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The Tuesday Discussion: The Aaron Boone Question

October 12, 2021

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This week we asked our writers:

Should Aaron Boone return as the Yankees manager? Why or why not?

Follow-up – Will Aaron Boone return as the Yankees manager?

The writers respond below:

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Tamar Chalker – I have no opinion about Aaron Boone, but I will say I question whether Cashman should stay.

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Lincoln Mitchell – Of course Aaron Boone should not return as manager. The main reason for that is that Brian Cashman is no longer the right person for the GM position and the new GM should be empowered to get rid of a mediocre manager like Boone.

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Chris O’Connor – I do think Aaron Boone will return as manager, but I do not think that he should. Brian Cashman and co. really seem to like Boone and feel that he relates well to the modern generation of players. It seems like as long as Cashman stays, so will Boone.

While Boone has made the playoffs in all four of his seasons as manager, I see two reasons why he should go: he has routinely been outclassed in the playoffs and the team has significantly regressed under his watch. From the multiple miscues in the 2018 ALDS to the infamous Game 2 of the 2020 ALDS, Boone has consistently come up short in the playoffs. Not winning a pennant with the rosters that he has been given is difficult to comprehend, as the Yankees are judged by their performance in October above all else.

A troubling downward trend has also overshadowed Boone’s tenure. After winning at a .627 clip in his first two seasons, the team has played at a .563 clip over the last two seasons despite retaining mostly the same roster. 2019 was a great year for player development, but 2020 and 2021 have seen almost all of those players either regress or get injured. Have any of the position players got better under Boone’s watch? And that is not strictly from a hitting standpoint: the Yankees baserunning and defense has long been among the worst in the league under Boone’s watch. I understand that much of that is on the players, but if the manager does not control at least some of that, then what do they do? I do not think a manger contributes to winning as much as people think, but that does not mean that a manager does not matter.

I find it difficult to see an argument for retaining Boone.

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Mike Whiteman – I have a number of friends and colleagues here at SSTN who want to fire Aaron Boone. Who wanted to fire him yesterday. I respect that position; I also disagree with it.

I get the need for accountability for the season. While I don’t think the season is the dumpster fire that many folks say it was, in the end a season that culminates with a loss in the wild card game really is not good enough.

Here’s my pause on firing Boone. Who replaces him? I’ve seen a number of “old school” type managers like Buck Showalter being floated who are considered master technicians on the field and will give the players the needed kick in the pants they desperately need.

The thing is, the Yankees aren’t hiring this type of leader. Ask Joe Girardi how his intense, hardnosed managing worked out for him in 2017.

Any replacement for Boone is going to be another manager who is part of the same field/front office collaborative management style the Yankees and just about everyone else in the MLB employ now. While I think several of Boone’s curious decisions made through the years were his alone, many were not. A new manager isn’t going to drastically change the management or culture that some desire.

It’s a different day in baseball, and for that matter in life.

One thing that I’ve appreciated about Boone is that there have been two of his four seasons in which the team could have just folded – 2019 and 2021. His upbeat and steady manner provided exactly what both teams needed as they worked through the sizable obstacles the teams encountered.

Much scrutiny has been shone on the regression of players like Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez in Boone’s tenure, and that’s legitimate. We also need to look at folks like Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, and DJ LeMahieu who have blossomed under Boone’s watch.

One question to leave readers with. How much smarter would Aaron Boone look with Bryce Harper in left field the past few years? Patrick Corbin leading the 2019 rotation? Justin Verlander in the 2018 or 2019 rotations? Gerrit Cole in the 2018 or 2019 rotations? All of these players seemingly had realistic chances of donning the Pinstripes, but management hesitated to part with either the money or the prospects needed to acquire these star players.

I say sign Boone to a three-year deal, tweak the coaching staff a bit, and leverage the mass Yankee economic resources. If that doesn’t bring home better results, then fire him.

In the end, I think this is the course of action the team will take.

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Paul Semendinger – I have not been a fan of the Yankees’ decision to hire Aaron Boone from the start. I never understood, and will never understand, why the Yankees hired him. The Yankees were one game away from the World Series and they turned the team over to a manager who was brand new to managing, a guy who had never managed a team at any level, and hadn’t even been a coach on a team at any level.

The Yankees took a team that was one win away from the World Series and trusted it to a person with absolutely no track record. None. It made no sense at the time and it still makes no sense.

The Yankees also haven’t gotten to the World Series. The young core that was supposed to carry the Yankees into the next age of glory is now four years older. Most of these players (absent Aaron Judge) have regressed. Even the players that were bright sparks for periods of time (D.J. LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, among others) have regressed. There also hasn’t been a young position player who has come along and made a permanent mark.

