The Erstwhile Manager [2017 Season Review]

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Joe Girardi‘s tenth season as manager of the Yankees turned out to be his final season as manager of the Yankees. And, weirdly enough, he was dismissed after the club exceeded all expectations and made it to within one game of the World Series. Just consider the preseason projections real quick:

And yet, after the season Hal Steinbrenner admitted the Yankees would have changed managers even if they’d won the World Series. “I’m sure there would have been more pressure. It would have been maybe a more difficult decision to make. But I would have made it because I felt like that was best for the organization moving forward,” he said.

There are two parts to being a manager. There are the parts we see and the parts we don’t see. The parts we do see are the batting orders and pitching changes, things like that. The parts we don’t see is everything that happens behind closed doors in the clubhouse, on the team plane, at the hotel, at home. Those relationships that develop between men who are with each other basically non-stop from mid-February through October.

The stuff we don’t see is apparently what led to Girardi being let go after the season. Brian Cashman cited concerns about Girardi’s ability to “communicate and connect” with his players, which is a pretty big deal considering communication is a manager’s No. 1 priority. The Yankees are building a very exciting team with a lot of young players. You don’t want that to be derailed by a manager with communication issues.

The thing is, those alleged communication issues came as a pretty big surprise to us outsiders. At least I thought so. The Yankees played well this season, all their young players had incredible years, the veterans blended in nicely even while having their roles reduced … what was the problem? I don’t know. Whatever it was, it was deemed enough of a problem that a change was necessary. After ten years and 910 wins, Girardi is out as manager.

We can’t evaluate the behind the scenes stuff. We kinda have to take the Yankees’ word on that. The on-field stuff is another matter, though even that is difficult to evaluate. The manager’s job is to put his team in the best position to succeed, right? He can do that and it still might not work out. That’s baseball. We’re not privy to which relievers are and are not available on a given night, things like that. Let’s try to evaluate Girardi anyway, shall we?

Bullpen Usage

Girardi has long had a reputation for being a strong bullpen manager, though he was always quite rigid. He likes to have a closer, an eighth inning guy, a seventh inning guy, and if possible even a sixth inning guy. Girardi didn’t deviate from his assigned innings all that often during the regular season. Most relievers like to have set roles. Girardi seemed to like having set roles even more than the players.

This season Girardi was thrown a curveball by Aroldis Chapman‘s early season injury and ineffectiveness, Tyler Clippard‘s meltdown, and Dellin Betances‘ walk problems. The plan was Clippard in the seventh, Dellin in the eighth, and Chapman in the ninth. That lasted maybe a month before changes were necessary. Betances became the closer when Chapman was hurt, and at one point, he pitched four times in 24 days because there weren’t any save chances. Clippard blew more than a few eighth inning leads during that time.

It wasn’t until about midseason, when it was clear Chad Green wasn’t a fluke and David Robertson had returned, that the bullpen settled down. And the first half bullpen problems weren’t all Girardi’s fault, of course. It’s not his fault Chapman temporarily stopped throwing his fastball by hitters or that Betances stopped throwing strikes. Should he have realized it sooner and pulled the plug? Eh, maybe. It’s not like he was loaded with options though.

Leverage index can help give us an idea who pitched in important situations the most, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the most important aspect of bullpen management. Make sure your best guys are on the mound in the most important situations. Generally speaking, anything with a leverage index of 2.0 or greater is considered high-leverage. Here is the team’s leaderboard for high-leverage appearances:

  1. Aroldis Chapman: 18
  2. Dellin Betances: 16
  3. Adam Warren: 11
  4. Tyler Clippard: 9
  5. Chasen Shreve: 7
  6. Jonathan Holder: 5
  7. Chad Green: 4
  8. David Robertson: 4 with Yankees (12 with White Sox)
  9. Tommy Kahnle: 4 with Yankees (10 with White Sox)

I’m surprised Robertson had only four high-leverage appearances with the Yankees. I’m not surprised Green only had four though, because even when it was clear he was a monster, he entered a lot of games in the middle innings, which usually aren’t high-leverage spots. That doesn’t mean his work was any less important. Clippard getting almost as many high-leverage appearances as Warren despite only being a Yankee for half a season though? Yikes.

Girardi’s bullpen usage during the regular season is whatever. That period in May and June when Clippard was blowing games while Betances sat in the bullpen was quite annoying, otherwise it was a typical Girardi season. The postseason, however, was a much different story. Girardi’s bullpen work was exceptional in October, particularly in the Wild Card Game, in which Luis Severino recorded one out.

