I have a policy of not sharing baseball drivel I see online, so there’s no need to get into the source of today’s topic. I’ll say that a writer of a prominent publication queried the other day whether or not the Yankees were better off now than they were four years ago. This, in reference to whether or not the Yankees should continue on with Aaron Boone as their manager.
Let’s start with the obvious: The implication that the determining factor in whether or not to retain Boone is whether or not he’s a better manager than Joe Girardi is nonsense.
The 2017 Yankees posted a run differential that suggested a Pythagorean record of 100-62 – the team on the field finished 91-71, and lost the division by only two games. This was in no small part due to the fact, despite being a very good team with a lockdown bullpen, they went 18-26 in one run games. A big factor in that was their manager’s propensity for using Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances in blowouts and using his 11th and 12th best pitchers late in tie games.
None of the above is 20/20 hindsight or hyperbole. I wrote about it at the time and Baseball Reference can verify those statements.
This past season, the Yankees posted a Pythagorean W/L of 86-76 and the team went 92-70 and reached the postseason playing in a tough division. Back in Boone’s first season, he took over Girardi’s 91 win team and won 100 in spite of the team’s best player missing a third of the season. The team won 103 the season after that.
Aaron Boone is a better manager than Joe Girardi. This is not open for debate.
That said, the question of are they better off than four years ago is an irrelevant, and frankly stupid, question. The question at hand needs to be “Is Aaron Boone good enough?”
I fall somewhere in the middle of this debate. Despite the success noted above, and despite being dealt a not great hand this season, Boone certainly has his warts. His proclivity to manage with a lack of urgency was beyond frustrating down the stretch this season. Giving key players “a day” because you’re concerned about “load management” in September is nonsense. The bullpen management in the season’s final series against Tampa Bay showed Girardi-esque levels of apathy. Additionally, no one expects managers to be the grumpy curmudgeon that Jim Leyland* was in today’s game, but the hoops Boone went through to defend players whose play was indefensible (or “undefensible” as John Smoltz says) was mind numbing.
So if you want to tell me Boone isn’t “good enough” ongoing, I won’t fight you. I’ll also tell you who’ll be a better manager than Aaron Boone: Carlos Beltrán.
I wanted Beltrán back in 2018 when Boone was hired, and admittedly we dodged a bullet considering what came next. But it’s not 2018 anymore and clearly nobody cares about what happened in Houston four years ago (thanks Rob Manfred!)
Beltrán was one of the smartest players to ever step on a diamond. Among MLB players with a minimum of 350 attempts, Beltrán has the highest SB success rate in MLB history. (I’ll give you a second to re-read that.) Prime Beltrán ran well but he wasn’t a track star – he was that good because of an insane ability to read pitchers, catchers, defenses and the game situation.
Beltrán is one of the best postseason players in history and has played for both New York teams so he’s not going to scared of the bright lights. He’s played recently enough that he can communicate with today’s players and he’s bilingual, which is also a huge factor.
There isn’t a box Beltrán doesn’t check off. Make it happen Brian Cashman (speaking of good but not good enough…)
*Re. Leyland: If you think what this game needs is more cranky old men managers putting today’s prima donnas in their places, consider this: Leyland made a spectacle of getting in Barry Bonds’ face in order to straighten Bonds out. Bonds skipped town as soon as he could, and Pittsburgh didn’t make the postseason for another 20 years.
Leyland’s record in his last five seasons with Bonds: 448-360 (90 wins per season).
Leyland’s career record without Bonds: 1,321 – 1,368 (79 wins per season).
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