Tuesday Discussion: Looking Back at Boone's Homer
June 20, 2023
This week we asked our writers the following very unique question...
Many speculate that had Aaron Boone not hit the 2003 homer against the Red Sox that he would never have become the Yankees' manager years later. Many also critique Boone as a poor manager who has not grown with the job and who continually makes mistakes that cost the Yankees games. It is clear that the Yankees have not reached nor won a World Series under his leadership. As such, would it have been better that Boone struck out rather than homering to win the 2003 ALCS? (The Yankees lost the 2003 World Series and the next year the Red Sox won anyway.)
Here are their responses:
Lincoln Mitchell - Wow. That is a good and tough question. I have a rule that I root against the Red Sox always. Don’t tell my friends in San Francisco, but in 2018, I rooted for the Dodgers against the Red Sox in the 2018 World Series. Given that, I am inclined to say it is better that Boone hit that home run. However, given how that World Series worked out and given what a dreadful manager Boone has been, I certainly see the other side of argument. So, with all that in mind, this is my thinking. What if Boone strikes out and then Karim Garcia, who was on deck, also struck out, but then Alfonso Soriano, who was up next, hit a two out home run to win the series. If that happens, they still win the pennant. I know that answer may seem like I am cheating, but I always liked Soriano and never liked the Red Sox.
Dale Mather - Absolutely not! Aaron Boone's home run was an amazing moment in New York Yankees history. Did it lead to another World Series? No.
That being said, I would never take a moment away. I also don't believe his home run had anything to do with the Yankees hiring him to be the manager.
Aaron Boone's family is the first family to have three generations play in Major League Baseball. In addition, they are the first and only family to have all generations to participate in the All-Star game.
The Boone family might be on their way to being the only 4 generation family in MLB history. Don't look now but, in the 38th round of the Amateur draft, the Nationals selected Jake Boone out of Torrey Pines High School in San Diego.
Jake is Bret's son, Aaron's Nephew, Bob's Grandson, and Ray's great-grandson. Simply put, Aaron Boone was hired because of the centuries of baseball knowledge his family has.
Cary Greene - I hold Hal Steinbrenner as being the most responsible for the Yankees failing to win any championships in the past 13 seasons and counting, for I believe he's provided poor overall leadership in the front office and he's allowed Brian Cashman to underachieve with what has been a fairly substantial budget. The only way Cashman could build a winner is by giving him an unlimited bank roll.
As for Aaron Boone, he's obviously not a good in game manager but I've long questioned how many decisions he actually gets to make on his own. Whatever Cashman's process is, Hal Steinbrenner should have red flagged the way Cashman is operating a long time ago, but he's just not a baseball man.
At the time Aaron Boone was hired as the manager, there were many other possible candidates and yes, the home run he hit probably did have something to do with his being hired, but I'd caution readers not to believe that's really "the" reason Boone was hired. He was a good baseball announcer, one who was always upbeat and positive in the booth and clearly, he was hired more because of the way Cashman felt Boone would handle the media and simultaneously have no problem thinking inside the analytics driven box that Cashman has used to guide the team now for all these years.
Aaron Boone is a softie and a players manager instead of being a baseball strategist. He's also not capable of getting an overpriced roster full of underperformers to perform. His teams don't hustle and they don't play with fire.
If the Yankees ever do win another championship, as I've often said, they'll have to do it in spite of Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Yankee Analytics and yes, Aaron Boone as well.
Mike Whiteman - I don't think Aaron Boone's 2003 home run was a factor in his hiring as Yankee manager. At all. That might be a George Steinbrenner move, but not a Hal Steinbrenner one. But for the sake of discussion, let's assume that the homer was part of the calculation. Of course it would not have been better had Aaron Boone struck out.
Remember the context of the 2003 LCS. The Yankees, fresh off a 101-win season taking on their longtime rivals the Red Sox for the American League pennant. Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera were going to try to tame a historically great offense, one which scored 961 runs, batted .289, and slugged .491.