“We talked prior to the game. You bring up that scenario that if he takes line drive off the shin, what do you do? I didn’t think that he was going to get one out. I didn’t bring that scenario up,” said Girardi after the game. “And you know, part of that is trying to decide who to bring in, and we talked about Greenie and Robbie would be the first two guys that we would bring in tonight, no matter when the situation was, to try to put innings out, and to get as much out of them as we could.”

That’s exactly what happened. Green came out of the bullpen, got some big outs in the first inning, and Robertson bridged the middle innings. Robertson was Girardi’s go-to reliever in the postseason and he used him every chance he had, for as long as he could. Robertson appeared in eight of the team’s 13 postseason games and five times he threw more than an inning. Chapman was used for more than three outs on several occasions as well.

The postseason is a much different animal than the regular season, and in terms of his bullpen usage, I thought Girardi was just outstanding in October. He went to his best relievers regardless of inning and did as much as he could to put the Yankees in position to win. Sometimes it didn’t work out — Robertson gave up four runs and didn’t get an out in ALCS Game Six — but for the most part, it did. Girardi’s regular season bullpen usage was typical Girardi. In the postseason, he was fantastic.

Platoon Advantage

Throughout Girardi’s tenure the Yankees consistently ranked near the top of the platoon advantage leaderboard. Last season 68% of their plate appearances came with the platoon advantage, second most in baseball. The year before that they led baseball with 73%. The year before that they were third at 70%. From 2008-16, the Yankees were consistently one of the best teams at getting the platoon advantage.

That all changed this season, when only 51% of the team’s plate appearances came with the platoon advantage, slightly under the 52% league average. And it’s not Girardi’s fault. The Yankees lean more right-handed with their lineup nowadays, thanks mostly to Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, but also keep in mind righties like Todd Frazier and Chris Carter held down regular lineup spots for an extended period of time as well. There are more righty pitchers in baseball than lefties, so yeah.

Is getting the platoon advantage a managerial skill? Yeah, I think so, to some degree. It depends on the personnel, obviously. The Yankees were near the top of the league in plate appearances with the platoon advantage from 2008-16 and part of it was Girardi and part of it was the roster. This year they were middle of the pack mostly because of the personnel, and they still scored the second most runs in baseball.

Instant Replay

In the first three seasons of the replay system, Girardi and the Yankees had one of the highest overturn rates in baseball. They had the second highest success rate in 2016 (69%) after having the highest in 2015 (75%) and 2014 (82%). This year they were had a 67% overturn rate, second highest in baseball behind the Twins (68%). When Girardi challenged, more often than not it was overturned.

Now, that said, Girardi has also ranked near the bottom in total challenges over the years. Last year they challenged the fewest plays in baseball. The year before they challenged the ninth fewest and the year before that it was the fifth fewest. That changed this season. The Yankees challenged 49 plays during the regular season, sixth most in baseball. How about that? The Rangers led the way with 63 challenges.

I’d been beating the “Girardi should challenge more who cares about the overturn rate” drum for a while now, so I’m glad Girardi did challenge more season. That he did so while maintaining that high overturn rate is pretty cool. The problem, of course, is the one play Girardi didn’t challenge. In Game Two of the ALDS, Green appeared to hit Lonnie Chisenhall in the hand with a pitch, which loaded the bases and set up Francisco Lindor for the grand slam. Replays showed the ball hit the knob of the bat, but Girardi didn’t challenge in time even though Sanchez was telling him to challenge, so the hit-by-pitch count and the grand slam happened.

“There was nothing that told us he was not hit on the pitch. By the time we got the super slow mo, we were a minute — probably beyond a minute — and it was way too late,” said Girardi after the game, explaining the non-challenge. “They tell us we have 30 seconds … Being (an ex-catcher), my thought is I never want to break a pitcher’s rhythm. That’s how I think about it.”

That was about as bad an excuse as Girardi could’ve come up with. They give you two challenges in the postseason! It was a huge moment, Girardi didn’t challenge it, and the Yankees paid dearly. Who knows what happens had they challenged. Maybe they lose anyway. Or maybe they win the series in four games instead of five, and they outlast the Astros in the ALCS because the team is better rested. It was a bad, bad, bad, bad decision at the time. The Yankees bailed Girardi out by coming back to win the series.

The Gary Sanchez Incident

Girardi was a staunch defender of his players. He had their backs even when they didn’t deserve it. On August 4th, for really the first time during his tenure with the Yankees, Girardi threw a player under the bus. Sanchez committed a passed ball that allowed a run to score against the Indians, and after the game Girardi laid into Gary while speaking to reporters.

“He needs to improve. Bottom line,” said Girardi after the game. “I don’t have a problem with his effort, but sometimes he shows his frustrations. He’s late getting down. That’s what I see sometimes, and it’s something we’ve been working on and we continue to work on. He’s capable of doing a better job.”

