Today, I will show you why it’s time for the Yankees to move on from their manager. Yes, I know the Yankees just swept Baltimore and are close to locking up one of the top 8 spots in the American League (ESPN gives the Yankees a 99.6% chance of clinching a spot.) But is this all we ask of the Yankees? Finishing in the top 8 of the American League? Holding back the scary Baltimore Orioles and the Seattle Mariners, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, for the final Wild Card spot? With Aaron Boone’s contract expiring at the end of the season (Yankees do have a relatively cheap option for 2021) it is time to start the search for the right voice to lead the team.
2017 to 2019
In 2017, Joe Girardi led the Yankees to within one game of the World Series. Looking back at that roster it is amazing Girardi didn’t win manager of the year. To start, that team had only four players hit over 20 home runs. They were; Aaron Judge with 52, Gary Sanchez with 33, Didi with 25 and Brett Gardner with 21. Meanwhile, the Yankees relied on Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Holliday, Chase Headley, Greg Bird and Starlin Castro to be everyday players and added Todd Frazier in a deadline deal. Severino was a stud that year in the rotation while the bullpen was led by Chapman, Betances, Chad Green and….Chasen Shreve. With this roster Joe Girardi got the team within one game of the World Series. In the two plus seasons since the Yankees haven’t gotten any closer despite a much better roster.
The 2018 and 19 Yankees saw Boone lead the team to two consecutive seasons of over 100 wins. Helping them get there were the additions of former MVP Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Andrew McCutchen, Luke Voit, Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino and DJ LeMahieu. If in 2017, Girardi could get that roster to within one game of an ALCS against a sign-stealing Houston Astros, then Aaron Boone should have at least made one World Series appearance in his two years.
But with two seasons of over 100 wins and the addition of Gerrit Cole, the Yankees finally looked like they had all the pieces to finally push for a World Series.
Well, what could go wrong this season has gone wrong for the Yankees. Just like in 2019, the team just seems unable to stay healthy and has seen key players including Judge, Stanton, Torres and Severino miss most, if not all, the season with plenty of others having trips to the Injured List. While I’m not putting all the blame for these injuries on Boone, it is weird that so many have happened since he became manager.
One of the problems with Girardi’s Yankees were how strict and controlling he was. He had banned junk food and would have the players spend hours stretching and training. Sure the players may have been a little more grumpy but at least they were on the field — playing when it mattered and battling to represent the American League in the World Series. Boone was praised for his more analytical approach and his ability to relate to the players. Yes, it is nice that he is good friends with most of the team, but does it matter if most of the team is hurt?
Regression of Key Players
The biggest issue outside of injuries for the Yankees are the regression of key players. Gary Sanchez is a shell of what he was in 2017. This was a 24 year old who mashed 33 home runs while at times bristling under the strict Girardi. He hit .278 his last year with Girardi, while under Boone he is hitting an embarrassing .200. Sanchez isn’t the only player to see his production move in the wrong direction. When healthy, Stanton isn’t quite what he used to be. Gerrit Cole has been lights out for most of the season, but still isn’t replicating his Houston numbers. Ottavino is much worse this year than last.
Trouble with the Team
Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a few moments that have caught my eye that maybe the players aren’t quite as happy with Boone as we previously thought. First there were Aaron Judge’s comments after he first came back from his hamstring injury.
Aaron Judge: "I feel 100%, that’s why I was trying to beg them to give me a couple of days.”
Now it turned out that Judge’s injury probably did require a stint on the IL as he did got back to the IL after just one game. But Judge was apparently not happy that he wasn’t simply listed as “day-to-day.” Could you imagine actively disagreeing with your boss at work? Judge has always seemed like a true professional so these comments, to me, were very interesting. Instead of addressing it behind closed doors he basically told the media that he disagreed with Boone’s decision.
Next we have Gerrit Cole fuming that he was removed from a game before he felt he was ready to leave.
At the time we just chalked this up to the competitive nature of Cole. He is the work horse ace who shows his passion on the sleeve. But again it’s not a great look for a manager when your starter is angry at you for removing him from a game.
But now, Jordan Montgomery is showing attitude for being removed during a great start? JA Happ actively calling out the Yankees for limiting his starts? Each on their own don’t seem bad but when you start putting them together it paints a picture of frustrated players.
It seems like every time the Yankees release their daily lineup, Yankees fans are left with more questions than answers. Yesterday Boone made the curious decision to keep Gleyber Torres out of the lineup even though the team is off Monday. Torres had been killing during his return from the IL and has always destroyed Baltimore. Meanwhile Gardner somehow bounces between batting third and eighth? At some point, players need consistency and frequent at-bats to find their groove.
Back in the 2000 NHL Season, the New Jersey Devils were led by coach Robbie Ftorek. The team was well-built and quickly raced out to a well-seeded playoff position. However, the team became stagnant down the stretch and with nine games to go, the Devils made the decision to fire their coach, despite still being on track for a playoff appearance. The team took ownership’s hint and dramatically responded by winning the Lord Stanley’s Cup. In professional sports, there are times that a shakeup is needed to send a message that a team is not performing up to ownership’s standards. Unfortunately for coaches, you can’t fire all your players. If the Yankees think they are close and a shakeup could motivate the team, would you want the Yankees to make that change?
Who Could Be Next?
While a change is unlikely to happen during the year, it is not impossible to see the Yankees decide not to renew Boone’s contract. In business, it is important to not compound mistakes by doubling down on a bad investment. If the Yankees feel that Boone has maxed out his value, here are some names to watch as potential replacements.
The YES broadcaster would be a fan favorite that brings an analytical mindset to the game while still maintaining a more old-school approach for player relations. Just this past weekend, he made a few comments in the booth that led fans to think he would manage in a way more similar to Joe Torre than Aaron Boone.
To paraphrase John Mulaney, Buck Showalter seems like the guy who would give you orange juice after you brush your teeth and simply say “that’s life.” Buck would bring a much more disciplined approach with a fiery passion that hasn’t been seen since, well Buck.
Erik Kratz or Raul Ibanez
Kratz seems like a future coach who is well respected in the Yankees dugout. Meanwhile, Ibanez currently serves as an advisor for the Dodgers and is still well respected in the game.
To me, Posada always seemed like a manager. Torre would frequently let him manage game 162 during his playing career and catchers frequently serve as team leaders. Currently he is an advisor to Jeter in Miami but paired with a strong bench coach he would bring a new energy to a lethargic team.
Alex Cora or AJ Hinch
To be honest this might be worth it just to see the reactions of Boston and Houston. While it would be funny I can’t see it happening.
Again very small chance that this would happen but a little more realistic than the other two. Beltran was loved by Yankees ownership and they may be willing to forgive his Houston past. His ability to relate to Hispanic baseball players was always an advantage and it would drive Mets fans insane.
In 2021, the New York Yankees will be led by Aaron Boone. With Covid-19 impacting this season, I just don’t see the Yankees willing to make any major moves at the managerial position. With that said, Boone is certainly on the hot seat. He will get a chance to redeem himself in October as the Yankees will be playing playoff baseball. But with Tampa on the rise and an improved team up in Toronto…or Buffalo…the division will be much harder moving forward. If the Yankees don’t start turning things around or if Boone can’t control the personalities of his players, 2021 will be his last season in charge.