This matchup lived up to the hype. It was one of the great postseason series of all time. The teams duked it out like a boxing match, going back and forth, throwing everything they had at their opponent. It was perhaps the height of the Yankee-Red Sox hatred. Who can forget the image of the Don Zimmer-Pedro Martinez encounter? Like it should have, the series boiled down to Game Seven, and what a Game Seven! Going into the bottom of the eighth, the Yanks found themselves down 5-2 with the hated Pedro Martinez on the mound. A dramatic three-run rally tied the game at five, the crucial blow the Jorge Posada double off of Pedro that we all remember. The image of Posada standing on second base, yelling and waving his fists in triumph with the old Yankee stadium rocking was one of the greatest images I can remember as a fan. A footnote to that inning was that after Posada's hit the Red Sox intentionally walked Ruben Sierra. Joe Torre then sent out Aaron Boone to pinch-run. Boone was picked up at the trade deadline in a deal with Cincinnati, wasn't in the starting lineup due to the Yanks' starting Enrique Wilson at third base, a frequent move due to the weak hitting utility player's history of improbable success against Martinez . As often happens in baseball, the footnote later had the chance to alter history, and that happened when Boone led off the eleventh by smacking the first pitch he saw for a home run. Some have downgraded this game due to the fact that the Yankees lost the World Series to the Marlins. I put this moment in a comparable light as Bobby Thomson's 1951 "Shot Heard 'Round the World" - an epic moment despite the Giants defeat in the Series at the hand of the Yankees. A walk-off home run. Against the Red Sox. Game Seven. Doesn't get much better. Certainly not in my years as a fan. I would never want this great moment, one of the greatest in franchise history, one of the greatest in baseball history, to go away.
Derek McAdam - From the way that I see it, I’m not so sure that Aaron Boone wouldn’t still be the manager of the Yankees if he didn’t hit that decisive home run in 2003.
I’m throwing into consideration the fact that he was an analyst for Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN before he accepted the job as Yankee manager prior to the 2018 season. With the league turning into a more analytical approach to managing games around this time, Boone seemed to understand different elements of the game that average people wouldn’t, which would make sense given his history around the game.
Plus, Yankee fans may remember how his stint with the team came to an end. He suffered a season-long injury prior to the 2004 season playing a pickup basketball game, and was ultimately released. It was by no means a friendly agreement for both to part ways with each other.
While I am not denying that his Game 7 ALCS home run may have played a contributing factor, I still don’t think it would’ve changed the fact that he got the Yankee job. Even if he didn’t hit it, I still think management liked his managerial approach to the game.
Paul Semendinger - I believe the home run, absolutely, played into the Yankees hiring Boone. My goodness, it's been replayed on YES, at last count 654,876,213,987,594 times. I believe the Yankees felt they were bringing back a hero of sorts.
The problems with the Boone hiring were many. I've written a ton on this over the years. He might be a great guy. He might be a great communicator. He might be...whatever, but before the Yankees hired him, he had no experience as a leader. He never coached. He never managed. He didn't serve in Little League, high school, college, or the minor leagues in any capacity as a coach or manager. He was a complete novice. I will never understand handing the greatest baseball franchise to a person who had no experience, of any kind, serving as a leader - in any capacity. It made no sense. (It still doesn't.)
Further, no other team ever interviewed him for any leadership role. If Boone was such a great strategist, and/or such a brilliant analytical mind, why didn't any other big league team, or any college, or anyone else, see this? Were the Yankees so smart that they were the only team that saw Boone's brilliance or potential or whatever?
The argument that "he comes from a baseball family" also never made sense. Why not just hire his dad - he, at least was a manager. Oh yeah, he was a manager who never finished .500. This argument also tries to cut both ways. "Boone knows the old game because of his long family ties" and "Boone is a forward thinker who is into analytics." In theory that could work, but the two arguments in another sense cancel each other out.
Boone never really established himself as a Yankee player. He played mediocre after they acquired him and then he hit a big homer. The Yankees love to celebrate the big moments from the past. (They like that more and more each year because there seem to be fewer and fewer big moments in recent years - especially under Boone's leadership.) I believe the homer played a big role in getting him in the interview. Why else would the Yankees have considered him? Again, no other team offered him so much as a minor league coaching position.
I also do not think Aaron Boone is a very good manager. It's not entirely his fault. He was put into a position for which he was (and still is) unprepared. The Yankees hired him, I suspect, because of his hero status. It didn't work. It is no surprise that he hasn't gotten the Yankees to the World Series. The Yankees bet on a long shot. It didn't work.
Had Boone hit a single or had he a struck out, or had he had any other outcome in that game, it would have served the Yankees better in the long term. They would have hired a different person to replace Joe Girardi.