Goodbye Girardi, Hello Boone

Aaron Boone’s hire as the next Yankees manager leaves more questions than answers about the team.

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Aaron Boone will forever have a place in Yankees lore for his 2003 American League Championship Series (ALCS) game seven walk-off home run against the hated Boston Red Sox. That one hit propelled him to the front page of every New York newspaper and has allowed his name to live on even after his short 54-game stint with the team. Now, 15 years later, he is coming back to the Yankees in a completely different role: manager. To put it lightly, this is a questionable decision; Joe Girardi was an underrated manager who deserved his job, and Boone will have many expectations that I’m not sure he’s capable of achieving.

As a diehard Yankees fan, I’m all for making this team the best it can be. However, sometimes change is detrimental, especially after coming within one game of a World Series berth. Joe Girardi, the former manager, led this club to the ALCS against the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros and fought hard until the very end. This is the very same Yankees team that, in an ESPN article from last March, had only one out of 35 winning the division or making any noise in the postseason (they ended two games behind Boston in the division, but won the wildcard to make it to the playoffs) according to ESPN analysts; this is the team with the injury-prone pitching staff and the one with the inexperienced lineup. While Girardi cannot take all the credit for his team’s 91-71 finish—outfielder Aaron Judge and pitcher Luis Severino’s breakout are obviously products of their own efforts—Girardi was the mastermind that put the club together. He ran a tight ballclub and let the veterans lead by example for the many younger players. He put pressure on his players to execute, and they followed him. No matter if it was game one or game 162, he coached like it was the playoffs. The fire he brought carried over to the team and kept them focused throughout the season.

I’m not saying Girardi is without flaws. He elected not to replay a hit-by-pitch that actually hit the knob of the bat of Lonnie Chisenhall in the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians. That missed call almost doomed the Yankees, as Indians’ shortstop Francisco Lindor hit a grand slam during the next at-bat to shrink the Yankees’s lead to 8-7. Furthermore, he spoke out about catcher Gary Sanchez’s defensive inabilities during the season. This is not something he should be talking to the media about, but rather working with Sanchez on behind the scenes. Going to the press is an easy way to alienate oneself from the club, something Girardi luckily avoided. However, through the controversies, he remained in power of his club and made sure his players gave it their all every game.

Aaron Boone, meanwhile, has experienced none of this. Coaches and players lead vastly different lives, and Boone has not been in a dugout since the end of his playing career in 2009. Since then, he has worked as an ESPN analyst on “Sunday Night Baseball” and other baseball events. While he has been a part of the game, he has not had any coaching experience. Other options for the position, such as Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson, have at least been in the locker room with the team and know what it takes to succeed. Boone will instead be learning on the fly on a team with much higher expectations than the ones they had entering last season. He will be tasked with continuing the “Baby Bomber” development and living up to the hype surrounding the team. Us Yankees fans believe this group of players is special, and cannot see the plan get derailed because of an incompetent coach.

For both myself and the Yankees, I hope I will be pleasantly surprised. I hope he is the manager we need that will lead the team to its next golden age after the Core Four of the late 1990s and 2000s. However, as of right now, I can’t see how he’d be an improvement over Girardi. Boone will be taking over from his role at ESPN, a position not remotely related to coaching. Girardi’s steadying influence at the helm of the Yankees over the last 10 years, meanwhile, led teams with varying degrees of talent to a combined 910-710 record, the best in the MLB in that span. He deserved another chance with this team. However, Boone is in, and I truly hope this new position only improves his legacy from the 2003 ALCS. After last season, everyone in baseball will be keeping close tabs on the budding Yankees superteam. Here’s to hoping Aaron can keep them on track for a dynasty.

[a]alliterative title is a work in progress