If I Were the GM: Looking Ahead to 2019 – The Manager
Over the course of the off-season, I’ll look at the Yankees position-by-position, including the manager, to lay out the plan I would follow to hopefully get the Yankees to a World Championship in 2019. The best place to start this exercise, I believe, is with the manager (even though it is all but certain that Aaron Boone will be returning as the manager).
Here are my thoughts…
The conclusion I have come to regarding the manager I would choose for 2019 is going to surprise many readers. And, rather than leaving everyone wondering who that is, I will cut right to the chase… the manager I would choose for the 2019 Yankees is Aaron Boone.
This is not to say that I thought Boone did a great job with the 2018 Yankees. My criticisms of his work is well documented on these pages. In short, I didn’t feel that Aaron Boone, a brand new leader with no experience as a coach or manager at any level of professional baseball, was the right man for the job for the 2018 Yankees. Throughout the season and throughout the playoffs, there were times when his inexperience showed. A big league game moves quickly – very quickly. Sometimes the speed in which the game plays out caught Boone flat footed. There is a big difference between saying what one might do from a broadcast booth (Boone’s previous job) and what one actually does in the dugout when the results actually fall upon one’s own shoulders. The fact that Boone was learning on the job was readily apparent. In short, I thought the Yankees were taking a much-too-big leap of faith in handing over a team that had World Series aspirations to a true novice. And, in many ways I was right.
But, to be fair, in many ways I was also wrong. Aaron Boone held the 2018 Yankees together as they suffered through a rash of injuries to big stars, he successfully managed the egos in the clubhouse (even when benching players), and the results are the results – and they speak for themselves. The 2018 Yankees won 100 games. The Yankees reached the American League Division Series. Aaron Boone’s team won, it won often, and it made the post season. One does not have to look too hard to see that he actually did very well in his rookie season. Did the Yankees go as far as their fans had hoped in 2018? No. Did they do well? The answer is a resounding YES.
The past is past, the 2018 season is over. It’s now time to look at 2019.
During the season when it seemed that Boone was sometimes in over his head, I advocated bringing back Buck Showalter to mange the 2019 Yankees. It was apparent that Showalter’s tenure in Baltimore would end at the conclusion of the 2018 season. My thought process at the time concluded that Showalter was a lifetime baseball man, that he is one of the most knowledgeable baseball minds in the game, that he is a manger that has had success with numerous franchises, and that as a stickler to details, I felt he would be a manager that would prepare this team probably better than any other candidate. All of that is still probably true, but since Aaron Boone was ultimately successful, and since he now has a year of managing under his belt, my primary criticism of Boone is really no longer valid.
My primary critique was that the Yankees turned over their 2018 team to a guy with no experience. That won’t be the case in 2019. Boone (and his coaches, who seem to be all coming back) have been through a full season with this team and with these players.
This, in short, this is Aaron Boone’s Yankees.
And, I’m good with that.
Of course, I am not in the clubhouse or on the field with the team. I don’t know any Yankees personally. I can only make my decisions on the team from afar. And from that distance, it seems that Boone did accomplish some super important tasks in 2018.
First, he was able to gain, and maintain, the respect of his players. That is no small feat. Boone had to make some very tough decisions during the season – especially during the second half. He benched Greg Bird. He also, for all intents and purposes, also benched Brett Gardner (and when he played Gardner, batted him at the bottom of the order instead of his customary lead-off spot). Both moves seem to have been accepted positively by all the players. He also managed a bullpen of many players who have been closers. That, too, could have been a tenuous situation as on some teams each player might have demanded the ball at the end of the game. The fact that the players accepted Boone’s decisions and seemed to respect them speaks volumes for the job he does behind the scenes. In many ways, managing all of the players and their egos is the biggest job a manager has. Boone excelled in that area. He has the players’ respect. That’s huge. It’s also huge that as the Yankees struggled in the second half, there was also no complaining from the players. Again, this team seems to appreciate and respect their manager. They seem to trust him. Because of this, I do as well.
Second, Boone seems to have earned the respect of the New York baseball media. Granted, there were articles in many of the major sports outsets that at times critiqued Boone, but, those critiques never seemed to build or grow. Boone worked very well with the media. The media seems to also like and trust Boone. And, while Aaron Boone’s press conferences (like the ones from virtually every other manager and coach in sports) are usually pretty standard stuff without any real eye-opening facts or insight, he did handle himself, even in the most difficult times, very professionally. That is also something I greatly appreciate.
Third, and probably just as important, he now has a full season under his belt. Aaron Boone is a smart baseball man. He knows the game. He’s now experienced the game from a whole new perspective. He’s run a Spring Training camp. He’s lived through a full season. He’s learned how to manage a pitching staff. He has seen where analytics help and where it is important to go with one’s gut. He has reached the post season. He’s managed successfully in a one-game playoff. I also think he’s the type of person who will learn from his mistakes.
Fourth, I have appreciated the fact that going back to Buck Showalter and then going through Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, the Yankees have employed managers with long tenures. I lived through the late 1970’s and 1980’s where the manager was changed every few moments. I remember the 1982 season when the Yankees had three managers. Those were crazy times. Now that Boone is here, I’d like to see him enjoy a long tenure. Let’s see what happens in 2019. If the team grows, if the players also seem to grow from this season, we might have the foundation of a new dynasty. Rookie players grow up and so do rookie managers. I expect a better season out of Boone and the Yankees in 2019.
Heading into 2018, I was afraid that a rookie manager wouldn’t be able to build on the success of the 2017 team. In some ways I was correct. But as the Yankees head into 2019, they will no longer have a rookie manager guiding the squad. They’ll have a man who has been there before, seen the ups and downs, and who, I think, in the end, is the right man for the job.
My pick for the manager of the 2019 Yankees is right in line with who the Yankees have chosen. I’m putting my faith in Aaron Boone.