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Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone Press Conference Reaction

By Andy Singer

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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski, Getty Images

It has been an emotionally charged year (two years) for everyone across the world. For Yankee fans, one could argue that the events of the 2021 season and the immediate aftermath are merely the cherry on top of the only ice cream sundae that actively causes despair. Following the end of the season, I doubted that the Yankees would remove Aaron Boone from the manager’s seat. I had some hope that the Yankees would change course, or that Boone would choose to leave of his own volition, when a significant chunk of his coaching staff was shown the door, despite the fact that an ESPN report indicated that Hal Steinbrenner was leaning towards keeping Aaron Boone as the Manager of the New York Yankees. How stupid I was to forget that ownership, be it the Yankees or elsewhere, always gets their way.

I am typically someone who comes prepared with home-spun charts, graphs, statistics, video, and analysis of all other kinds to support my posts. I admit that 2021 is finally getting to me, and besides, charts and video just won’t work for this post. I had some rough things going on in my personal life between the weekend and Tuesday, so hearing that Boone was re-signed as Yankee Manager really did feel like the proverbial cherry on top for me. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was actually home to watch the entirety of Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone’s press conference on Tuesday. In raw, bullet-point form (a rarity for me), here are my thoughts both prior to and after listening to Cashman and Boone’s words and answers:

First off, I have to acknowledge that I never wanted Aaron Boone as Yankee manager in the first place. He was almost the only ESPN broadcaster on Sunday Night Baseball I ever enjoyed listening to, but I thought that handing the keys to a franchise primed to challenge dynasties of year’s past after 4+ years of re-tooling to a guy who had never so much as served as 3B coach in Little League was a bad call. I loved Joe Girardi, but I understood the premise that his intensity may have worn thin for the guys in the clubhouse. I get it. But I thought there were other very interesting options at that time.

Understand also that my opinion from the outside looking in has not changed: I am sure that Boone has numerous wonderful qualities as a leader behind the scenes, but I’ve seen zero growth from a baseball perspective during his first 4 seasons as Yankee Manager.

I also want to give credit where credit is due. I thought that if the Yankees brought Boone back, it would be on a 2-year deal that could quickly be extended if he proved his worth. SSTN’s own Cary Greene said numerous times in writing that he foresaw a 3-4 year deal at a minimum. He was right on the money, and I missed the pulse there.

On to the press conference. I was in a really, really bad mood when the press conference started. I was not my usual optimistic self, to say it bluntly. I am probably the most pro-Cashman voice at SSTN, and even I was ready to eviscerate everything and anything he said when the press conference began.

That feeling remained after one of Cashman’s first proclamations: that were the Yankees to let Boone go, he would likely be the most coveted managerial candidate available for the multiple MLB positions available this offseason. Do I think that Cashman is outright lying here? In actuality no, I don’t. Do I buy that this comment is based in reality? Also no. Given his 4 years of experience, I am sure that someone would hope that Boone would become next year’s Gabe Kapler, who has been brilliant in his second act with the Giants after a disastrous campaign with the Phillies. Do I think that any team would find themselves in a bidding war over Aaron Boone? I find it hard to believe. This comment did not initially pass the sniff test.

However, as I flexed my hands in anger, I thought about the comparison to Gabe Kapler a bit more. Following his tenure with the Phillies, I felt really bad for Kapler because I felt like he got a raw deal. Under Joe Girardi, the Phillies have been no better, and we can now see that Kapler traded a bad situation for a better situation in which he was given more tools for success. Kapler shares many traits with Aaron Boone: a player’s manager, with MLB experience, comfortable with advanced analytics, but also grounded in his ability to talk to players and media alike due to his experiences as a player. I now think it’s possible that the Yankees’ front office believes that he needs a Kapler-like chance to show what he’s learned.

I’m still not sure I buy it. I still don’t think Aaron Boone is the right manager for the New York Yankees, but I also acknowledge that Cashman and company certainly know more about that job and what’s needed than do I. I have zero issue questioning their opinions on individual players or strategy, given my comfort with analytical concepts and mechanical analysis, but I just don’t have access to 95% of what a manager’s job entails in 2021. Most of us don’t, and I think we need to acknowledge that fact.

Cashman was vague about the reasons for letting go Thames, Pilittere, and Nevin, but it’s obvious that the same rationale that Cashman applied to Boone applied to the others: making a move for the sake of making a move is eye wash; moves are made when progress can be made with new hires. The Yankees clearly believe that the team and Boone will be better with different coaches around him. There’s validity to that idea.

