- Tim Kabel
About the Playoffs: Diagnosis: A Broken Boone
By Tim Kabel
October 22, 2022
The Yankees were off last night after falling behind two games to none to the Houston Astros in the ALCS. Things do not look good for the Yankees. They need to win four of the remaining five games. Obviously, they could come back. The Yankees will be throwing their two best pitchers against the Astros on Saturday and Sunday. With Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes Jr., the Yankees could win both games, and then, the series, but it would be a tall order.
The Yankees were not drubbed by the Astros in the first two games. They still lost. Obviously, I am rooting with all my heart for the Yankees to win but, I am realistic. I have written many times that I don't think the Yankees will win a World Series as long as Aaron Boone is the manager. My theory of Boone-proofing is only effective up to a point. The team cannot tie Boone up and lock him in the trainer's room during the game. He is the manager. He has to be there, and he has to make decisions. That is where all the trouble begins.
In the first game, Boone replaced Jameson Taillon with Clarke Schmidt with one out in the fifth inning, and a runner on second base. Jordan Alvarez was intentionally walked, and Alex Bregman was unintentionally walked. Schmidt escaped without any damage by getting Kyle Tucker to ground into a double play. We have seen all year that in this type of situation, Boone would pull the pitcher and bring in someone else. Schmidt finished the fifth inning on a high note. I was convinced Boone was going to replace Schmidt with Lou Trivino in the sixth inning. For once, I was in agreement with Boone. Only, he didn't do it. He left Schmidt in. Two of the first three Houston batters hit home runs that inning, giving the Astros a lead they would never relinquish. It was then that Boone finally brought Trivino in to get the final two outs of the inning on only seven pitches. Yet, after that, Boone didn't let Trivino pitch the seventh. Who did he bring in? Frankie Montas, who hadn't pitched in weeks. Montas promptly surrendered a home run.
In the first game, Boone put Matt Carpenter in as the designated hitter. He was hitless in four at bats, with four strikeouts. I think Matt Carpenter did a tremendous job for the Yankees this season before he broke a bone in his foot. However, he had not played in a game in months. Putting him in against Justin Verlander is not the same as having him take swings against minor leaguers in simulated games. It just isn't. Carpenter's timing was off, and he looked awful. That's completely understandable. If Carpenter were in midseason form, it would have made sense to have him be the DH and get four at-bats. At this point, his greatest value is as a pinch hitter who could come up in a high-pressure situation and possibly take advantage of a pitcher's mistake. Similarly, putting a rusty Montas in a game that was still very close was not a prudent decision. That wasn't the time to get him some work. The playoffs are not the time or place for experimentation. The approach Boone took in the first game was as if the game was not of great consequence to him.
Boone is also displaying inconsistency and a lack of resolve in his decisions. Through the end of the season and into the ALDS, Boone batted Aaron Judge in the leadoff position. He was unwavering in that. That is, until Alex Rodriguez criticized the move. Since then, Judge has been the number two hitter in the lineup. His original choice for the leadoff spot after Judge was Gleyber Torres. On Thursday, he went with Harrison Bader. I like the choice of Bader as the leadoff hitter but, it was the way we arrived there that was the problem. Boone was adamant in his refusal to move Judge from the leadoff position, until he was criticized, and then he acted as if he would never do it again.
Since Oswald Peraza joined the Yankees, many fans, me included, were clamoring for him to start at shortstop. He only did so occasionally. He was not even on the ALDS roster. Boone was vigorous in his defense of Isiah Kiner-Falefa as both an offensive and defensive player. Boone would get irritated and practically apoplectic if anyone asked him about IKF's defensive shortcomings. After IKF's struggles in the first three games of the ALDS, he did not start again. He was banished to the bench and replaced by Oswaldo Cabrera, because Peraza was not on the roster. IKF returned for Game One of the ALCS but, was replaced by Peraza late in the game. Peraza then started Game Two and made some excellent defensive plays. There is a problem with this.
If Boone played Oswald Peraza consistently at shortstop at the end of the season, he would have gained more experience on the major league level. Boone did not play him regularly. He didn't play him at all in the ALDS. He wasn't even on the roster. Peraza started the second game of the ALCS after not playing for several days. He was cold and out of sync as a hitter. That is not setting your prized rookie up for the greatest level of success.
In the same vein, starting Giancarlo Stanton in left field in Game One was not a great idea. It's not that he was horrible out there; he was not. He misplayed one ball, but he also made a fine catch. The issue is that Stanton missed most of the second half of the season with leg injuries. He is a crucial part of this lineup. Losing him at this point would be a disaster. If you wanted to play Stanton in the outfield in a game in the middle of May, that would be one thing. But a tough championship series against your arch-nemesis is something else altogether.
Boone made questionable and bizarre decisions all season long. It is what he does. He has done it since he began managing the Yankees. It is getting worse now. It's almost like someone who has a problem with perspiration that gets worse the more stressful the situation is. It is the same with Boone's managing. I feel like I created a scientific principle. It's like Newton's First Law. I think I'll call it Kabel's First Law: "The more intense and significant a baseball game is, the more incomprehensible and frustrating Boone's decisions become." My old Physics teacher, Mr. Poeltl would be so proud.
Fitting nicely into Kabel's First Law, was Boone's decision to blame the Game Two loss on what, I may ask? Luis Severino giving up a three-run home run to Alex Bregman? No. The Yankees offense not coming through? No. The fact that the roof was open at Minute Maid Park? Yes, by George, I think he's got it. Boone seemed to be unaware that the Yankees play the great majority of their games outside and felt that the roof being open for this particular game caused the ball Aaron Judge hit in the eighth inning to stay in the park rather than being a home run. That was just plain silly. It made Boone look petty and childish. It made the team, and particularly, Judge look ineffective and almost second-rate to the point where the manager had to contrive bizarre excuses for the loss. Sometimes balls go out of the stadium, sometimes they don't. Sometimes your team wins, sometimes it doesn't. With Boone at the helm, the latter seems much more likely.
Beating Houston in the ALCS would have been a Herculean task to begin with. When you add in bizarre decisions and blunders by the manager, it makes it almost impossible.
Your homework assignment for Game Three is to memorize Kabel's First Law and apply it to the game. Hopefully, there are no examples, and the Yankees win but it's always better to be prepared.