Tame in the grand scheme of things, though that was easily the most we’ve ever heard Girardi criticize a player. And it wasn’t just any player, it was his franchise catcher who was already under the microscope. He inflamed the situation. Gary’s defense became a Very Big Deal the rest of the season, to the point that people were talking about starting Austin Romine in the postseason, which is madness.

Girardi benched Sanchez after that, and he did it in what was probably the best possible way. Gary sat the next day, which was a day game after a night game, so he was probably going to sit anyway. The next day was an off-day, then Sanchez was the DH the day after that before going back behind the plate. That’s three straight days away from catching but only one day out of the lineup, a day he was likely to sit anyway.

A narrative was born that the benching woke Sanchez up at the plate, which I would buy if he hadn’t gone 9-for-26 (.346) with three doubles and three homers in his previous seven games, but whatever. Between the benching and the fact Sanchez’s calls to challenge the Chisenhall hit-by-pitch were ignored, it seemed as though Girardi did not fully trust Gary, at least behind the plate. That’s not good. The manager — the ex-catcher manager — and the team’s young franchise catcher should be on the same page. I suppose it’s possible Girardi’s relationship with Sanchez could’ve contributed to his dismissal.

* * *

Before the Yankees let Girardi go, there were weeks of rumors that Girardi would make the decision to step away himself, so he could spend more time with his family and avoid getting burnt out. Managing for ten years is not easy, especially in New York. Hal and Cashman had been in Girardi’s corner for years and I assumed he still had their support, and if you have their support, you’re in good shape. I figured Girardi would be back if he wanted to be back.

Girardi did want to be back. He said so in interviews after being let go. The Yankees are going in another direction though, and it doesn’t really matter whether we think it is the right move or the wrong move. It happened and it’s done with. Girardi will undoubtedly land on his feet — he’s said he wants to manage again at some point, though it seems he’ll wind up in a broadcast booth somewhere next year — and the Yankees will likely win a boatload of games next year because they’re so talented and deep organizationally, making Boone look smart.

Given how they exceeded expectations so greatly, the case can be made that the 2017 season was Girardi’s most impressive with the Yankees. Behind closed doors though, enough problems had surfaced (or were beginning to surface) that the Yankees decided a change in leadership was necessary. Parting ways with Girardi came as a shock to me and I know it did to many others. We’re not in the clubhouse though, or on the plane or at the hotel. The stuff we don’t see is the reason the Yankees are moving forward with a new manager.

Update: Yankees add Josh Bard, Phil Nevin, and Reggie Willits to coaching staff

Bard. (Dodgers Photog Blog)
Bard. (Dodgers Photog Blog)

Monday: Bard will be the bench coach, Phil Nevin will be the third base coach, and Reggie Willits will be the first base coach, Boone told reporters today. Also, George King says Carlos Mendoza will be the infield coach and in uniform for games. It’s likely Marcus Thames will be promoted to hitting coach and Mike Harkey will be retained as bullpen coach as well, says King. The Yankees have not yet officially announced any coaching assignments.

Nevin, 47 in January, has coached and managed throughout the minors in recent years, and has interviewed for several big league managerial jobs as well. He managed the Triple-A Reno Aces (Diamondbacks) from 2014-16 before spending last season as the Giants’ third base coach. Nevin and Boone were high school teammates, so those two have some history. (Nevin went to high school with Bret Boone, not Aaron. My bad.)

Last week we heard the 38-year-old Mendoza and 36-year-old Willits were under consideration for big league coaching jobs. Willits has been the organization’s minor league outfield and baserunning instructor for three years now while Mendoza has held a variety of minor league coaching and managerial roles since 2009, most recently serving as the minor league infield coordinator. Mendoza would give the team a Spanish-speaking coach. The Yankees seem to be going real young with the coaching staff next year, huh?

Sunday: According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees will name former big league catcher Josh Bard their new bench coach. Ken Davidoff says Bard interviewed last week and was impressive. The Yankees have not confirmed anything as of yet, and there’s no word on any of the other coaching staff positions.

Bard, 39, was new manager Aaron Boone‘s teammate with the Indians in 2005. He spent the last five seasons in a variety of roles with the Dodgers, going from special assistant (2013) to scout (2014-15) to bullpen coach (2016-17). I suppose it’s possible, if not likely, Bard will take over catching instructor duties with the Yankees.

Last week both Boone and Brian Cashman said they weren’t necessarily looking for a bench coach with managerial experience despite Boone’s inexperience. They want who they believe is the right person rather than the most experienced person. Bard has some coaching and front office experience, but not much.

Bard will join holdover pitching coaching Larry Rothschild on the coaching staff. Boone still needs a hitting coach (and likely an assistant hitting coach), first and third base coaches, and a bullpen coach. Cashman admitted the coaching search could take weeks.

