Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Saturday, December 2.
It wasn’t half an hour from the time the Yankees announced Aaron Boone as their new manager before fans on social media began trashing him. My least favorite post was one fan asking if his TV colleague Jessica Mendoza would be named first base coach. I found this sort of treatment highly unfair, though hardly surprising. There’s something about baseball fans and the media from coast to coast that seems to drive them to judge a newly appointed manager before he has brought a lineup card out to a home plate umpire.
This isn’t just a New York phenomenon. When Don Mattingly, another newly named manager without previous experience was hired by the Dodgers, the Los Angeles Times led the parade to bury the man who would take the floundering ball club to first place within 3 seasons and who would leave with 3 consecutive NL West crowns. Since his departure, his team has won two more NL West flags and would have won the last World Series if they had left well enough alone and not brought in Yu Darvish. I might add, the Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts who almost took them to the Series in 2016 and almost won it this past season also had no prior managing experience.
Making premature judgments on Yankee managers is a proud tradition in the Bronx. It goes back to a guy named Charlie. When Charlie was hired, New Yorkers held out little hope for him. There was no social media then, but the many newspapers of the day considered Charlie a sure failure. He had been an undistinguished player in his day and that day had been and gone. Charlie was edging 60, thought to be too old. He had managed two teams to nearly a decade of failure in Brooklyn and Boston when the National League played in those cities. Older fans will remember Charlie as the Old Professor, while folks under 40 probably have no idea who I mean. Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel was that man, and he ran the show in the Bronx for a dozen years, leading the team to 10 pennants and winning 7 out of 10 World Series. He was one bad managing decision from winning 8 out of 10 and that decision, not to use Whitey Ford for games 1, 4 and 7 of the 1960 World Series cost him his job.
So enter Aaron Boone, who will bring out the lineup card in late March when the Yankees’ season opens. To steal from another Boone family, right now Yankee fans are singing “Ain’t That a Shame,” (Pat Boone,) and not the more positive “You Light Up My Life,” sung by Pat’s daughter Debbie. Aaron is from the baseball Boone family which goes back to Ray Boone. Ray was an All-Star with the Tigers in 1954 and 1956. His son Bob was an All-Star catcher. Bob’s two sons are Bret and Aaron. Aaron has one Sports Center Moment to his name. In game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the hated Red Sox, Boone hit a walk-off home run in the last of the 11th inning, sending the Yankees into a World Series they would lose to the Marlins. Owing to an injury suffered in a game of hoops which was not allowed under his contract, He never played another game in the Bronx. Since leaving the field he has been often seen on ESPN, most recently on Sunday Night Baseball. He has called the last 4 World Series on ESPN radio with Dan Schulman.
The unfortunate comparison Yankee fans are making is that of Jerry Coleman. The former Yankee infielder and broadcaster left the Padres’ TV booth to manage the team for a year in 1980. The Padres, who were always a brutal team went 73–89 under Coleman’s baton. My point is, they put up a 68–93 record the year before Coleman managed and a 41–69 season in the strike-shortened year of 1981 after he had returned to the broadcast booth.
The Padres gave Coleman no tools to succeed with and no reason he should succeed. The Dodgers, under the incompetent ownership of the McCort family did not give Mattingly the needed talent but after the modern Bickersons were forcibly removed by MLB, Mattingly made a winner out of what had become a baseball embarrassment. The 2017 Yankees were a heartbeat away from making the World Series against the Dodgers and that was with very limited starting pitching. The team still has most of the tools they had at their disposal a year ago. Add to that one of the game’s best farm systems. Both their AAA Scranton and AA Trenton entries made the final rounds of their league playoffs. I can’t imagine Boone being capable of the kind of mismanagement it would take to ruin this Yankees’ team. Terry Collins, possibly. Not Boone. I know they won’t, but I wish Yankee fans would at least give the new guy a chance to mess things up before they abuse him as I saw last night on Twitter and Facebook.0