The Yankees’ long, drawn-out managerial search came to an end (at least publicly) Friday evening when Bill Madden reported Aaron Boone had been chosen. Boone spent one half of a season with the Yankees during his playing career in 2003, the year he was an All-Star and ALCS hero before the team fell to the Marlins in the World Series. In his 12-year career, he spent time with the Reds, the Yankees, the Indians, the Marlins, the Nationals, and the Astros, posting a career 10.00 fWAR, a .327 wOBA and a 93 wRC+. His career ended in 2009 after he underwent an open heart surgery for an existing condition, and he signed on with ESPN, where he’s been since, that offseason. The official announcement of his hiring is expected to drop sometime this week.
Though that dry rundown of his resume leaves out praise of his communication skills, which Yankees ownership often emphasizes, it doesn’t leave out any front office or coaching experience because, uh, he has none. He won the position over one other former player with no coaching experience, Carlos Beltran. The other four candidates included one former manager and three current coaches. (Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson was a candidate and used at least one too many exclamation points in telling Joel Sherman there were “no hard feelings” for me to believe him.)
Just about every corner of baseball at least displayed some evidence of incredulousness at the decision: Baseball Twitter did the tweets, columnists wrote the editorials (and so did Pinstripe Alley) and reporters asked the questions that might answer the questions.
The requirements for previous coaching and managerial experience have been trending downward since at least 2010, though. The Nationals, not exactly wonderful at handling managerial talent, hired Matt Williams with only three years of third base coach experience. Then they fired him. Dan Jennings did a Very Marlins thing by stepping from the front office to manage. Maybe that’s a product of change in what the game demands from its managers, who are now more conductors of statistical analysis from somewhere in the front office and of team messages to the media on top of the consistent need to manage talent. Williams is a perfect example of how important the latter can be.
Maybe Boone is primed to be great at that. He’s recently been described as a great teammate who could mesh into a clubhouse. But given his eight years at ESPN, it’s not egregious to think he might’ve become unaccustomed to being on the inside of a clubhouse. I won’t call him a glorified armchair GM for his work at ESPN, because a lengthy career in the big leagues and the time he spent around it as a kid with his dad in the 70s and 80s makes that unfair. But I almost did it anyway, if that tells you anything.
Maybe Yankees fans are right to screech that manager for a top-three big market team isn’t a learn-on-the-fly kind of position. Maybe Boone is right that he learned the bulk of what he needed during his life around MLB. The essence of managers is that you don’t know until you try them. The word ‘maybe’ is used here a lot because there’s no universal playbook. Sometimes you’re a Matt Williams. Sometimes you’re a 2003 Dusty Baker. Sometimes you’re a 2016 Dusty Baker. (They’re different.) All we know right now is that the Yankees have at least missed another opportunity to have back-to-back-to-back Joes manage.
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