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Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman on WFAN: ‘We’re investing in the ceiling of Aaron Boone’

 

When Aaron Boone interviewed for the Yankees’ managerial opening a few weeks ago, Brian Cashman wasn’t discouraged by the 44-year-old’s lack of professional coaching experience. After all, Cashman once walked around in Boone’s shoes, in a sense.

While the organization formally introduced Boone as skipper to the media at Yankee Stadiun on Wednesday afternoon, Cashman reflected on his interview with the late George Steinbrenner in 1998, and how The Boss hired a 31-year-old Cashman who also lacked first-hand experience in a general manager role.

“[Steinbrenner] took a chance on me,” Cashman said. “Here I am, 20 years later.” 

Now, New York will take a chance on Boone, who the franchise believes is capable of leading a young, promising roster to future championships. 

Following the press conference, Cashman hopped on the radio with WFAN’s Mike Francesa to discuss Boone’s hiring and more. Here are some of the highlights from the 30-minute interview:

Cashman believes the role of a manager has evolved

“The end-game is to win. It’s just how you put yourself in a position to do so, obviously, I think has changed. Turning the clock back, I think you’d hire a manager to just take over all the work and effort that the front office had done for 12 months and the manager then gets to drive that car without restriction or input. I think the job’s changed where I think we’ve realized that it doesn’t work that way.

“It’s a collaborative effort — to provide that manager with a lot of talent — and that’s over a course of time, and not just a year, but years. And that’s involving our player development system to put these players in a position to close the gap on everything they necessarily need to improve upon so they can reach their ceiling. And then you turn those guys over for six months to a manager and major league coaching staff to try to plug and play and allow them to reach their maximum potential when they emerge as major league candidates. The manager is an important piece, but one piece.”

What Cashman saw in Boone as a managerial candidate

“The baseball experience is extensive. He comes from that family, that heritage. He’s been exposed to the game from such a young age, so he’s got that experience, growing up in clubhouses under his dad’s watchful eye. And then obviously playing it out as a player from college to professional, and then he’s gotten a different aspect — which probably serves him well —  from being in the broadcast booth for eight years with ESPN… He’s getting both on-the-record dialogue, but off-the-record background from [managers] about their trials and tribulations. I think that was a little bit of on-job training that probably has helped a great deal.

“His ability to understand the game he already knows and loves, his communication skills seems to be off the charts. His relatability, his genuineness, his body clock — in terms of how I think he’ll handle stressers and pressure — I think resonated strongly throughout that process of our interview with him… He was checking all the boxes. All the feedback came back of, ‘Wow, this guy is a lot more impressive than we would’ve expected’ and therefore, another box got checked. And next thing you know, he started emerging as not just a legitimate candidate, but the candidate we needed to focus on.”

On butting heads with Joe Girardi on analytics

“We had disagreements at times, but I wouldn’t say Joe was close-minded on any of that stuff at all. Did we have disagreements on things at times, yes. Obviously, we went 10 years for a reason. I picked Joe, I was invested in Joe and he was invested in us. Despite having disagreements at times — which there weren’t many — we had a great working relationship and a great friendship.

I think this is a great place to work. I think we have a tremendous ownership commitment. I think this is an operation that empowers its people, so Aaron Boone is going to be empowered to do his job, just like Joe Girardi was empowered to do his job. The only thing is, just provide access to information and then you ultimately make the final call, lineups, and in-game decisions… We’re hiring someone who will be left at their own device to make decisions and we’re hiring people that we trust that will make good, sound, consistent decisions. It’s never going to go perfect. It doesn’t work that way. But obviously, we’re invested in the ceiling of Aaron Boone.”

Assembling Boone’s coaching staff will be a group effort

“It’s a collaborative effort. As I’ve worked with previous managers, they have suggestions that we’ll look and vet. The intent is to get [Aaron] who he would be comfortable with. We’ve made suggestions to him to look and vet on some internal candidates that we’ve had or have. So, it’ll take probably about two weeks, at most, maybe to work through that and get the staff assembled. But it’s going to be something that we’re all comfortable with.

“I try to hire people smarter than me, and with that being said, when you hire enough smart people, they will usually gravitate to the best decision, whatever that is… Whoever winds up on this coaching staff is going to be more likely than not a unanimous decision that everyone feels really good about. And yeah, that’s our guy.

“Aaron Boone should have who he wants sitting next to him. My comfort level with that will be a lot less than any other category. He’s going to wind up having more weight in who sits next to him. I will have less weight on that… Booney’s going to get what he wants because he deserves that. That relationship is more important on that bench-side than anybody.”

Cashman isn’t bitter about Ohtani’s reluctance to play in New York

“The Yankees have had a great home field advantage for a history. Being in this market, in this city with this fanbase, it’s served us well. 99.9 percent of the time, it sells itself. Unfortunately in this circumstance, it didn’t. Location and market size disqualified us. And listen, I’m OK with that. Our job is to put ourselves in the best position possible. I feel comfortable we did that, without the knowledge that it was all false hustle at the end of the day.

“I did tell our staff when we were going through this process that, ‘Listen if [Ohtani] doesn’t pick us, it’s not because of us’ in theory, because in terms of effort and scouting and stuff. But I was unaware that anything east of the Mississippi was getting disqualified. So that made me even more comfotable… It just turned out to be west coast and Arizona spring training only. I’m like, ‘Wow, I wish we didn’t even have to go through the process.’ But thankfully, they didn’t give us the courtesy of a Round 2 [interview] just because they didn’t want to disrespect us. I’m glad they didn’t drag us out to California and waste our time.

“I wanted access to the player. It’s not to be. I respect his decision. I think he’s going to be an impactful major leaguer. In our case, we would’ve had him in the starting rotation and then potentially in the DH spot at times when he clearly had time to recover… He’s an exciting young talent that has a chance to be a difference maker.”

The entire interview can be accessed here.

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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