On Baseball: From Microphone to Manager: Aaron Boone Makes It Official

On Baseball: From Microphone to Manager: Aaron Boone Makes It Official

On Baseball
By TYLER KEPNER

Before every game of the World Series, the participating managers set aside time in their office for private conversations with broadcasters. These are not televised news conferences but informal sessions, sometimes just for background, that help shape the national television and radio broadcasts.

Joe Girardi fell one game short of guiding the Yankees to the World Series last fall, but his successor, Aaron Boone, made it there with ESPN. And when Boone spoke before games with A.J. Hinch of the Houston Astros and Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he felt a strong connection.

Hinch played at Stanford, Boone at Southern California, Roberts at U.C.L.A. Hinch is 43, Boone 44, Roberts 45. Boone was nearing the end of his eighth season as an analyst, but in speaking to the World Series managers, he said, “I felt, in a lot of ways, like I was looking in a mirror.”

In his talks with Boone, Hinch said by phone on Wednesday, he could tell that Boone’s appetite for returning to the field had grown. He sensed that Boone wished Hinch had considered him for the bench-coach job he had given to Alex Cora before last season. That job helped propel Cora to become the manager of the Boston Red Sox.

So when Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman called Boone last month after deciding to replace Girardi after 10 seasons, Boone was ready. He aced his first managing interview and was introduced to the news media on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

“It’s not a short-term decision, it’s a long-term effort,” Cashman said. “We’re betting on the ceiling of Aaron Boone and what he brings.”

Boone brings some of the résumé bullet points that seem to now be essential for the job. He is the 12th current manager to meet all of these criteria: no previous major league managing experience; between 40 and 53 years old; and at least some college education.

“He’s going to be very relatable to players, very relatable to the front office, very relatable to the media, and that’s going to give him a very good, well-rounded appeal to get his messages across and get his vision put in place,” Hinch said. “He’s going to be able to implement whatever model program he wants.

“I hope somebody could describe me that way. I would describe Dave Roberts that way; I think Craig Counsell is that way. I think some of the younger managers in our 40s all have a little bit of relatability to people around us.”

Counsell, 47, has steadily improved the Milwaukee Brewers since becoming their manager in 2015. Others in the category include Torey Lovullo, 52, who steered the Arizona Diamondbacks to an unlikely playoff berth in his debut last season; and Mickey Callaway, 42, whom the Mets hired in October after his impressive run as the Cleveland Indians’ pitching coach.

Hinch does not quite qualify for that list because the Houston job is not his first. He managed the Diamondbacks for parts of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, losing much more than he won. Hinch came to that job from Arizona’s front office and faced a learning curve Boone now confronts.

“The game was the least of my concerns,” Hinch said. “I think it’s just the volume of people that you’re responsible for: it’s ownership, it’s media, it’s the front office, it’s players, it’s agents. The enormity of the job is what shocks you.

“The actual baseball strategy part, you don’t get the job without having already done that in some capacity, whether it’s as a backup catcher or an All-Star. You’re going to have that feel, being a baseball person. It’s the other aspects of the job that are hard.”

As the son and grandson of All-Star players, Boone was born a baseball person. His familiarity with New York, as a player in 2003 and as a frequent press-box visitor with ESPN, will help. He guessed that his biggest adjustment would be finding his most efficient routine on game days; strategy will probably be elementary, especially if the Yankees, as expected, hire a veteran bench coach.

Boone’s ability to forge strong clubhouse relationships will be pivotal; Girardi’s lack of connection with some players was a source of concern to Cashman. Mark Teixeira, the former Yankees star who worked with Boone at ESPN, said Boone gained more important experience in the broadcast booth than he would have in the minors.

“As a minor league manager, you’re dealing with kids that are not in the big leagues; you’re dealing with a whole different set of circumstances,” Teixeira said. “Being a Double A manager, to me, has no bearing on being a big-league manager. Being a big-league bench coach, you’re giving your opinion to the manager — and that’s kind of what he did in the booth, if you think about it.”

Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ managing general partner, said he knew of Boone from those telecasts and from his pennant-clinching homer for the Yankees in 2003. Other than that, he said, he was not overly familiar with his career.

“But he was here, and to me, that was significant, that he understood the market, understood my family and understood expectations here,” Steinbrenner said. “I was all for it.”

Steinbrenner did not take part in the interview process, trusting Cashman and his lieutenants. But he said he was impressed by Boone’s calmness, patience and openness to ideas.

“It’s not just the general knowledge of the game,” Steinbrenner said. “He really excelled at the analytical part of the interviews.”

One of Boone’s most critical tasks will be communicating those analytics to the players, and determining how each responds to information. Some players will crave it, Boone said, but for others it will be clutter. Boone is now the conduit from the front office to the clubhouse, charged with interpreting and relaying metrics that were unavailable when he played, from 1997 through 2009.

“I don’t think I know everything,” Boone said. “As I’ve done the job that I’ve had for the last years, as I’ve dove into these numbers and dove into the information that’s been new to us, more often than not, when I flush things out, I find there’s pretty tremendous value in these things.”

For all of the numbers, though, Boone said that what most excites him is the players he now can influence. He said he planned to meet in person with catcher Gary Sanchez, whose defensive lapses frustrated Girardi. He has spoken to some players already and texted with others.

Boone said he burns to win a championship and welcomes high expectations. But he would not define success in those terms. He wants to immerse himself in the process of winning, and said he knows how it starts.

“I’m going to really care about these guys,” Boone said. His hope, he added, was that ““I’m going to love these guys and they’re going to love me back.”

Published at Thu, 07 Dec 2017 01:55:25 +0000

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