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  • Tim Kabel

The "Next..."

About the Off-Season: The "Next..."

by Tim Kabel

January 16, 2023

***

In sports, more than in any other arena, you often hear about the "second coming", or "the next".


People don't look at a newscaster and say he's going to be the next Walter Cronkite. You don't walk into a restaurant and say the chef is the second coming of Emeril Lagasse.


But, Bobby Murcer was supposed to be the next Mickey Mantle. He wasn't. Clint Hurdle was going to be the next great star for the Kansas City Royals. He wasn't. We hear that Jasson Dominguez will be the next Mickey Mantle, Bo Jackson, or Mike Trout. Perhaps, he will be an amalgam of all three. Perhaps, he won't.


Fans and the media love to throw these comparisons around. It got me to thinking, which is often a slippery slope. Rather than predicting, I'm going to make an observation about someone who is already on the scene.


Aaron Boone has been the Yankees' manager since 2018. He has never posted a losing record. His teams have won 100 games twice and 90 or more four times. He has a career winning percentage of .603. The question is which of his predecessors is he most like?


Since 1992, the Yankees have had a total of four managers, with one of them being Boone. The other three were Buck Showalter, Joe Torre, and Joe Girardi. Joe Torre won four World Series as the manager. Joe Girardi had one World Series victory. Buck Showalter did not win any but, under his guidance, the team turned around and was and was on the cusp of becoming the dynasty of the 90s and early 2000s.


Despite his record, I believe Boone pales in comparison to those three men as a manager. Oh, he wins games during the regular season. He makes it to the playoffs. But, in the playoffs, he is exposed as a mediocre manager. He makes the playoffs and wins regular season games because the Yankees have a tremendous amount of talent and are not afraid to acquire players whom they believe will put the team over the top.


To get a true feel for Aaron Boone's abilities, or lack thereof, as manager, all you really have to do is look at how he responded when the Yankees hit that major slide last year. You can also examine how the season ended and what he did during the playoffs. During the team's lengthy losing streak last summer, Boone seemed lost, adrift in a sea of confusion. He batted Aaron Judge in the lead-off position down the stretch and into the playoffs until he was criticized by Alex Rodriguez. Judge was promptly removed from the lead-off position. Boone insisted that Isaiah Kiner-Falefa was a brilliant fielding shortstop and a major asset to the team. When Kiner-Falefa's inadequacies became so glaring that even Boone couldn't ignore them, he was removed from the shortstop position in favor of rookies, Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza. It was not done in a planful way. When it comes time for Boone to think on his feet, he sits down.


I would argue that Aaron Boone is the second coming of Carl "Stump" Merrill. Stump was the organization man of the Yankees in the 90's and well beyond. He was the Yankees' manager for part of 1990 and all of 1991. Although he was successful as a manager in the minor leagues, that never translated to the Major League level. His career record as a Major League manager was 120-155. After he was replaced by Buck Showalter, Stump became a roving minor league instructor, before returning to his role as a manager in the minor leagues. He wound up with over 1,000 wins as a minor league manager. For some reason, he seemed to be in over his head at the Major League level.


Part of Stump's problem was the dearth of talent on the roster. The Yankees did not have many great players then and until Gene Michael started rebuilding the franchise, it would have been difficult for anyone to win. The fact remains that Stump Merrill was not a great manager on the Major League level. He often seemed bewildered and overwhelmed. That sounds familiar.


I suggest that the only difference between Stump Merrill and Aaron Boone is that Boone has much better players. He could win 90 games by accident. Sometimes, it seems as if he does. He just seems to be there, sort of like Forrest Gump. When the team has long winning streaks, he has no explanation but, he does take credit for it. When the team goes into tremendous slumps, he becomes testy and snippy with reporters but has no solution. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “complaining about a problem without offering a solution is called whining.”


Can the Yankees win the World Series with Aaron Boone, or "Little Stump" at the helm? I seriously doubt it because every time the Yankees are in a tight situation that requires managerial decisiveness, he misses the boat.


We saw it particularly last year against the Guardians and subsequently the Astros. It is possible that the Yankees have accumulated enough talent to effectively "Boone-Proof" the team so they can win despite him in 2023 and beyond but, that will be an uphill battle.


I will give Stump Merrill some credit. When he was dismissed as the Yankees' manager, he was on WFAN in an interview and said regarding his firing, “I may have been born at night but, it wasn't last night.” Sadly, that was the highlight of his managerial career.


Do I believe the Yankees would have won the World Series at least once between 2018 and 2022 with Showalter, Torre, or Girardi as manager? Yes, I do. At the very least, I think they would have made the World Series if they had one of those three or someone other than Aaron Boone in charge.


Regardless of what I or other fans think, Boone will be here for at least this season and probably a few more. His managerial style won't change. He will continue to do things the way he has always done them because he believes he is successful. He looks at his managerial record the same way he looks at defensive metrics. He is convinced that Isaiah Kiner-Falefa is an All-Star shortstop and that he himself is a great manager. He is wrong on both counts.


I don't know if Aaron Boone was born at night or not but, I know that most Yankee fans were not born last night and are becoming increasingly frustrated with the second coming of Stump.

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