training is one of the manager’s most important jobs. Spring Training is where the manager makes the team in his image. It is where he puts the team’s energy and focus. The Yankees teams that have come out of a full Spring Training under Aaron Boone have always done poorly. Always. (The only time the Yankees under Boone began well was in 2020 after a truncated “summer training” due to the pandemic.) This has to be considered a reflection on the manager. If not, what is?
At some point, questions have to be asked…
Is Aaron Boone a good manager?
Where has Aaron Boone grown as a manager?
What players have shown growth under Aaron Boone?
Can Aaron Boone manage the Yankees to a World Series?
Is Aaron Boone the right manager for this team?
It’s now Year Four of the Boone Era. I am not calling for him to be fired.
But, I began to wonder if any manager of the Yankees, at least since the team became a contender, ever had this long to work before either delivering a championship or being replaced.
I went back in Yankees’ history to seek the historical answer.
If the Mission Statement of the Yankees is to win World Championships, I figured it would be interesting to note which Yankees managers have managed the most games (since 1920) without ever winning one.
The following is the chronological list…
Yankees Managers With No World Championships During His Managerial Tenure
(minimum 154 games managed):
Bob Shawkey, 154 games (1930)
Yogi Berra, 164 games (1964) (This was his first tenure as manager of the Yankees. Of note – this team did reach the World Series)
Johnny Keane, 182 games (1965-1966)
Ralph Houk, 1,271 games (1966-73) (Houk had won two World Series in his first tenure as manager. This was his second tenure at the helm.)
Bill Virdon, 266 games (1974-1975)
Dick Howser, 162 games (1980)
Billy Martin, 162 games (1983) (Billy had won a World Series previously. This was his third tenure as manager.)
Yogi Berra, 178 games (1984-85) (Berra’s second tenure as manager of the Yankees)
Lou Piniella, 324 games (1986-87)
Stump Merrill, 275 games (1990-91)
Buck Showalter, 582 games (1992-95)
Aaron Boone, 521 games (2018 – present)
The only managers of the Yankees with longer tenures than Aaron Boone, since 1920, without a World Series win during their tenures were Ralph Houk in his second tenure (and he had an awful team) and Buck Showalter (who took an awful team and made it championship ready).
Also, take note, this isn’t a George Steinbrenner thing, it’s a Yankees’ history thing dating back to Jacob Ruppert and 1920.
The Yankees, as a franchise, have not been this patient with their managers.
Let’s now look at this list again, a slightly different way.
Yankees Managers With the Most Games Managed Without Ever Reaching A World Series
The difference between the Showalter Yankees and the Boone Yankees is that Showalter’s team continually improved. He took a second division club and brought it to the precipice. Boone was provided a championship level club to start.
It can be argued that Aaron Boone has been given the longest leash, in the history of the Championship Yankees, to produce a winner.
As a franchise, for over 100 years, the Yankees have not tolerated long periods without winning under the same manager. It just hasn’t happened. The Yankees have never permitted a manager, no matter who he was, to not deliver the ultimate prize within a few years of taking command of the team.
The Yankees and their fans expect a winner. It’s been that way for a century.
That history indicates that the time is now for Aaron Boone to produce a winner.
I hope he does.