The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Was Aaron Boone's First Managerial Job a Success?

When the New York Yankees fired manager Joe Girardi following the 2017 season, I thought then that whoever replaced him would have an insurmountable task.  After all, what kind of organization fires the manager that just led them to a World Series?  I figured that after Girardi’s Bronx Bombers barely lost the 2017 World Series to Houston, the only way his replacement could be regarded as successful was to actually win the World Series in 2018.

Well, that didn’t happen.  Aaron Boone had been somewhat of a surprise by being named as the Yankees’ skipper replacing Girardi, since he had no coaching or managerial experience prior to accepting the job.  What he did have going for him was a family pedigree in baseball as a third-generation player.  He also he had been an MLB broadcaster for ESPN who was open to the newer thinking about the use of baseball analytics and the relationship required between manager and front office.  The big question at the time of his hiring:  were these factors enough to enable success in one of the most difficult cities in which to be on the big stage?

Boone would have the benefit of a roster that was already battle-tested, having won 91 games in 2017 and pushed the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros to the brink of defeat in the League Championship Series.  Then they added National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton during the off-season, further improving their chances to go all the way in 2018.  It was not unexpected when many pre-season prognosticators picked the Yankees to win the American League pennant and return to their first World Series since 2009.  It seemed the only potential fly in the ointment for this outcome would be Boone’s performance as an untested manager.

So what did Boone’s team of “Baby Bombers” do?  They just went out and won 100 games this year.  However, it turned out to be the third best in all of Major League Baseball behind division foe Boston, who won a franchise record of 108 games, and Houston, who won a franchise record 103 games.

For any of the other 27 MLB clubs, 100 wins would have been considered a highly successful season.  For any other first-year MLB manager, 100 wins would likely have earned him Manager of the Year honors.

Indeed, Boone overcame several obstacles thrown his way during the regular season.  They contributed to situations where he had little opportunity to stick with a set lineup day in and day out.  And yet the Yankees still managed to win 100 games.  Boone deserves credit for keeping things together.

He started the season with two rookies in his starting infield—Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, who replaced veterans Starlin Castro and Todd Frazier from the previous year.  But he also had veteran infielder backups Neil Walker and Ronald Torreyes, with whom he deftly juggled the lineup periodically.

Two of his mainstays in 2017, catcher Gary Sanchez and first baseman Greg Bird, had miserable seasons at the plate in 2018, forcing Boone to frequently use alternatives to offset their declines.  Again, he had to be creative with lineups that included Austin Romine at catcher, while Luke Voit, Tyler Austin, and Neil Walker took turns at first base.

2017 American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, who hit 52 home runs last season, missed almost a third of this season due to a wrist injury from being hit by a pitch.  Boone resorted to using a number of reserve players and taking Giancarlo Stanton out of the DH role to backfill Judge in right field.

On the pitching front, Boone lost the services of starter Jordan Montgomery early in the season, and veteran Sonny Gray turned out to be largely ineffective against the better opponents.  However, Boone did have one of the better bullpens in baseball, and he had to frequently call on them early in game

Despite Boone’s efforts, Boston widened its lead over the Yankees in August, and pretty much coasted to the East Division title during the last month of the season.  The Yankees passed the first test of the playoffs by defeating Oakland in the wild-card game, but then was overwhelmed by the Red Sox in the Division Series.  Boone was criticized for not using his bullpen earlier in Games 3 and 4 against the Red Sox, when his starters let the games get out of hand in the first few innings.  These were situations where his relative inexperience perhaps affected the outcomes.

The Yankees organization measures success by World Series championships.  They’ve attained the most (27) in baseball history.  Thus, while Boone is to be lauded for his performance in leading the team to 100 wins, he didn’t get them the ultimate prize, the World Series ring.  He’s probably feeling a bit like Joe Girardi did at the end of last season, except Boone still has a job—for now.

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