After nearly two weeks of looking at what went wrong with the 2021 season, the Yankees have decided that it wasn’t Aaron Boone’s fault. The manager had his expiring contract extended for three years with an option for 2025, the team announced Tuesday morning.
“Aaron Boone was part of the solution, and wasn’t the problem,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said on a teleconference call Tuesday. “I think Aaron brings a lot of great qualities.”
Cashman pointed to Boone’s “great baseball mind” and his “ability to connect, to communicate, to be open-minded.”
“If he was entering the free-agent market, I believe he’d be the No.1 managerial candidate in baseball. He’s been a good hire.”
The new deal was not a surprise, considering that Boone had the support of the players. Cashman and managing partner Hal Steinbrenner made a point to say that it was not Boone’s fault when the team was floundering in early July. Perhaps the length of the contract, which is the same as his last one and exceeds Cashman’s own contract by at least two years, was surprising. Cashman said Tuesday there was no update on his contract, but a team source said they expect him to be extended at some point in the coming months.
“We have a person and manager in Aaron Boone who possesses the baseball acumen and widespread respect in our clubhouse to continue to guide us forward,” Steinbrenner said in a statement released by the team. “As a team and as an organization, we must grow, evolve and improve. We need to get better. Period. I know Aaron fully embraces our expectations of success, and I look forward to drawing on his intelligence, instincts and leadership in pursuit of our next World Series championship.”
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Boone said the same thing about the Yankees needing to improve after they were crushed by the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card game two weeks ago.
“I don’t want to just say we need to get better, that’s obvious,” Boone said. “I think it’s important to acknowledge that. I do feel like we do have the people in place to get it done. There’s got to be tweaks, there’s got to be adjustments.”
“We’ve all got to get a little bit better and making sure we hold each other accountable and hold everyone accountable to the high expectations that we all have, that all our players have,” Boone added. “We believe that going into this year and really every year that I’ve been here, we believe that we’re a team capable of competing for a championship and that’s been our expectation and we’ve had varying degrees of success along the way.”
How the Yankees get better, however, goes much deeper than who is the manager.
There is no clear indication that there will be major organizational changes. While admitting this team was frustrating and at times unwatchable (Cashman said he ultimately had to take responsibility for that), the GM gave a strong defense of his front office — including pro scouting and analytics — and the organization’s process for decision making. Cashman said in particular that the criticism of the analytics department this season was not fair or correct.
Saying that unlike other markets, the Yankees are not in a position to tear down and rebuild like other teams, because “Yankee fans deserve” postseason hopes every year.
He did admit that they will look at how they constructed their roster, saying this year the Yankees weren’t as athletic or contact-oriented as they would like to be. “We’ll evaluate what’s available and how those pieces may fit.”
The Yankees went 50-29 in their final 79 games of the regular season, dating back to July 6 and around the time Steinbrenner spoke. That was the fourth-best record in the majors during that span, trailing only the Giants (54-24), Dodgers (53-24) and Rays (51-26).
Of course, at the time he backed Boone, Steinbrenner also said it wasn’t the coaching staff’s fault either. But the Yankees ended last week with the decision to part ways with hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere and third base coach Phil Nevin.
Those moves were seen as another step to get the on-field baseball operations management more in line with the organization’s focus on analytics. Boone was hired after the 2017 loss in the ALCS as someone who would cooperate with the front office and the analytics department and as a former player who could help translate that information down to help the players use it on a daily basis.
Boone, 48, is 328-218 in four seasons as the Yankees manager, his first four managing at any level. He is just the second manager in baseball history to reach the postseason in each of his first four years managing, joining Mike Matheny (2012-15 with St. Louis). He is the third manager to make the playoffs in each of his first four seasons with the Yankees, joining Casey Stengel (five from 1949-53) and Joe Torre (12 from 1996-2007).
Boone’s 328 career managerial wins rank ninth on the Yankees’ all-time list, behind Joe McCarthy (1,460-867), Torre (1,173-767), Stengel (1,149-696), Miller Huggins (1,067-719), Ralph Houk (944-806), Joe Girardi (910-710), Billy Martin (556-385) and Clark Griffith (419-370).