Coaching Staff Notes: Beltran, Willits, Mendoza, Harkey

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Yankees officially introduced Aaron Boone as their new manager earlier today — that still sounds weird as hell — and if you missed the press conference, you can watch it here. Now that Boone has been hired, the next step is building his coaching staff. Brian Cashman said today that process could take “a couple of weeks.” Here’s the latest.

Boone’s contract worth $4M

According to Joel Sherman, Boone’s contract will pay him $4M across the three guaranteed years before the club option for 2021 comes into play. Other rookie managers hired this offseason, like Mickey Callaway (Mets) and Dave Martinez (Nationals), all received between $2M and $3M on their three-year contracts. Boone received a little more because he was leaving a lucrative deal with ESPN.

Joe Girardi earned $4M per year on the contract he just completed, so the Yankees are saving quite a bit of cash with their managerial choice. I’m sure the cynics out there will say that is Hal Steinbrenner‘s reason for making the managerial change, but nah. That’s just the way it goes when you bring in new managers. The new guy almost always makes less than the old guy.

Experience not necessary for bench coach

Interestingly enough, both Cashman and Boone said today they’re not prioritizing experience with their bench coach. They’d like a bench coach with managerial experience, sure, but they want a good baseball mind and hard worker above all. “Experience is important, but it’s not the be all, end all. I want smart sitting next to me. I want confident sitting next to me,” said Boone today.

Boone is a complete rookie and he knows it — “As far as the in-game stuff, there’s obviously going to be some stuff that I’m green at,” he said today — so I figured they’d want a bench coach who has been there, done that. Someone who has seen pretty much everything the game can throw at a manager. Apparently not. We’ll see where this goes. I’d be surprised if the Yankees hire a bench coach with zero prior managerial or bench coach experience.

Beltran could join Yankees in some capacity

I had a feeling this was coming. Carlos Beltran told Neil Best that it is very possible he will join the Yankees despite not getting the manager’s job. As I said earlier today, I think the managerial interview was out of respect for Carlos, and the Yankees’ way of letting him know they want him in the organization. From Best:

“There’s no doubt that they showed interest in having me back in a different role,” he said. “I basically have to have a conversation with the organization and see which role they want me to be back in and see if that’s something I really want to do after I just retired from the game.”

Beltran could join Boone’s coaching staff, or he could join the front office as a special advisor, similar to Hideki Matsui. He is very highly regarded within baseball, especially among Latin American players, and has an awful lot of knowledge to share. Beltran has been taking young players under his wing for years and it’s no surprise the Yankees want him around. I think it’ll happen. They’ll do whatever they have to to accommodate him.

Willits, Mendoza being considered for coaching staff

Reggie Willits and Carlos Mendoza are being considered for Boone’s coaching staff, reports George King. Willits, 36, played with the Angels from 2006-11, and has been the organization’s minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator for three years now. The 38-year-old Mendoza has been with the Yankees since 2009 and has held a variety of minor league coaching and managerial roles. He’s been the team’s minor league infield coordinator since 2012.

Neither Willits nor Mendoza have big league coaching experience, though they are among their best instructors in the minors, and have been considered potential coaching candidates for a while now. Mendoza in particular has a lot of fans in the front office. He’s worked with all the organization’s top prospects in recent years, from Gleyber Torres to Miguel Andujar to Tyler Wade to Jorge Mateo. This would jibe with the talk about not necessarily wanting an experienced person on the coaching staff, but a smart person.

Yankees officially bring back Rothschild, could bring back Harkey

As expected, Larry Rothschild will indeed return as pitching coach next season. The Yankees made the official announcement earlier this week. It’ll be his eighth year as pitching coach. In more surprising news, King reports “there are indications” Mike Harkey will return as bullpen coach. Huh. Didn’t see that coming.

Harkey, 51, is in his second stint as bullpen coach (2008-13, 2016-17) after spending the 2014-15 seasons as the Diamondbacks pitching coach. He is a Girardi guy. Girardi hired Harkey because they’re very close friends dating back to their playing days. I’ve been assuming he’s as good as gone because of that, but I guess not. Tuns out Rothschild might not be the only coaching staff holdover.

Thoughts after the Yankees name Aaron Boone manager

No more dip in the dugout, skip. (Getty)
No more dip in the dugout, skip. (Getty)

In a few hours the Yankees will hold an introductory press conference for new manager Aaron Boone, who we learned got the job last Friday. You’ll be able to watch the press conference live on YES and at 12pm ET. Needless to say, this is a significant change. The upstart Yankees are going from veteran skipper in Joe Girardi to a neophyte in Boone. The manager situation is almost a microcosm of the roster. Out with the old, in with the new. Anyway, I have thoughts on all this, so let’s get to ’em.

