By Sweeny Murti
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There are people we call baseball lifers. And then there is Aaron Boone, part of one of the most accomplished families in the sport.
From 1948 to 2009, the Boone family — Ray, Bob, Brett and Aaron — played a combined 58 seasons of Major League Baseball.
Aaron played for 12 years and was an All-Star with Cincinnati in 2003, the same year he — after a late July trade to New York — became an all-time Yankees legend with one swing, his pennant-winning home run in Game 7 of the ALCS against Boston.
“It’s in his blood,” former Reds teammate and current MLB Network analyst Sean Casey told me. “He was born to be in baseball.”
On Friday, Boone became the fourth person to officially interview for Joe Girardi’s old job. He does so with no coaching or managing experience whatsoever, having spent the last seven years as a TV and radio analyst for ESPN.
There is no getting around the experience issue in Boone’s candidacy, but his unique generational background might be enough to overcome that.
“Obviously, experience is very valuable and should be a checkmark for somebody,” Boone said. “But I would also say, in a way, I’ve been preparing for this job my entire life.”
“Aaron Boone’s name in baseball is instant credibility,” Casey said. Others note that Boone has a way with people that makes him easy to connect with.
“His way of relating to people is as good as anybody I know — not just in baseball, I mean anywhere,” said Dan Shulman, Boone’s broadcast partner at ESPN. “He puts people at ease, makes them comfortable. I think he would do a great job relating to the players.”
Shulman could tell that the last few years Boone was feeling the itch to jump from TV back into the game, and Boone interviewed for some front-office and coaching positions before deciding the timing wasn’t right and that he was still enjoying the TV side too much. But when Yankees general manager Brian Cashman called — yes, Cashman called him, not the other way around — Boone knew this might be what he had been waiting for.
“I’m here with the intention to be the next Yankees manager,” Boone said. “I’m not here for the exercise of it. So hopefully this is something that works out.”
And this is no ordinary managerial opening. These are the Yankees, and they are not rebuilding. After 91 wins and a trip to Game 7 of the ALCS, this franchise enters 2018 ready to roar again.
“Hopefully I can be a part of them now taking it to even another level,” said Boone, who will turn 45 in March.
World Series managers A.J. Hinch and Dave Roberts are being thrown out as models for today’s style of manager, and Boone has known both for a very long time. All three are just two years apart and competed against each other in college — Boone at USC, Hinch at Stanford and Roberts at UCLA.
During meetings with both men before World Series games to talk strategy, Shulman could tell that Boone was in step with them.
“He could see some similarities to himself,” Shulman told me.
“In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m looking in the mirror,” Boone said. “Those are two guys who have had pretty big influences on me.”
And even though he was a Yankee for only three months in 2003, Boone marveled at the Hall of Fame style of Joe Torre.
“To see the way he was able to be so good at managing in this market for this team and the way he was able to put the players in the best position night in and night out with all that comes with managing in New York, that’s something I thought he was brilliant at and something I have always taken with me,” Boone said.
Relating to people seems to be the easy part for Boone. It just’s his natural personality.
“The way he communicated with teammates — he would talk to everybody,” former Reds pitcher Danny Graves told me.
“He’s real easy to be around, has a warm personality, funny,” Casey said. “He’s a chameleon. He fits into any conversation in the clubhouse.”
Both Casey and Graves remember Boone doing his play-by-play routines on the bench from time to time, something CC Sabathia also remembers Boone doing during their days in Cleveland. It was light-hearted entertainment as Boone imitated famous announcers. But Graves also noticed that he was quite often predicting what was going to happen next. Even when he was goofing around, Boone seemed to be managing along with the game.
Strategizing during a game is one thing. Keeping your teammates loose is another. But maintaining respect and command is what can put you over the top. Boone believes he can be that guy.
“My job as manager would be to forge really strong relationships where these players, understand that me and my staff are going to really care about them, that they’re going to be able to trust us, and that at the end of the day, we are going to do things that are best for the Yankees,” Boone stated. “Those are the three things that I really want to get across to my players. We have a chance at really impacting and getting the most out of each and every guy if those three things are prevalent in our relationship within the clubhouse.”
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