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The Yankees are coming off a split in Friday’s doubleheader with Baltimore and head into the weekend playing putrid baseball. Injuries have played an obvious role in the Yanks falling 5.5 games back of the Rays, but the lackluster job of manager Aaron Boone should be at the forefront of their attention.
Let’s remember how the Yankees got here. Joe Girardi was at the top step leading a young Yankees roster featuring up-and-comer Aaron Judge. No expectations and absolutely zero pressure to be found in that 2017 postseason. The Yankees inexplicably moved on from Girardi’s “old school” mentality that very offseason and signed a manager who was totally bought into analytics: Aaron Boone.
Ownership was looking for an easy-going personality to mesh with the young core. Someone who would take in data and build lineups and buy into defensive shifts because a spreadsheet said so. Boone’s reliance on data is part of the problem for the ’20 Yankees. In situations where common sense needs to be at the forefront, analytics steal the show.
We’ll use Friday’s Yankees lineup for Game 2 as an example:
Why on God’s beautiful green Earth is Brett Gardner, who is currently hitting .188, batting third in the lineup? If you’ve been following along, Boone has a clear need to stagger a lefty after two right-handed bats. Analytics take the lineup to this place, while common sense buries Gardner eighth in the lineup or having a seat next to Boone himself.
Head scratching moves with the bullpen have become the norm and we come to the same question every time: Why did Boone leave (whoever) in? Why did he leave (struggling starter) in so long? The answer lies in the spreadsheet he read pre-game.
The Yankees brought Aaron Boone aboard because they thought his reliance on data would play well in a pressure-filled New York market. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Boone instead comes off as a manager who has no instincts to react to what’s happening on the field.
Handling of young players
Just last year Clint Frazier was sent down to “fine-tune” his defense, then we never saw him again. He showed up periodically this year and did nothing but torch baseballs at the plate and provide stellar defense in right field.
Clint Frazier doin’ it with the glove! pic.twitter.com/ZwI6qIOoun— YES Network (@YESNetwork) August 30, 2020
YES Network would hilariously praise his progress on the defensive side while management continued to send Frazier down to the Alternate Site. Most blame the nerds up top like GM Brian Cashman, but you mean to tell me the manager doesn’t get a say? Girardi’s dismissal was in part because he wouldn’t allow these head games to be played.
Meanwhile Boone sits in upper management’s back pocket providing no pressure to keep Frazier in the bigs, ultimately lost this team games. It’s inexcusable.
The Yankees have Gerrit Cole on the mound for tonight’s 7:35 game and roll out Masahiro Tanaka tomorrow to finish off the series with Baltimore. With just just 25 games left in the season, every game is a must-win game. Aaron Boone needs to be pulling all the right strings to make sure this team has a strong weekend ahead of their series with Toronto early next week.
The standings should provide some pressure, too.
Boone is a puppet to analytics and his postgame comments reek of a leader following a script.
Aaron Boone said the plan going into the game was Deivi to Clarke. Bringing Schmidt in from the bullpen in a tough spot was a “necessity” and something brought forth by Deivi’s pitch count.— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) September 5, 2020
“Glad [Clarke] got out there to get one under his belt.”
Enough with the “plans.” Bringing in highly touted rookie Clarke Schmidt in the middle of an inning is nothing short of pathetic. It made no sense whatsoever. A 24-year-old kid looking to get his feet wet and Boone couldn’t buy a clue that common sense would slap this move across the face.
“Glad he (Clarke Schmidt) got this one under his belt.”
This isn’t the franchise for consolation prizes. No one cares about a young pitcher’s takeaways from a dismal Yankees performance in the middle of a playoff race. That speaks to a lack of leadership and focus for the task at hand. The Yankees have been a team that cared about a path towards a title and if it wasn’t a win to help accomplish that goal, it WASN’T DISCUSSED.
Imagine Joe Girardi saying “hey at least A-Rod took solid at-bats tonight” in a loss 25 games out from Game 1 of an ALDS. It would never happen. It’s an old-school mentality that nearly worked for Joe Torre in ’04 and worked to perfection for Girardi in ’09.
If Brian Cashman wanted to bring in a manager who was more buddy-buddy with Judge and the young players, fine. But Aaron Boone has over-relied upon analytics to a fault, and it’s costing the Yankees pivotal games towards what should be their goal: World Series title No. 28.
For now, let’s pay close attention to how Aaron Boone utilizes Cole and Tanaka this weekend and whether or not he lets his horses run deep into these games. The Astros made the mistake of leaving Gerrit Cole in the bullpen in last year’s World Series listening to analytics. Boone has rely less upon the data, and let this ship float or sink on the back of their $300-million man.
All eyes should be on Boone. If he can demonstrate some natural instinct for the game, the Yankees just might make a run and pop some champagne in October. If not, it might be time to re-evaluate who’s steering the Death Star in the Bronx.