1. News broke the Yankees would name Boone their manager Friday night, and the word of the weekend was “risky.” It’s a risky hire. The Yankees made a risky move. It’s a risky decision. Blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. Of course hiring Boone is a risky decision. This was always going to be a risky decision, no matter who the Yankees hired. Realistically, who could the Yankees have hired to make this whole thing not be considered risky? Maybe luring Terry Francona away from the Indians would’ve done the trick? Parting ways with Girardi and going forward with literally anyone else as manager was risky. I don’t see Boone as any more risky than any other managerial candidate, even with the lack of experience. Hire an experienced manager and you’re hoping he learned from his previous managerial stint (from which he was fired, of course). Hire an inexperienced manager and you don’t really know what you’re going to get. There’s always risk, and with Boone, the focus has been on the negative (he might suck) rather the positive, specifically the fact he is a very bright and personable guy who grew up in the game and is enthusiastic about taking on the challenge of managing in New York.

2. When teams change managers, they have a tendency to bring someone in who is the exact opposite of the guy they just fired. The Mets and Phillies went from the old school Terry Collins and Pete Mackanin to the very new school Mickey Callaway and Gabe Kapler this offseason, respectively. The Tigers moved on from Brad Ausmus, an analytics guy and former front office dude, and brought in the thoroughly unspectacular Ron Gardenhire. The Yankees replaced the intense and meticulous Girardi with Boone, who by all accounts is much more laid back and open-minded. Girardi was high-strung and he wore it on his face, you could see if every time the Yankees played a remotely important game, and I think that tends to wear on a team after a while. That shouldn’t be a problem with Boone. He’s outgoing and he’s got a great sense of humor (have you seen his impressions?). I’ll be very surprised if we see Boone in the dugout wearing that same strained look Girardi wore so often the last decade.

3. “Communication” was the buzzword during the managerial search, and if you’re judging Boone’s communication skills on his broadcasting, just stop. Broadcasting a game for a national audience is waaay different than communicating with players one-on-one. Informing the audience is not the same thing as a manager forming a professional (and personal) relationship with his players. Basically everything I’ve read about Boone the last few days (like this, this, this, this, and this) indicates he is very relatable and the kind of person who gets along with everyone. He’ll joke around with the media — that’ll be a nice change of pace from Girardi, who enjoyed speaking to the media about as much as I enjoy a subway platform on a nice and toasty August afternoon — and keep his players loose, and that’s important. The Yankees bought into his communication skills and ultimately, that’s all that matters. Just don’t judge those skills by his broadcasts. Talking on television and talking to human beings are very different things.

4. Clearly, experience was not a priority for the Yankees. Or for pretty much any team this offseason, for that matter. Six teams changed managers this winter (Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers, Yankees) and five of them hired first time managers. Only the Tigers (Gardenhire) hired a retread. The Yankees interviewed six candidates and only one, Eric Wedge, had prior MLB managerial experience. Boone and Carlos Beltran have zero coaching or managerial experience, and Chris Woodward is relatively new to the coaching game. This is the trend within baseball now. Even Girardi only had one year coaching experience and one year managerial experience under his belt when the Yankees hired him. He wasn’t exactly a seasoned vet. Teams don’t want Joe Maddon or Terry Francona. They want the next Joe Maddon or Terry Francona. Look at the two World Series managers this year. Dave Roberts and A.J. Hinch have barely more than 1,000 games of managerial experience combined. That’s a little more than six full seasons between them. Boone spent the last few seasons speaking to all 30 managers as a broadcaster — and I don’t mean those silly mid-game interviews, I’m talking about in the clubhouse and on the field before games — and that’s valuable experience. He got to pick the brain of everyone around the league rather than work under one or two managers. Young inexperienced managers are a clean slate. Boone is going to have his own unique managerial style, no doubt, but the Yankees will also be able to mold him into the manager they want because he’s not set in his ways. That’s what pretty much every team is trying to do these days.

5. I was surprised the Yankees let Rob Thomson get away and join the Phillies as their new bench coach. He’d been with the Yankees since the early 1990s and he’d done basically everything there is to do in the organization. Thomson knew the Yankees inside and out, and he said he wanted to stay even if he didn’t get the manager’s job. The fact he’s now with Philadelphia leads me to believe the Yankees moved on from Thomson, not the other way around. The split seems amicable — “No hard feelings on my part! It’s the business. The Steinbrenners and the Yankee organization have taken great care of me for 28 years,” said Thomson to Joel Sherman — so I wonder if the Yankees felt they needed such large scale clubhouse change that they let Thomson go in addition to Girardi. Or maybe they didn’t want Boone to have to look over his shoulder at a Girardi holdover and someone else who interviewed for the managerial job? I’m not sure. If anything, I thought the Yankees would kick Thomson back up to the front office than let him go completely. I’m surprised. I expected Thomson to stay in some capacity.

