Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
It won't show up on any stat sheet. But maybe Aaron Boone got the first managerial win of his career Wednesday -- on a chilly December day, no less -- simply by not downplaying the "no experience" element of his hiring as the 33rd Yankee manager.
Even if you're one of those Boone skeptics, wringing your hands over the fact that he's never managed or coached in the Majors, you must give the man this:
He understands there are questions about him. He gets that he does not walk into the Yankee clubhouse with a free pass just because the front office gave him the gig. He knows he's got a few things to learn on the job.
How will he overcome the lack of experience? "Hopefully, it starts with the relationship (with players)," he said. "But that's something that's earned over the initial days in spring training, in the season. I'm certainly confident in my ability in the fact that will happen.
"Big-league players are great at understanding who's for real or not and I'd like to think they'll know that in very short order."
The club feted Boone at Yankee Stadium with their usual Power Dais -- eight bigwigs total, including managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, GM Brian Cashman and Boone and his wife, Laura -- and a packed press conference.
Boone was engaging and hit plenty of the right notes. But he seemed nervous, too. At one point, he bungled, of all things, the buttoning of his brand-new No. 17 pinstriped jersey. But he played it off nicely with a self-deprecating line: "Thought that would go a little smoother." And he was quite relaxed during a later informal session with writers who cover the team, sitting in front of a corner booth at a Stadium restaurant, his legs crossed and a Yankee cap perched on his head.
Even with Boone's eyes-wide-open approach, it's OK to be leery of the hire because he's never done this. It's also OK to credit the Yankees for believing that intellect and talent might be more valuable than time served in a particular job.
In reality, we have no idea how well Boone will connect with players, no matter how optimistic folks such as Cashman are about that. Nor do we know how he'll handle the Bronx fishbowl, especially on a night, say, Boston clobbers the Yankees because Boone blows a move.
Even Cashman acknowledged that it was "surprising" that Boone emerged as the leading candidate. Steinbrenner said that no experience was "a concern in the room" initially. Ultimately, however, Boone made such a strong impression that the Yankees canceled a planned second round of interviews, Steinbrenner said.
"We're betting on the ceiling of Aaron Boone," Cashman said. "He has a lot to offer -- intellect, he's progressive, great communication skills, long history with a baseball family. He's not afraid."
We'll find out how that plays in that pressure-packed job and fast. Boone gets that, too, and he seems eager for the challenge. In that case, bravo to him.
And kudos to him for going off Yankee script, too, and forgoing all that "Winning is second only to breathing" claptrap. Rather than espousing that his prime directive was to bring another championship to the pinstripes, he played it real, noting that impacting players and communicating with them is his actual duty.
"I feel like our job as a staff is getting the most out of players and helping them take the next step," he said. "Anyone who gets into this, we desire and thirst for a championship, that's a given. I want to get great at the things that give us that chance."
Boone has already started contacting players and said he's texted most of them and talked to some on the phone. He acknowledged that he believes having a strong relationship with Gary Sanchez, who was criticized last year for defensive lapses -- is paramount. The two have exchanged texts and Boone says they'll meet face-to-face in the next few weeks.
Honesty will be an important hallmark for Boone, he says. Boone had a half-season with the Yankees -- you might remember a pretty famous playoff homer he hit in 2003 -- and Joe Torre's managerial style has lingered to this day.
"The way he handled himself and connected with the players and staff made an impression," Boone said.
Boone also understands that he must, as he puts it, "get used to the mechanics of the job. What is my most efficient routine? What does my day look like? What's the best time to get to the park, the routine of the schedule."
A retread manager would probably know all that already, but so what? Boone will figure it out. If he can reach the players, his experience level won't matter much.
And if the Yankees are winning, no one will carp about it anymore. That's an "If" that Boone acknowledges is there, too. When he was asked if his homer off Tim Wakefield, which sent the Yankees to the 2003 World Series, would give him a head start with fans, he gave an answer that shows he knows what his job rating will come down to:
"Maybe some good graces to start, in that they're familiar with me," he said. "But April will be here soon enough."