Under Aaron Boone, we have seen the team over matched in big games year after year. Under Aaron Boone we have seen decisions that befuddle the mind. We’ve seen hot players sent to the bench or the minor leagues, we’ve seen struggling players getting more at bats than they deserve.

But maybe all of the player decisions come from the front office… maybe those aren’t Boone’s fault. (He still hasn’t developed one player who has performed well over time.) But, what has to fall under Boone’s responsibility is the poor brand of baseball the team plays. We have seen the team play a sloppy brand of baseball for four years – with poor fielding, poor base running, poor fundamentals, and poor in-game strategy and management. The manager is the person who prepares the team and, so often, this team does not seem prepared.

Quick quiz – when has an opposing player or manager ever said anything positive about Aaron Boone’s managerial ability When has any team ever expressed concern that the Yankees’ manager had a strong game plan or has an advantage of any kind? No one says that – because he doesn’t. Alex Cora, Joe Maddon, Kevin Cash, among so many others are praised for their understanding of the game and the ways they manage not just the players, but the games themselves. No one has ever said that about Boone. He’s had four (long) years to figure it out. He hasn’t.

We have also seen the Yankees begin every full season under Aaron Boone by playing very poorly and having to play “pedal to the medal” just to catch-up. A good manager does not always put his team in a hole to start the season. The early season losses are a clear and direct indication that the team leaves Spring Training unprepared. If there is one task that must be the manager’s, it is preparing the team for the season. Aaron Boone has not demonstrated an ability to do that.

In the four years he has been manager, the Yankees have not gotten better. The Yankees today seem very far from a World Series. Heading into 2022, it’s possible that the Yankees will only be the fourth best team in the American League East.

Hiring Aaron Boone was an experiment. It didn’t work.

The question of will he be back though is a resounding yes. The management and owners of the Yankees seem to love him. I see Boone getting a three year deal. He got three years before he ever managed a game. How can they give him fewer years on his renewal contract?

I also don’t see Boone lasting as manager through the end of his new contract because I fear that the Yankees have been surpassed in so many ways that the bright future that was supposed to come with Aaron Boone has become the less bright reality of now.

I wish it weren’t so.

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Cary Greene – I decided to dig into this in-depth. My response comes at 1:00 p.m. today.

In short, I think the answer is gigger than Boone himself.

And, yes, he’ll be back – probably with a big raise. (The Yankees owner and GM think this was a successful season.)

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Patrick Gunn – Aaron Boone should not return as the Yankees’ manager because he has yet to consistently show he can elevate this team as a leader. He found a way to help elevate an injured 2019 squad but failed to do the same in 2020 and with a healthier 2021 team. Also, his bullpen management has always been spotty and his teams have shown up to big games sloppily too often under Boone’s tenure.

Now, Boone most likely will be back next season. Yankees’ upper management has give no indication that they are upset with Boone for last season’s performance. Look, if Boone wins a World Series next season, all will be forgiven. With that said, Boone has given no indication thus far that he will do that.

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Ed Botti – Aaron’s Boones record as a Manager over the first 4 years of his career is 328-218 a .601 winning percentage. In those 4 years his teams won 100+ games twice.

In the 4 years he won the division once and finished 2nd 3 times (tied in 2021).

In the playoffs he has an 11-11 record, and his teams have not made it past the ALCS, when they made it there in 2019 and lost in 6 (yeah right).

A deeper look at his head to head with Boston and Tampa shows he is 41-26 vs Boston (.612%) and 32-35 vs Tampa (.477%) for a combined 73-61 record (.545 %) vs his 2 main division rivals from 2018-2021.

During his tenure, as we all know, he had to deal with many injuries, especially in 2019, which incidentally was his best year statistically as a manger 103-59, going 26-12 vs Tampa and Boston (.684%).

Just as we saw this past season when the Yankees seemed to take off when the injury bug hit, ditto for 2019. That tells me, when he isn’t forced to use certain players in certain positions, he wins with a more aggressive approach. We all saw it, so let’s not make believe we didn’t.

Does that mean he is not really pulling all of the strings when the stars are all healthy? I know it does. An ex Yankee told me so.

Statistically, he has done better than many of us actually give him credit for. The only true knock on him is his post season record of 11-11.

But let’s not forget, he was robbed in 2019. We all know it. Had it been a fair fight, he may very well have been in Washington DC vs the Nationals in the World Series instead of AJ Hinch and his cheating Astros, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

I’ll say this, I am not crazy about some of his pitching moves and batting orders (many aren’t his anyway), but based on the players he is forced to play, he does a better job than he gets credit for, and for that reason, I do think he will return.