6. Speaking of the front office, I think the odds are pretty darn good the Yankees will hire Beltran as a special advisor to Brian Cashman, similar to Hideki Matsui. I think that’s why they brought him in for the managerial interview. To show him respect and to show him he’s wanted. Matsui has been a special advisor to Cashman for three years now and his duties include, among other things, going around and working with prospects in the minors. I know Beltran said he wants to manage, but going from player one year to manager the next is a huge jump, and was probably never all that realistic. A special advisor role is much less demanding. There’s less travel and more time at home with the family, which a recently retired player figures to appreciate. But he also gets to stay in baseball and begin the second phase of his career. Matsui and Beltran are very similar. They are dignified and very highly respected, especially in their home countries, and have a lot of baseball knowledge to offer. The Yankees could bring Beltran aboard as a special advisor with the promise that if a coaching or managerial job opens somewhere around the league, he’s free to leave. He can work with players up and down the organization, particularly Latin American players, in the meantime. Beltran is someone worth having in the organization and I think the Yankees let him know they want him during their interview, even if they didn’t name him their manager.

(New York Daily News)
(New York Daily News)

7. Among the six managerial candidates, my personal preference was Hensley Meulens, though I didn’t feel strongly about any of the candidates one way or the other. I liked Bam Bam because he has extensive coaching experience. That’s basically it. Being able to speak five languages was an obvious plus, though I thought it was getting played up a little too much. There’s more to managing than speaking different languages. Meulens has coached for a long time, he’s coached under a great manager in Bruce Bochy, and just about everyone who’s spent time around him has said he’ll make a great manager one day, so that’s why I liked him. Then again, Meulens has interviewed for a few managerial openings over the years (including the Tigers this offseason) and didn’t get any of them, so maybe he’s not as great of a candidate as everything thinks? I dunno. I thought Bam Bam would be the guy and he was my personal favorite for the job, but like I said, I didn’t feel all that strongly about any of the six candidates. I thought maybe I would the deeper the Yankees got into the process, but nope. I was mostly indifferent about the whole thing.

8. The next step now is building a coaching staff and I have to think Boone and Yankees will look for a bench coach with managerial experience to help the rookie skipper. I don’t think there will be a meaningful difference between Girardi and Boone in terms of on-field strategy. The lineup kinda writes itself, at least through the top six spots or so, and the bullpen is deep enough to survive the rookie manager’s learning curve. The front office has a lot of input into that stuff anyway. Boone and the Yankees are still going to want someone in the dugout with experience. Someone who has run a Spring Training before, someone who has seen so many of those weird situations baseball can throw at you. Who are some potential bench coach candidates then? Beats me. Wedge has been mentioned as a candidate — he managed Boone for two years in Cleveland — and he reportedly wants to get back in the managing game, and getting back in the dugout as a bench coach is a step in that direction. Tony Pena is an obvious candidate, but if the Yankees want to move on from Pena like they apparently wanted to move on from Thomson, he won’t be an option. Dave Miley managed Boone for a short period of time in 2003 and managed Triple-A Scranton from 2006-15, so he is familiar with the Yankees and vice versa. Could the Yankees hire bench coach Bob Geren away from the Dodgers? They’d probably be able to get Fredi Gonzalez, Boone’s former manager with the Marlins, away from Miami. He is currently their third base coach. Robin Ventura (unemployed)? John Farrell (unemployed)? Ron Washington (Braves third base coach)? Bo Porter (unemployed)? I’m looking forward to seeing the coaching staff. Should be interesting.

9. Boone is going to be under the microscope this year because every new manager is under the microscope, though in this case Boone is the inexperienced manager of ready to win Yankees, who will almost certainly be a trendy World Series pick going into 2018. There will be a lot of attention on him. And that’s good because it means that much less attention will be paid to Aaron Judge and Greg Bird and Luis Severino and all the other young players who would’ve been the top story this season had the Yankees kept Girardi. There’s some value in that. Anything that makes life easier for your young cornerstone players is a plus. I always thought Alex Rodriguez provided an intangible value by soaking up so much attention that many other Yankees were able to fly under the radar. Don’t get me wrong, there will be a ton of attention of Judge and Severino and all the young guys expected to lead the team to a title. As much attention as there would’ve been without the managerial change? I don’t think so.

