The New York Yankees will hire their former player and ESPN analyst Aaron Boone to manage the team 2018 and beyond. While the Yankees bringing in a new skipper is a big story in itself, the selection of Boone seems to be a bigger one. There are a lot of questions that people are asking but this is the main one: why Boone over more experienced candidates (or non-candidates)? Why take a risk on a newcomer in managing?
The manager interview group featured names of diverse experience backgrounds. We got Aaron Boone, who does not have any managing or coaching experience and had been an ESPN analyst since 2010. There was Hensley Meulens, who has been coaching since 2003 and earned three World Series rings with the Giants (and also the Kingdom of Netherlands WBC team). Eric Wedge previously managed the Indians and Mariners. Rob Thomson was a loyal soldier of the Yanks for 28 years and was most recently the team’s bench coach. Chris Woodward has been coaching since 2012 and is currently the Dodgers’ third base coach. And, of course, Carlos Beltran just wrapped up his prolific career so he joined Boone as a candidate who does not have any coaching or managing experience.
While coaching experience is a nice — and many would say essential — asset for managerial candidates, based on these names that the Yankees interviewed, it was not a big priority to Cashman.
While most of us don’t know Boone personally, there is information out there that paint a portion of him as a person First, he is well-liked. Many who know him raved about the hiring once it was announced. He is supposedly a great communicator and that might have been one of the major reasons why Cashman wanted to interview him. This article by Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News shows how well he delivers the message to others. It is an incredible story:
Back in 2003, due to strokes in both my optic nerves, I became legally blind and considered retiring for good…Corsoe, though, convinced me to give spring training a try and I agreed. The first day I walked into the Reds clubhouse in Sarasota, I stood at the door and looked around.
Everything was dark and fuzzy. Faces were blurred. I didn’t recognize players who I had known for years. Boone noticed me standing at the door with a perplexed look on my face.
He approached me and asked, “What’s wrong?” I told him what had happened, that I was legally blind, and that he probably wouldn’t see me again, that I was going home, I was about to quit.
He grabbed me by my elbow and led me to his locker stool, pointed to it and said, “Sit down.” I sat. And Boone said, “I don’t ever want to hear you saw the word quit again. You love what you do and you are good at it. Everybody in this room will help you when you need it.”
That’s the kind of communicator he is, the kind of passionate and compassionate person he is. Writers and players are water and oil. They don’t often mix. And I wrote my share of critical things about Boone. But he took the time to change a writer’s life, to save a career.
It may be one anecdote but it is also incredible, isn’t it? One story isn’t everything but many have acclaimed Boone for his ability to communicate and connect with others, which is a huge leadership skill. Cashman stated that the main reason why he did not bring Girardi back is because of his inability to communicate well with younger players.
Whether that’s valid or not, it seems like Cashman felt he found someone who can connect with the clubhouse well. When asked about what he looked for in the next manager, Cashman said “There’s no perfect person that checks every box … (Communication is) one attribute of many. Some have more weight that others … (We want someone) who’s willing to push back and have open discourse … I’m looking for the right person regardless of age.” Take that for what you will.
Other things? I would think it helps that Boone is experienced with media. Being a Yankee manager is a whole different animal because of all the media attention and scrutiny that one faces on daily basis. Lastly, we know that Boone was pretty much born, raised and lived with baseball his whole life. We’re not talking about your neighbor Brad who played in high school JV team and now has a part-time job teaching kids how to swing. Boone is a third generation MLB’er whose older brother, Bret, also played for an extensive amount of time. Here’s a good read on that aspect. I’m willing to bet that, for what he lacked in coaching experience, he backed himself up with baseball smarts that’s been ingrained in his head for a long time.
Besides that, what other factors are out there? Qualifying managerial candidates are tricky. Guys like Meulens, Woodward, Beltran, etc. were given an interview because they also were known to have skills that Cashman looked for in the next Yankee manager. But what pushed Boone to the top?
For baseball players, you can evaluate a good amount of skills by watching them on the field. Coaches and managers? You gotta dig deeper, especially into their mind. The manager is not a flashy job. Acquiring Beltran as a player would be much more exciting than Boone as a player, but that’s not how it works this time. A frustrating part of the past few weeks for the fans is that they are not given much detailed description of the candidates’ skills – because how do you even write out a “manager candidate scouting report” a la the players’ ones?
The people that get to know the best fit to the organizations are the ones that interviewed them (in this case, probably Brian Cashman) and that is all the public is given. And, from what we know, it was an intense, grueling 5-6 hour-long interview that covered many aspects.
We all know that not everything Cashman touches turns to gold. This move comes with risk and a guy like Boone will be tested by well-tenured opposing managers during games. At the same time, we all know that Cashman’s moves have revived the franchise into heavy playoff favorites for years to come – not to mention that he has the experience of running this franchise for almost 20 years. While it does not validate hiring Boone a hundred percent, the recent success gives him a bigger credibility in making crucial moves like this. Right now, this is the gist: Cashman is a smart guy who knew what he was looking for – and probably had the most access of the managerial candidate information.
The Boone hire, as it goes for many other baseball moves, is not foolproof. At this point, we don’t know how the Aaron Boone era of the Yankees history will go. Brian Cashman, who now seems to have more authority on team decisions than he’s ever had, made the call. How it unfolds, your guess is as good as mine.