Curry: After impressing Yankees brass, Aaron Boone is ready to 'get to work'
Boone emerged as 'overwhelming' favorite for manager among club's front office
Seven hours. That's how long it took Aaron Boone to transform himself from an afterthought candidate as the next manager of the Yankees to a very intriguing candidate and, it now seems, the front runner. In seven hours, Boone met with a plethora of team executives and dazzled them with his baseball acumen, his communication skills and his desire to return to the dugout.
"I came out here," said Boone, "to get the job."
And Boone got the job. The former player who has no experience as a Major League manager or coach made that factor an irrelevant point because of the way he connected with Yankee officials across those fateful seven hours. Boone was prepared, hungry and energetic, an easy-going television announcer who felt a "tug" to get back on the field and who chased down what he called "the chance of a lifetime."
In a press conference at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, Boone displayed some of the same personality traits that had so impressed the Yankees during the interview process. Boone was smart, he was engaging, he was honest, he was competitive and he was focused, chiefly focused on developing strong relationships with the players. Not surprisingly, he called those relationships the "most important" aspect of his new job.
If Boone is honest and forthcoming, he thinks he can forge trustworthy relationships with the players, relationships that can remain sturdy even when he needs to deliver negative or stern news. Boone, who has already communicated with several players, stressed how he must earn the trust of the players. But added that he feels he can do that quickly.
"Big league players are great at understanding who is for real or not," Boone said. "And I'd like to think they'll know that in very short order."
After the Yankees decided not to retain Joe Girardi as manager, it soon became obvious that they were looking for someone who was more of a communicator and someone who could connect better with the younger Yankees. Signing Girardi to another contract would have been the easier and safer decision for the Yankees because he had managed them to within one win of the World Series.
But, as general manager Brian Cashman peeked ahead to the future and thought about a roster that includes Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and will eventually include the next wave of young talent, he determined that the Yankees needed a fresh voice. They needed a manager who could collaborate with the organization while shepherding an extremely talented team, and they are confident that the 44-year old Boone is that man.
Both Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner, the managing general partner, said Boone was the unanimous selection among Yankee executives. In describing how Boone was the preference, Steinbrenner even said the decision, "was overwhelmingly so."
Boone has never managed a Major League game so he has never had to make dozens of in-game decisions, meaning his lack of experience will be a recurring theme this season. However, I thought Boone gave a great answer when he was asked about being a managerial neophyte. Because Boone's grandfather, father and brother all played in the Majors, Boone said he feels as if he has been managing games since he was three or four years old.
When Cashman introduced Boone, he mentioned how proud he was to have worked with Girardi and Joe Torre for 10 seasons each and also explained how the manager was part of a "collaborative effort" to help the Yankees succeed. That is especially true in today's brand of baseball in which the manager is a piece to the puzzle, but not the entire puzzle. Gone are the days of authoritarian managers who made decisions with their gut. Collaboration between departments is crucial as analytical information has become more and more prominent to the decisions that are made on the field.
The Yankees are convinced Boone will be a talented part of their collaborative effort, with Cashman calling him a "great asset for the franchise." Boone said he must determine "a balance" between analytics and the human element and smartly noted how a manager must know which players can handle a lot of analytical information and which can't handle it.
When Boone reflected on the seven-hour interview that changed his life, he said "it was long, it was tough and it was so fun." Once Cashman called Boone last week to inform him that he was the Yankee manager, Boone immediately morphed into a manager. His first thought?
"Let's get to work," he said.