The Boone Question Is Bigger Than Boone Himself
by Cary Greene
October 12, 2021
The SSTN writers were asked this week, “Should Aaron Boone return as the Yankees manager? Why or why not?”
I gave my short answer to the Tuesday Discussion earlier today.
What follows is my more in-depth response:
I learned this year that what Yankee fans think should happen and what will happen are two vastly different things. Some fans were in full alignment with most Yankee decisions this season, while other fans convulsed and ranted, seemingly with every twist and turn throughout what was a highly tumultuous season. I’m unable to exclusively blame injuries or Covid related issues as the main problems because the Yankees overcame those things well enough.
I never lost my faith that the Yankees could at least make the postseason. But as I watched the season unfold, I was far, far away from being content. I wanted to see more of “reward the performing player” culture. I wanted more excitement. I wanted to see a more well rounded brand of baseball. Strong pitching all too often stymied the Yankees, who seemed too one dimensional yet again. Clearly, the Yankees want to be this way, otherwise, they’d have done something about it and refused to tolerate the home run or bust approach they favor.
Throughout the season, I wanted more consistent baseball decisions to be made. What team would let a player who had an awfully unproductive spring training and who had shown no evidence of recent regular season performance open the season as a starter at a position they had almost zero experience playing during their career? Nonetheless, the Bruce of Jay experiment unfolded, as if it were a fictional story, as Bruce opened the season as the Yankees first baseman.
I watched a sizzling Greg Allen, who was a terror on the bases, a fan favorite and who virtually played at a Spiderman level in the outfield, get demoted and surreptitiously replaced by a far inferior player. I watched the Yankees get forced to go from being a one dimensional team to becoming vastly more exciting and able to do myriads of little things, only to throw all that out the window and voluntarily become a one dimensional team again. This caused the Yankees to once again vastly overplay Brett Gardner, who essentially became an every day player for many stretches of the season.
I watched Andrew Velasquez get thrown aside as Gleyber Torres, who had just returned, was inserted at shortstop during a key stretch of the season in which the Yankees squandered the separation they had achieved in the Wild-Card race. The effect of that decision on the defense was devastating and the Yankees lost the ground they had fought so hard to gain.
I watched the Yankees get forced into using pitchers that sparkled hundreds of times brighter than the players they replaced. Nestor Cortes, Luis Gil and Stephen Ridings come to mind.
For the sake of entertaining readers, I’ll answer this question with my own opinion on whether or not Aaron Boone should return as the Yankees manager. Remembering back to how the Yankees suddenly looked when all of the Scranton kids had come up, it was like watching a different team. Boone was bunting, he was putting the hit and run on, the Yankees were running the bases and playing defense. Guys like Greg Allen were stealing bases. It was amazing. I’m left believing Boone can actually manage an offense.
Most of our frustration as Yankee fans comes about because of the one dimensional roster that Boone is given. Surely he’s not the guy that’s shaping the franchise. When you have the worst left-handed hitters in baseball, how are you supposed to make out a balanced lineup?
Boone does a few things very poorly. He isn’t very good at in-game decisions regarding pitching. He makes a lot of bad moves in this area. He also gets out managed at times and it’s tough to watch that happen.
Ultimately, Aaron Boone should be replaced. With teams like the Rays, the Red Sox and the Blue Jays all sporting formidable lineups, the Yankees need a manager who can use a pitching staff wisely and consistently suppress those volatile lineups. Boone is not the man for the job. The narrative might have been vastly different if Cashman had been able to put together a better team during Boone’s first four seasons. But the Yankees have fallen very much behind teams like the Red Sox and the Rays. Boone doesn’t stack up compared to the Yankees’ rivals current managers — a class headed by Kevin Cash.
Even more importantly, I believe Yankee leadership needs an intervention. We’re past critical mass. They are the ones pushing most of the buttons that keep leading to postseason failure. Change needs to happen, or we’re in for more of the same.
I don’t exclusively blame Boone. I hold Brian Cashman and Michael Fishman, the latter of whom is an Assistant GM by the way, and Hal Steinbrenner himself, as the parties accountable for yet another failure. It was a real team effort!
The postseason is humming along now. The Yankees are home and the Red Sox and Rays are making magic. The Division Series is underway. I’ve had ample time to digest what was yet another highly disappointing end to a Yankee season. The championship drought for the Yankees is now 12 years and counting.
The manager of the 2009 World Series champion Yankees was Joe Girardi. He’s now with the Philadelphia Phillies, as is Didi Gregiorious. David Robertson, now pitching in the postseason for the American League East Champion Tampa Bay Rays, was the set up man for Mariano Rivera on that very same Girardi-led World Series champion. Thoughts easily turn to the Phillies as we reflect. I think about how bad the Yankee outfield was for most of this season. Would Yankee fans have appreciated an equally bad defensive left fielder, one who is on par with Clint Frazier or Miguel Andujar, but who hit 27 home runs and drove in 80 runs while scoring 78 this season? The Yankees were a bad offensive team for most of the season. Surely they could have used an outfielder who can at least hit. Andrew McCutchen, whom Brian Cashman traded for in 2018 (but chose not to retain) is of course also with the Phillies now, is the player who I’m referring to. We could easily slide Bryce Harper into our thoughts as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Yankees had the left-handed Harper hitting cleanup this year, which Girardi masterfully managing what was a pretty decent bullpen? All this got me thinking.
