It goes without saying and explanation that Aaron Boone is not among the great graces of Yankees fans. Whether the animosity towards the Yankee skipper is justified or not is besides the point, as this is not an uncommon theme in baseball, or in any sport, for that matter. Fans are not tasked with being rational in their methods or intentions, hence being fanatical. Fans are emotional, passionate, and do not always possess the same sensibility as others may desire of them, or claim of themselves.
Nonetheless, it should be asked of fans to remain honest in their intentions and thus, assign proper credit where it is due.
Boone’s critics last year sang from the tallest mountains their quarrels with his bullpen management, lineup configuration, general team-building, and the language and style of his media addresses. Further than that, the frivolous notion that “anyone could have won 100 games with all that talent!” reared its head all too many times in 2018.
My goal is not to absolve Boone of his rookie shortcomings, by any means. However, that’s the past. It does us as individual fans and the fanbase at large very little if we continue to harp on the inconsequential events of the previous season and use them to detract from the manager’s work in 2019.
Which leads me to the widely inconvenient truth that Aaron Boone’s performance in the first 22 games of this season has been nothing short of incredible.
“But, the bullpen!” “He can’t make a lineup!” “He takes pitchers out too early/late!”
With a small step back from one’s daily dosage of outrage and a brief employment of objectivity, we can see that these strifes are simply devoid of reality, grossly overstated, or just insignificant. Aaron Boone has what could be designated as the toughest job in sports. Managing the New York Yankees is no easy feat for any man, nevermind one in the age of social media, in the midst of a World Series drought, and when expectations are as high as ever. Besides these hurdles, the second-year manager finds the odds stacked against him beyond what anyone could have predicted.
Obviously, in-game managing is an integral part to managerial duty, hence the name. Yet, what many decide to ignore or fail to understand is that the manager’s job does not stop once the 27th out is recorded and the post-game pressers come to a close. He has the responsibility each and everyday of cultivating and maintaining a culture in that clubhouse which keeps every man on the 25-man roster hungry to succeed to the highest degree, despite extenuating circumstances. If circumstances have ever been so fittingly described as extenuating, it is right now. With 13 players, of whom NINE are starters, it is incredibly easy to imagine a clubhouse crumbling. The manager’s role in controlling what would normally be a chaotic spiral is indispensable.
Leader of Men
In a clubhouse which finds itself lined with injuries and early-season struggles, the Yankee culture of winning can find itself called into question. The nature of 25 men striving for success, faced with what seems like an institutionalized bad luck is a very fallible one. Here, the manager must step in to ensure that the goals stay the same as they were from Opening Day at full health. To walk into the depleted clubhouse before and after every game and remind these guys that their job does not change under any circumstance, no matter which nine players take the field each night. It’s easy to feel discouraged and disengaged as a player under these elements, and those sentiments do not exempt themselves from the manager’s office. Boone’s job of keeping a lackluster squad relevant, optimistic, and even surprisingly productive has been spectacular in the early going.
Does anyone reading this understand the difficulty of creating a lineup of nine players each night, when only three of them were on the field on Opening Day? Each night, with tonight no exception, Aaron Boone will choose nine from 12 position players to take the field and play to win, as the Yankees always have. The thing is, on Opening Day of 2018, only two of these players were starters on a Major League Baseball team. Just two. And one of those starters came to lose his starting job just a few months later. Not only this, but after creating this lineup which he thinks is best fit to win, he must sell it to the fans as the best that the team has to offer on that given night. From here, you can tell that his in-game managing of this AAAA team has yielded the Yankees the league’s longest active win streak, an above-.500 record, and a juxtaposition to take control of first place in the ever-competitive American League East.
The roller coaster of emotion and expectations in this short season has brought us from on top of the world, with a powerhouse lineup and fortified rotation and bullpen, to a tune of diminished hope following some damning injuries, to a revitalized faith in the “next men up,” whom many doubted in the past. While we understand that players play and coaches coach, I think it’s fair to say that Aaron Boone has kept this team right where they need to be under some of the most ridiculous circumstances that we have seen in years.