By Jason Keidel
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First, there’s nothing about Aaron Boone that seems disagreeable or lacking in any baseball sense. The instant he stood at the dais and fielded questions, you liked him.
Some of us just aren’t sure how we got here.
As Boomer Esiason said Thursday morning on WFAN, did the prior manager, Joe Girardi, not get the most out of these young men? Did he not care or sweat or bleed? Did he not cry at a playoff presser?
But Girardi is gone, and the Yankees have turned the professional page on their man since 2008. In comes Boone, who may have only played a few months in the Bronx but in 2003 gave us the single most iconic swing since Reggie Jackson.
You can see why the Yankees like Boone, even if he has no managerial or even coaching experience. He’s smart, savvy and tough. He comes from a sprawling baseball family that goes back three generations. Do the Yankees also like Boone because they know they can control him? In a way they couldn’t control Girardi? We can’t know that now. But when you compare the stone-hewn Girardi to the kinder, gentler Boone, you have to think that was part of the managerial algorithm.
Indeed, the binary theme of friendships and stats ruled his formal Wednesday afternoon introduction. Like it or not, that’s the way of the sports world, at least until someone summons something more productive.
Maybe the Yankees are smarter than the rest of us. Maybe it’s all about coddling young egos, playing a paternal role, more than that of the boss. It’s about relationships, mentorships and, of course, analytics. Boone recycled the sentiment for the entire hour. The players will know he has their back and best interests at heart. And hopefully, he said, he will know what he’s doing. It’s also useful to recall that Boone didn’t invent the notion of massaging emotions, as the Yankees already had the master ego juggler for a dozen years — Joe Torre.
Boone was also charmingly nervous. He’s not a native New Yorker and conceded that he was at his son’s football game when general manager Brian Cashman called to ask if he wanted to interview for the job. Boone routinely forgot questions and gave wordy answers when just a few words were needed. You only get introduced as manager of the New York Yankees once in your life — at least now that George Steinbrenner is gone — so you’d be surprised if Boone weren’t a little anxious, fumbling over his tongue on occasion.
The Yankees have rolled over the roster and have done an entire makeover from the dynasty days under Torre and whatever remnants were left under Girardi. The Bronx Bombers are a bunch of Millennials now and bring with them the new-wave dynamic of interpersonal relationships that seem to be all the rage now. One of the things we adore about baseball is it hasn’t changed much in 50 years. So if we need to rearrange our old-world sensibilities and must now bow to the age of super sensitivity to get results, so be it.
All in all, Boone looked the part and sounded the part. As everyone noted, from the YES Network folks to the gaggle of reporters in the room, the Yankees are locked and loaded. They came within nine innings of the World Series in 2017, and now fans will expect them to push that baseball bolder up one more rung in 2018.
When Mike Tomlin muses over the glorious history of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the stratospheric expectations that come with it, he says, “The standard is the standard.” Well, the New York Yankees invented the standard. And they just hired someone who knows all about it. Time will tell us if knowledge, more than experience, is enough.
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