Yankees hire Aaron Boone as manager after firing Joe Girardi
Following a lengthy recruitment process, the New York Yankees have hired Aaron Boone as the 35th manager in team history. An immortal postseason hero in pinstripes, Boone played briefly for the Yankees in a 12-year major league career. Subsequently a broadcaster with ESPN, he now replaces Joe Girardi in the Yankee Stadium dugout, tasked with leading a Bronx renaissance.
The son of Bob Boone, one-time manager of the Royals and Reds, Aaron does not have any experience on a big league coaching staff. That the Yankees are committed to taking a chance on such an unproven commodity speaks to the prevailing trends of modern management. Boone is a smooth operator with natural panache in front of the camera. He is the ideal figurehead for a changing Yankees landscape.
“Words cannot express how humbled I am to wear the pinstripes again as the manager of the Yankees,” Boone said in a press release. “I want to thank the Steinbrenner family and Brian Cashman for entrusting me with this tremendous honour and responsibility. I believe we are entering into a special time in New York Yankees history, and I am so excited to be a part of it. I can’t wait to get to work – and that work starts now.”
Why the Yankees fired Joe Girardi
Girardi was fired in late-October, less than a week after his team lost to the Houston Astros in a seven-game American League Championship Series (ALCS). Once a breath of fresh air in the corridors of Yankee power, Girardi soured into a stern, grumpy general across a decade at the helm. He led the Yankees to a surprise postseason quest on an expiring contract that was not renewed, but new leadership was required to help the team grow.
Ordained by Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees are operating in a new philosophical environment, with refined payroll commitments and a long-term focus on sustainable contention. Brian Cashman must construct his roster within a pressured ceiling, unable to break through the luxury tax threshold so as not to incur associated fiscal penalties. A unique rebuilding process bloomed to fruition last year, but many believe the Yankees’ window is just about to open.
The team has invested heavily in sports science, player development, advanced analytics and psychosocial advancement. Cashman has focused on developing a new breed of Yankee, formulated in franchise performance labs in Tampa. Young stars like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino are the first graduates of a recalibrated ethos, and more are scheduled to arrive soon.
In bygone days, Cashman fought with George Steinbrenner for autonomy and the right to implement his vision. The general manager emerged stronger from many civil wars, consolidating power and forcing through his reformist agenda. Increasingly, there was just one seat of resistance to his new-age transformation, and that seat belonged to his manager.
Girardi succeeded Joe Torre as Yankee manager, an unenviable task that began way back in the old Yankee Stadium. In many respects, Girardi has been a transformational placeholder, navigating the Yankees through changes in ballpark and culture. Girardi was lumbered with managing excessive retirement tours for Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. He became something of a lame duck, never likely to reap the reward of an eventual Yankee uber team.
Despite winning a World Series title in 2009 and steering the Yankees to six postseason berths in ten years, Girardi was never engaged in extension talks by Cashman or Steinbrenner. They were set on a fresh direction, and Girardi departed with the sixth-most wins of any manager in Yankees history.
Why Aaron Boone is the ideal manager for Brian Cashman
Some critics say Cashman wanted a puppet to replace Girardi, a stooge to dress in uniform and pull levers as instructed by Yankee analytics. Thinking of it, most front offices nowadays would likely do away with the post of field manager if a referendum were arranged. In this regard, Cashman did not want a puppet, but he did want a cooperative conduit between a fluid baseball operations philosophy and the players tasked with implementing it.
Cashman wanted a communicator far removed from Girardi’s spikey prototype. He wanted somebody to bring energy, enthusiasm and cutting-edge charisma to the dugout and those who inhabit it from April until October. He wanted somebody who appreciates statistics and somebody who understands positive psychosocial optics. The field was potentially large but ultimately small. Aaron Boone blew everybody away.
A light-hitting infielder who played just 54 games for the Yankees, Boone carved a special place in franchise lore with a towering home run that broke Red Sox hearts. In Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Boone launched a pinch-hit, extra-inning, walk-off bomb to capture the 39th pennant in Yankees history.
Old Yankee Stadium quaked like never before in the aftermath of his blow, but Boone injured his knee playing pickup basketball over the winter, and the Yankees acquired Alex Rodriguez to replace him. Many thought that was the conclusive extent of Aaron’s Yankee legacy, only for him to emerge as an unlikely candidate for manager.
San Francisco Giants coach Hensley Meulens was a finalist for the job, his ability to speak five different languages becoming a major factor in Cashman’s thinking. Carlos Beltran also interviewed for the position, as did former Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson, current Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward and veteran American League skipper Eric Wedge.
Ultimately, Boone ticked every box, while his existing pedigree within the Yankees extended family was a pleasing coincidence. Boone signed a three-year contract with a team option for 2021, accepting one of the most pressure-filled jobs in professional sports. He is now tasked with ushering in the next era of Yankee greatness.
Some fans are scratching their heads at a shock hire, but those fans are apparently unfamiliar with modern Major League Baseball and the Yankees’ attempts to dominate a capricious industry. Gone are the days of big names and bigger egos occupying big league dugouts. We live in the era of cyborg baseball, and Aaron Boone may yet be the greatest manifestation of that trend.
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Ryan Ferguson is the author of Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart, available now in paperback and Kindle formats through Amazon. Click the link below to get your copy now!