10. So what number will Boone wear? I imagine we’ll find out today. He wore No. 19 during his brief stint with the Yankees as a player, but that’s Masahiro Tanaka‘s number. Boone also wore No. 8 at times in his career. That’s not happening either. He wore No. 17 with the Reds all those years, and that’s open now with Matt Holliday gone, so I guess that’s it? We’ll find out. Whatever it is, I hope Boone doesn’t adopt Girardi’s tradition of wearing the number of the World Series title the Yankees are chasing. Remember that? He wore No. 27 in 2008 and 2009, then when the Yankees won the 2009 World Series, he switched to No. 28 because that was his goal, the team’s 28th championship. I always thought that was kind of gimmicky, and when Girardi ended up wearing No. 28 for the final eight years of his tenure, it was a daily reminder that the Yankees weren’t achieving their stated goal. The gimmick has run its course. I hope Boone picks No. 17 or whatever and that’s that.

11. And finally, no, the Yankees did not hire Boone because of that home run he hit 14 years ago. I know some people out there are thinking it. Did that home run give Boone a level of celebrity he wouldn’t have otherwise achieved given his playing career? Absolutely. It helped land him on ESPN, I’m sure. And maybe that helped Boone stay relevant long enough to be considered for a managerial gig seven years after he played his final game. But no, that homer didn’t get him the job. If anything, being honest and accountable about blowing out his knee in a basketball game helped Boone get the job. He could’ve easily made up some story about getting hurt during an offseason workout to keep his 2004 contract — the Yankees voided his $5.75M deal, which would’ve been the highest salary of his career by $2M — but no, Boone owned up to it. That speaks to his character and I think that stood out to the Yankees. Now, did they hire him because of that? No, of course not. But it was an insight into Boone’s character. It was a piece of information that could be used during the hiring process. The home run though? Nope.

Al Pedrique leaves Yankees to join Athletics coaching staff

Clint and Al. (Scranton Times-Tribune)
Clint and Al. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique has left the Yankees to become the Athletics first base coach, the A’s announced. Pedrique was speculated as a possible managerial candidate for the Yankees, though he never did get an interview. Over the years he’d been very open about his desire to manage in the big leagues again at some point.

Pedrique, 57, had been with the Yankees since 2013. He managed Low-A Charleston in 2013, High-A Tampa in 2014, Double-A Trenton in 2015, and Triple-A Scranton in 2016 and 2017. The RailRiders won their division the last two years — they won the Triple-A championship in 2016 — and Pedrique was named International League Manager of the Year both years.

Prior to joining the Yankees, Pedrique had worked as a scout — while with the Astros, he was the scout who recommended signing Jose Altuve — and minor league coach with several organizations. He was the Diamondbacks third base coach in 2003 and their interim manager for part of 2004. That is his only MLB managerial experience to date.

Pedrique had worked with basically every notable prospect in the system the last few years. He managed Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, you name it. Now the Yankees will have to find a new Triple-A Scranton skipper. Such is life. Minor league managers usually don’t stick around long-term.

Yankees officially name Aaron Boone their new manager


December 4th: It’s official. The Yankees announced Boone is their new manager this afternoon. The press conference is Wednesday at 12pm ET. He received a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year, which seems to be the standard contract for a rookie manager. No word on the money yet.

Let’s get to the various statements, shall we? First, Hal Steinbrenner:

“I firmly believe that Aaron possesses the attributes needed to follow in the tradition of great Yankees managers. From all accounts, he is a polished communicator who possesses the ability to cultivate and grow relationships. Aaron has also spent a lifetime immersed in baseball, affording him a unique and intimate understanding of what fosters team success.

“Aaron’s name is already etched into Yankees history, and my family and I are excited to welcome him back to this franchise. This opportunity will allow him to continue to make a positive impact on this organization in distinctly new and meaningful ways.”

Next up, Brian Cashman:

“Over the past several weeks, our baseball operations department sat down with a number of managerial candidates, all of whom brought a diverse array of baseball knowledge and experience. Each interview led to insightful and thoughtful discussions, and I am grateful to the candidates for their preparation, interest and commitment to our extensive interview process.

“When we had the opportunity to speak with Aaron and share concepts and ideas, he was able to showcase a variety of traits that we believe will strongly benefit this franchise as we move forward, including an astute mind for the game and a progressive approach to evolving strategies. 

“We also believe Aaron’s interpersonal skills and baseball pedigree will allow him to blend well with the systems we have in place, our baseball operations staff and the 25-man roster. On a personal level, I look forward to collaborating with him over the coming years and offering him the support and resources needed to get the most out of our players.”

And finally, Mr. Boone himself:

“Words cannot express how humbled I am to wear the pinstripes again as the manager of the Yankees. I want to thank the Steinbrenner family and Brian Cashman for entrusting me with this tremendous honor and responsibility. I believe we are entering into a special time in New York Yankees history, and I am so excited to be a part of it.  I can’t wait to get to work – and that work starts now.”