Byrce Harper being a Phillie aside, the light bulb went on for me as I pondered the question Paul has tasked us with answering. I wondered. “What the heck is Brian Cashman doing and who is letting him do all this?” Why isn’t he signing better players? Why is he letting so much talent slip through the cracks?
Of course I was simultaneously thinking of “the other side of the Brian Cashman coin” – something many Cashman proponents habitually fail to acknowledge. Specifically, Brain Cashman has given up on a ton of high leverage talent over the years. High leverage players can carry teams on their backs. It’s tough to let key people go and still be successful.
When we think of Cashman’s success, we like to think of Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman, Wandy Peralta, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres and assorted others as evidence for Hal Steinbrenner feeling that Cashman has done a great job. But there is a far uglier side to things and the Yankees are now saddled with the grief of watching many of their former players write the 2021 postseason script, while Yankee fans get to watch.
That said, this past Sunday night I watched Nathan Eovaldi, who has already played an integral role on a Boston Red Sox World Series champion team and has developed into a formidable starter, turn in a 5 inning, 8 strikeout quality postseason start against Tampa Bay – a game in which the Red Sox beat the Rays in a crucial Game Three. Is Eovaldi going to do it again? Do I have to watch him win multiple championships with the Red Sox? Why would the baseball ghosts do this to me just prior to yet another Halloween?
Cashman gave up on Eovaldi due to injury of course. I also watched J.P Feyereisen, now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen, pitch a clutch postseason inning against a Boston team that eliminated the Yankees. Cashman traded Feyereisen to the Brewers for Benny Escanio for cripe’s sake. Feyereisen pitched in the Yankees system for three years and was never called up. He threw 56 innings for Tampa Bay this season, to the tune of a 2.73 ERA. How is it that Cashman let a good reliever go for basically nothing?
Sunday night, I also watched David Robertson pitch two flawless high leverage innings for Tampa Bay against the Red Sox. Cashman gave up on Robertson due to injury (signing Adam Ottovino instead, who he offloaded to Boston in a salary dump prior to the start of this season). Robertson dominated the Rays in a performance that was beyond clutch.
Sunday night I also watched Garrett Whitlock pitch a phenomenally good 1.1 innings with 3 strikeouts and no hits allowed for Boston, propelling them from the eighth inning into the ninth inning — this in a game that Eovaldi started no less! Whitlock pitched 73.1 innings with a 1.96 ERA for Boston this year. Cashman let Boston literally lift him off the Yankee Roster in the Rule 5 draft. How can anyone on the earth explain how Cashman was allowed to do this? George Steinbrenner would have demoted him to the ticket sales office for this sort of transgression, yet he got away with it scott-free, as if no one at all were watching and evaluating a GM who really should have already been on extremely thin ice.
This season I watched Zach Littell throw 61.2 innings of 2.92 ERA baseball for the best team in baseball this year, the San Francisco Giants (yes, he blew a postseason hold the other day for the Giants). Another competent arm that Cashman let go for nothing.
How is it that so many players Brain Cashman gives up on are still playing in the postseason this year? Something is wrong with Cashman’s vision. He’s not the leader that is going to deliver a championship. He does less, with more, than almost any GM in baseball. Cashman has spent over 2 Billion dollars in payroll since 2009 and has no championships to show for it while also creating a middle of the pack farm system. I’ve seen enough.
I need a reset. Cashman has to go. He should NOT return as the Yankees GM. Apologies to all of the Cashman lovers out there. I’m not one of them. I believe that the GM is the single most accountable person in the franchise, other than team ownership. Speaking of which, hopefully Steinbrenner will sell the team and buy a coffee bean company – so he can really apply his bean counting talent to an appropriate industry because he’s clearly not cut out to be the owner of the most storied franchise in all of baseball.
Follow-up – Will Aaron Boone return as the Yankees manager? Yes, absolutely. He’s the man for the job. He speaks well to the media, he’s very positive and never gets on the players. He carries out all of Fishman’s analytics based in-game orders. He gets along with Cashman and when Cashman pulls the strings, Bubbles the Boone does what he’s told to do. Steinbrenner and Cashman love Boone. Absolutely he’ll return. Why, they’ll probably give him a handsome raise and note the 92 win season as an overwhelming success in the face of much adversity.
Never mind that Boone’s Yankees were clearly a poorly coached team. Never mind that Boone routinely got out-managed. The Media likes him. The players like him. The Owner likes him. He’s due of a big raise and a lengthy commitment, one that should last until Steinbrenner finally gives up, due to vastly declining profits and finally sells the team to a competent owner or group.
Think about it. Is an owner who perpetually fails going replace leaders who perpetually fail? Not a chance. They’ll all stick together, thinking they can go back to the drawing board and sell the fan base some story about how successful they were in the face of adversity. There is zero chance that Brian Cashman would hold anyone accountable. It’s too easy to lay blame on factors that were beyond everyone’s control.
We’ll sweep away the fact that Giancarlo Stanton is allowed to stand and watch automatic doubles that his lack of running turns into singles — IN THE POSTSEASON. We’re so used to poor basic fundamentals that actual hustle is simply not something we could possibly expect the Yankees to do, even in a winner take all, single game playoff format. The manager of the team couldn’t possibly be responsible for such a fat-cat culture.