Yankees select Aaron “Bleeping” Boone as new manager
It took the New York Yankees front office about five weeks to select its replacement for manager Joe Girardi who was let go shortly after the Yankees came within one game of getting back to the World Series. But on Saturday, Aaron Boone was finally named the 35th manager in franchise history.
Yes, this is the same Aaron Boone who hit the dramatic walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series to defeat the Boston Red Sox for the pennant. Many Red Sox fans consider this game one of the worst losses in Red Sox history. It was then that Boone acquired an expletive-based middle name (for which “Bleeping” is a printable substitute).
As endearing as Boone is to the Yankees fans for his historic home run, he was one of the most unlikely and unconventional of the six candidates Yankee GM Brian Cashman interviewed. A 12-year veteran of the major-leagues who retired in 2009, Boone hasn’t set foot on the field as a coach or manager or been employed in the front office of a major-league or minor-league organization since then. He was hired by ESPN in early 2010 as an analyst, and he’s been prominent in broadcast booths for nationally televised games since then.
So, what makes Boone qualified for this job which many consider the least secure in baseball? The job is thought to be one of the toughest because of the historically high expectations set by the team’s ownership and front office, the city’s fans, and local sportswriters. After all, released manager Girardi never had a losing season in his ten-year stint with the Yankees. His teams went to the playoffs in six of those seasons, including winning the franchise’s 27th World Series championship in 2009. There are probably 25 out of the 30 major-league clubs who would have given up all their amateur draft picks for a year to have had that kind of results.
In addition to his own career as a player, Boone has a strong family heritage in baseball. His father, Bob Boone, was a major-league catcher for 19 seasons (1972-1990) that included four years as an all-star and five as a Gold Glove Award winner. Bob was also a big-league manager for six seasons with the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds and currently works in the front office for the Washington Nationals. Aaron was a clubhouse “rat” from a very early age. He and his brother Bret would often be found in the clubhouse of his father’s teams, running around with other children of his father’s teammates.
Furthermore, Aaron’s grandfather, Ray Boone, was a major-league infielder from 1948 to 1960, including two years as an all-star. Bret was a three-time all-star during his major-league career from 1992 to 2005. Brother Matt Boone played seven minor-league seasons in the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds organizations. The Boone family is one of only four instances of three-generation families in Major League Baseball history.
Calling games from the broadcast booth is not exactly comparable to coaching or managing on the field, but in his current job Boone has certainly been in tune with recent baseball trends and strategies that have become mainstream in the game today. His job as an analyst has kept him in touch with the strengths and weaknesses of major-league teams and players, as well as the new-style baseball analytics used by front offices to influence team and individual performance.
The critical experience Boone doesn’t directly have is the relationship aspect of managing—being a “player’s manager” that often involves stroking the egos of 25 players in the clubhouse; keeping them loose during the bad spells but also holding them accountable; and covering their backs after the tough losses. Furthermore, there are also the relationships with the media, particularly when the team is going through losing spells. Sportswriters can put as much pressure on a manager as the competition in his division.
However, Boone won’t be the first major-league manager with little or no prior managerial or coaching experience. In fact, it seems to be a growing trend of big-league clubs to hire former players without that experience, although in a few cases they have front-office experience instead. Examples include Mike Matheny (St. Louis Cardinals), Walt Weiss (Colorado Rockies), Robin Ventura (Chicago White Sox), Brad Ausmus (Detroit Tigers). Craig Counsell (Milwaukee Brewers), Scott Servais (Seattle Mariners), and Gabe Kapler (recently hired by the Philadelphia Phillies) who secured their managerial jobs in 2012 or later. That approach hasn’t always been successful though, as Weiss, Ventura, and Ausmus had losing records and have already been replaced.
In addition to Boone, Cashman also brought in more traditional candidates during the interview process. They included an in-house aspirant, Rob Thomson, who was a coach with the Yankees during Girardi’s tenure; Hensley Meulens, current coach with the San Francisco Giants who won three World Series during his tenure; Eric Wedge, former manager of the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners; and Chris Woodward, current third base coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Recently retired Carlos Beltran, a former Yankees player from 2014 to 2016 who was popular with his teammates, was also interviewed.
Perhaps the safer bet for a new manager would have been Thomson or Muelens. But in the end, it was probably Boone’s potential to bring a fresh approach to the manager’s role that won him the job.
Boone will have the advantage of a Yankees team that doesn’t require a lot of change in its roster to be competitive again in 2018. In fact, they have positioned themselves to be relevant for the next few years, since they had already turned over their aging roster and their farm system is stocked with top prospects waiting in the wings to fill new vacancies. However, Boone has the tall task of competing in the ever-tough American League East Division.
Boone’s career with the Yankees was very brief, as he appeared in only 54 regular season games with the Yankees in 2003. He managed to get only nine hits in 17 post-season games that year.
But he became a lasting Yankee hero when one of those nine hits propelled the Yankees past the Red Sox for the American League pennant. Boone inherited his expletive-based middle name from another former Yankee player, Bucky “Bleeping” Dent, who similarly hit a dramatic home run against the Red Sox in the 7th inning of a 1978 regular-season tie-breaker game to give the Yankees a lead.
It will be interesting to see whether Boone’s “Bleeping” middle name will continue to be used by Yankee followers as a term of endearment or in a disparaging way like Red Sox fans, after his first year as the skipper of the Yankees.
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New Orleans baseball historian
Richard Cuicchi, Founder of the Metro New Orleans Area Baseball Player Database and a New Orleans area baseball historian, maintains TheTenthInning.com website. He also authored the book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives. He has contributed to numerous SABR-sponsored Bio Project and Games Project books.