You’ve probably heard the news by now, but Yankee skipper Aaron Boone didn’t win American League Manager of the Year. He lost out to the Minnesota Twins’ Rocco Baldelli. And frankly, it’s ridiculous.
Yankee fans should be furious. But this isn’t just some Yankee fan-boy opinion: Aaron Boone was better qualified for that award in just about every way. Because of that, the truth has become pretty clear. If Aaron Boone couldn’t win MOY after this past season, it doesn’t seem like any Yankee manager ever will.
Overall Record and Strength of Schedule
Let’s look at a real simple number first: overall record. Boone led his team to a second straight 100-win season. The Yankees finished 103-59, while the Twins finished two games behind them at 101-61. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s more impressive when you consider strength of schedule.
A number of different analytics websites had the Twins with the easiest or second easiest schedule in all of baseball. They played a third of their games against the absolutely terrible AL Central, where the winning percentages of the Chicago White Sox (.447), Kansas City Royals (.364), and Detroit Tigers (.292) were among the worst in baseball. While they did have to fend off the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees had both Tampa Bay and defending World Series Champion Boston in their division, along with a better second half Toronto team.
The Yankees absolutely had a tougher road to 100 wins. Run differential also broke in their favor; Boone led the team to a +204 run differential where Minnesota finished at +185.
The Injury Factor
If a naysayer wants to say that those stats have nothing to do with their managers, fine. I’d say you’re completely wrong, but I get it. A team full of superstars doesn’t need a good manager, I guess. Except that’s not the team Aaron Boone managed for the majority of the season. The Yankees sent 30 players to the injured list. THIRTY! That’s more than an entire roster. That shouldn’t be something a team recovers from.
And the guys getting injured weren’t replacement level nobodies. Luis Severino, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, and Miguel Andujar all missed the majority of the season. Other key players like CC Sabathia, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius, and Luke Voit missed significant time as well.
Half of those players going down to injuries is enough to sink most teams, but Boone kept the Yankees focused and motivated. He continued to get the most out of players nobody had even heard of before this season, and they all overperformed. A lot of that credit needs to go to the manager. These weren’t players who had seen success with other teams. Something Boone and his coaching staff did transformed them.
I think Judge might have said it best: “In your second year as a manager — anywhere — to lose 30 or 40 percent of your team through injuries at some point and still win over 100 games?” Judge said. “That’s something you don’t see every year. That’s what a manager of the year does.”
Then, of course, there are the head-to-head matchups. The Yankees haven’t had a losing record against the Twins since 2001 and this year was no different. They went 7-2 against the Twins while sweeping them again in the playoffs. To clarify, they absolutely humiliated them in the playoffs, a time when most think that managers are more relevant in games. They outscored the Twins 23-7 in their three-game sweep, outmaneuvering Baldelli every step of the way. Disregarding the Yankees’ utter playoff dominance against the Twins, how do you not factor in two managers matching up against each other?
Boone and Baldelli ended up getting the same amount of first place votes, with Baldelli getting more second place votes to put him over the top. But that shouldn’t assuage any anger here. Boone deserved MOY more than the third candidate, Kevin Cash (whom his team outplayed to a 12-7 record this year), so the fact that others didn’t vote him at least second over Cash is still infuriating.
We’ll never know which writers voted which way. Maybe a number of them think a big payroll means you never have to be a good manager. Maybe others think Boone just inherited an already good team. Or maybe some won’t ever vote for a big market manager, or more specifically, a Yankee manager. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that Aaron Boone got a significant number of nobodies to carry the Yankees for long stretches of the season, while dominating the other two eligible managers in head-to-head matchups. And he did it with a tougher schedule than the winner.
I’m not sure what more it would take for a Yankee manager to win MOY. They’ll always have a payroll on the higher end of the league, so if managing around 30 injuries and getting 100+ wins in your first two seasons isn’t impressive enough, I’m not sure anything will be.
Aaron Boone got screwed in this vote, and that should upset Yankee fans everywhere.