The only way he doesn’t return, is if Cashman blames him and pulls a classic CYA.

My final thought, let a new GM pick his manager, there would be a very good chance it would be Boone.

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Ethan Semendinger – Later today (at 4:00 PM), I will release my National League Manager of the Year voting for the IBWAA during which I talk about three different ways that I evaluate managers: the difference in actual vs. their Pythagorean record (also called “luck”), how effective they were with challenges, and the payroll of the team they were given. While a case can be made for and against these as my three main points to consider (Why reward a metric called “luck”?, A manager doesn’t control payroll, etc.), this is the method I use.

For Aaron Boone it’s a flip-floppy case. He wins out in “luck” with a +6 wins above the expected record. And, quite honestly, that surprised me to see considering the amount of games that many Yankees fans (and myself) believe Boone lost for the team. Regardless, that +6 luck was the 2nd best across the entire MLB in 2021. However, that is the most favorable thing to Boone.

With a 30% success rate on challenges called in 2021 (getting just 3 overturned of 10 attempts), it was a career low for Boone and a long fall from his 74.3% rate in 2018. (He also had a career high number of ejections in 2021 with 6.) Boone also controls the team with the MLB’s 2nd highest payroll with which he was able to bring back a team which was tied for 7th in wins, 19th in runs scored, and 24th in runs allowed. That’s not a good investment.

Boone has also been historically worse with his situational approach than the league average manager, with his teams being 75% as good at stealing 2nd, 83% as good at stealing 3rd, 53% with sacrifice bunts, and 61% at issuing intentional walks. His lack of experience- even four years into his role as the manager of the most important team in the MLB- continues to show.

I think Boone’s best interest should be to leave while he’s ahead: 4 winning seasons and a .601 winning percentage. I think the Yankee’s best interest is to move away from Boone and allow him to return to a much more comfortable job in the booth with a national network. It was an experiment that didn’t pan out (it happens!) and it’s time to move on…but knowing the Yankees, I believe he’s going to be back. They’ll give him another 3-year deal and allow the Yankees to showcase a product with lackluster defense, poor in-game decision making, an inability to run the bases, but will hit a lot of home runs (maybe). Ugggg.

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Tim Kabel – I do not believe that Aaron Boone should return as the manager next season. He has been there for four years and the team’s performance is worsening, not improving. There is no evidence to support the theory that things will get better. We can wish, we can hope. we can dream but, there are no facts to support it. Boone is completely out of his depth. If he were in a swimming pool, he would be wearing three floaties on each arm, a life jacket, and would have a large, brightly-colored, dragon-shaped flotation device around his waist. Still, there would need to be four lifeguards on duty. It’s time to let him go.

I actually believe that they will let him go because as much as Cashman likes Boone, he does not want to tie himself to a sinking ship. If Boone were to come back and fail again, the Steinbrenners might let both Boone and Cashman go. If Cashman brings in someone new, who doesn’t quite get it done, he will still have more time for the new manager to succeed.

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Andy Singer – I want to begin by saying that I don’t think that this season is entirely Aaron Boone’s fault. Any manager would have struggled with the fact that 2/3 or more of the lineup at any given time was significantly underperforming relative to track record and expectations. I also believe that there are things Aaron Boone does behind the scenes that are not visible to fans and observers that are real positives for a manager of a good baseball team. Boone is a baseball lifer, and someone who I think may very well have significant success as a manager or bench coach for another team. However, his time with the Yankees should be over.

I weight heavily the fact that Boone never seemed to grow over his four years in pinstripes. For all many people talk about the fact that Boone’s hands were tied by management, it was still Boone’s job to make split-second decisions on the bench regarding in-game substitutions, pitching changes, and movement. On this point, Boone showed zero growth. His coaching staff also should be questioned given the regression we saw in multiple talented players during the Boone era. For these very basic reasons, I believe Boone should be allowed to walk prior to next season, and large portions of the coaching staff should be changed as well.

What do I think will happen? I had taken the Yankees’ surprising silence on the matter to mean that Boone’s status was more tenuous than popular media covering the team assumes publicly, however recent developments have given me pause. The reports coming out this morning divulge that Hal Steinbrenner wants to keep Boone. For those of you who strongly believe that Cashman is largely to blame for the Boone era, note: the reports are specifically calling out Steinbrenner as the driving force behind possibly re-hiring Boone, with no mention of Cashman. I think these early reports are very telling with regards to where majority blame lies for the results over the last 4 seasons.

#AaronBoone #BrianCashman

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