December 1st: The Year of the Aarons continues in New York. According to multiple reports, the Yankees are set to name Aaron Boone their next manager. Jack Curry, Buster Olney, Joel Sherman, Ken Rosenthal, Mark Feinsand, and Bill Madden are all reporting it, so yeah. The Yankees have not yet confirmed or announced anything. That should happen relatively soon.

The Yankees interviewed six candidates for their managerial opening and one-by-one they were ruled out Friday before Boone was the last man standing. The candidates: Boone, Carlos Beltran, Hensley Meulens, Rob Thomson, Eric Wedge, and Chris Woodward. Boone and Meulens were reportedly the two finalists. Thomson, who had been with the Yankees since the early 1990s, is leaving to become the Phillies bench coach.

With Boone, the Yankees are continuing the recent trend around MLB of hiring managers with no experience. He retired as a player following the 2009 season and had been working as an analyst with ESPN ever since. Boone has an interest in analytics, that much is clear from his broadcasts, and he’s always been good with the media. The Yankees must feel pretty good about his communication skills as well. They reportedly prioritized communication.

Boone, who will turn 45 in March, will be the 33rd different manager in Yankee history and only the third in the last 22 years, and the fourth in the last 26 years. Pretty amazing considering how much turnover there was under George Steinbrenner in the 1970s and 1980s. Boone is very much a baseball brat. His grandfather (Ray), father (Bob), and brother (Brett) all played in the big leagues. He grew up around the game. Baseball is all he knows.

What kind of manager will Boone be? Beats me. Your guess is as good as mine. My guess is his lineup construction and bullpen usage and other basic on-field stuff won’t be all that different from Joe Girardi. The real difference will be in the clubhouse. That’s why the Yankees parted ways with Girardi. They didn’t like the way things were going on behind closed doors. Hopefully Boone connects well with the young players and gets them to take their games to the next level.

Now that the managerial search has reportedly concluded, the Yankees have to build the rest of their coaching staff. Larry Rothschild is coming back as pitching coach. We know that much. I have to think the Yankees and Boone will want an experienced bench coach, someone who has been a manager before. Tony Pena, maybe? Someone new? We’ll find out soon enough.

Quick Notes: Managerial Search, Shohei Ohtani, Non-Tenders


This morning Brian Cashman took a practice run rappelling down the Landmark Building in Stamford as part of the annual Heights & Lights Festival. He also spoke to reporters and passed along two important pieces of information, one surprising and one not so surprising. Here’s the latest, via all the wonderful reporters in attendance.

Managerial interviews are over

First the surprising news: Cashman said the Yankees will not interview any more managerial candidates. The job will go to one of the six men they’ve interviewed: Carlos Beltran, Aaron Boone, Hensley Meulens, Rob Thomson, Eric Wedge, and Chris Woodward. (Mark Feinsand says a clear frontrunner emerged during the interview process.) Furthermore, Cashman said there will not be a second round of interviews in Tampa. The next step is making a final recommendation to Hal Steinbrenner and that’ll be that.

Also, interestingly enough, Cashman said he consulted Alex Rodriguez several times during the process. A-Rod didn’t want the job — “He never expressed interest in any way, shape, or form,” said Cashman — but Cashman said he got Alex’s insight on the various candidates. A-Rod and Beltran are super close. The fact this is all suddenly wrapping up, with the second round of interviews canceled, right after Beltran’s interview is intriguing. Coincidence? Maybe. But intriguing. Anyway, a poll:

Who should be the next Yankees manager?
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Yankees will pursue Shohei Ohtani

Now the not-so-surprising news: the Yankees will indeed pursue Ohtani, Cashman confirmed. They are prepared to let him both pitch and hit, which seems like a prerequisite for signing him. Here’s a snippet of what Cashman said about Ohtani:

“It’s a big stage here and it’s meant to have the best talent to play on it. Ohtani represents the next great talent that is available in the world of baseball. This stage is made for players like this … This is an impact type player that we feel would make us better. I think we have a great situation going on here with a lot of young players … I think he’d be a perfect fit for us.”

Ohtani was officially posted earlier today, and already there are some wild rumors floating around. He’s narrowed his list down to three teams! He doesn’t want to play with another Japanese star! I get the sense we’re going to hear lots more stuff like that over the next three weeks. For now, all we know for certain is that Ohtani has been posted, and Cashman said the Yankees will pursue him.

Yankees tender all eligible players

One last quick note: the Yankees tendered all their eligible players contracts prior to today’s deadline, the team announced. Can’t say I’m surprised. Austin Romine was the only real non-tender candidate and I never thought the Yankees would actually non-tender him, and they didn’t, so there you go.