I perked up the more I listened to Cashman. I’ve seen so many who want Cashman gone complain about the lack of accountability (not necessarily calling people out here; it’s just a very common sentiment here in the Tri-State area). What came out of Cashman’s mouth was the polar opposite. Cashman went further in-depth to describe the problems with the team and solutions than just about any modern GM in any sport. Cashman put the majority of the blame for last season’s debacle on his own head. He admitted that he was wrong about numerous assumptions coming into the 2021 season, including, but not limited to: Torres’ viability as a SS; relying on LeMahieu as the sole contact bat in the lineup; getting too right-hand heavy; not having athleticism besides Gardy and Wade, both of whom were supposed to be bench players; and not giving Aaron Boone enough lineup flexibility.

We saw that Cashman acquired Gallo and Rizzo, two left-handed bats, at the Trade Deadline. Rizzo is a high-contact, low-strikeout bat with some pop and good defense, while Gallo had serious pop from the left side and surprisingly good defense in the outfield. In hindsight, one can argue that it’s too little, too late, but it proves that Cashman can admit when he’s wrong and act on it. Those moves represent foreshadowing, as far as I’m concerned.

Cashman also was very clear in his comments to reporters: he did not give Boone enough tools on the field to succeed last season. Cashman was also very clear that he intends to change that as he re-tools the roster this offseason. As the GM of the team, it was stunning to hear Cashman state that the team was “unwatchable” for long stretches of the year. He’s right, and it takes a truly good leader to admit when he’s wrong and correct those wrongs. Cashman summed it up with the following quote: “I’ve gotta be better at what I do.”

One could argue that Aaron Boone was one of those mistakes. However, I think we need to look at this from another perspective. In the real world, most of us have worked for a boss or the owner of a company. Let’s say you know that the boss/owner really likes one of your direct reports, even though there are mixed opinions of that worker’s abilities by others in the organization. Even if we assume that you disagree with the boss/owner, and delicately attempt to state your case, but are overruled by said boss/owner, what do you do? Do you publicly pout and throw your report under the bus? Or do you find a way to please your boss and find a way to make it work?

Think about that hypothetical scenario as a lens through which to view the following: does anyone think that it’s an accident that ESPN reported that Hal was leaning towards keeping Boone before the news about staff firings were announced. In the world of media, I can’t help but think the Steinbrenner family leaked that message to the media on purpose to further force Cashman’s hand. Cashman survived under one of the most volatile owners in baseball history. Hal may not be his father, but Cashman knows when to take a hint. He’s also proven that he finds a way to make things work.

Cashman stated that his offseason goals are as follows:

Find a SS – neither Urshela nor Torres are the answers there…oh, and the sky is blue.

Find opportunities to create lineup flexibility.

Get more athletic.

Find guys that make contact and strike out less to pair with the lineup’s big boppers.

For a change, Cashman’s goals for the offseason are very clearly stated. Honest question, for those of you that want Cashman fired: is there anything about the above goals with which you disagree? The above shows that Cashman is adaptable and willing to admit where he’s wrong. We’ll see if Hal puts money where Cashman’s mouth is.

Oh, and Cashman noted that he hasn’t been provided a budget by Steinbrenner yet this offseason. That infuriating, but also not surprising. With the CBA due to expire, I think there is loads of uncertainty ahead this offseason, and a financially conscious owner like Hal Steinbrenner is not going to budge on a budget until he has a very concrete idea of what the financial structure of baseball looks like for the next couple of years.

I fear we won’t know that until next year at some point. That could very easily tie Cashman’s hands this offseason, as it has in offseason’s past.

More than Boone or Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner needs to shoulder significant blame for the unfulfilled promises of the Boone era.

Boone’s comments were pretty typical. I was neither inspired nor furious…generally speaking.

I was heartened by Boone’s comments that his job is to empower his coaches to do their jobs their way and to the best of their abilities.

I was flabbergasted that he noted that he needs to improve his ability to get more out of individual players…that’s a pretty strong indictment of Boone’s suitability to manage this team, given the regression we’ve seen in multiple position players under his direction.

Otherwise, Boone’s part was very ho-hum. I’m…not excited.

My overall impression is that Brian Cashman believes he understands where the problems were in 2021, and he knows how to fix them for 2022. Cashman’s comments indicate that the core of the team will remain, but that significant re-enforcements both on the field and in the dugout/batting cages will re-tool that core. Frankly, as bad as this season felt, the Yankees still won 92 games. It was nowhere near enough, but the core is not yet old enough to give up on as long as real substantive tools are added to the shed. I feel really good about Cashman. About Boone? Not so much, but I hope I’m wrong.


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