Joe Torre had a “Don,” Andy Griffith had a “Don,” Michael Corleone had a “Don” and Aaron Boone is going to need a “Don.”
The Yankees went way out on a limb with the hiring of their former player to be their next manager. Boone’s only experience in the dugout has been as a player. He has not managed or been a coach anywhere before, but Yankees GM Brian Cashman was “blown away” by the 44-year old during the interview process and recommended him to Owner Hal Steinbrenner who signed off on the choice, despite indicating a preference for an experienced manager.
When Torre was hired in 1996, Don Zimmer was brought on board to be his bench coach. The two had never been teammates and had never worked together before. Torre had managing experience but he respected Zimmer and benefited from his baseball acumen in the dugout. Four World Series titles later, Torre would credit Zimmer for helping him make many of his successful in-game decisions during that run. Torre’s strength was the clubhouse culture and handling the egos while Zimmer provided the perfect complement to Torre’s demeanor. He was an astute baseball mind who, like the great tacticians of the past, liked to take a “risk” or two.
Boone is confident he can do the job but he will need to lean on an experienced “eye” in the dugout. No matter how confident someone is, when their responsibility is to make the actual calls on the field instead of a national TV outlet, excuse the pun, “it’s a whole new ballgame.” Believe me because I know from own personal experience of becoming an official scorer.
So who is out there. Former bench coach Rob Thomson moves over to the Phillies and I don’t think Tony Pena would come back, but you never know. Eric Wedge’s name has surfaced as a possible replacement for Thomson but the Yankees would be better served to bring in someone who knows a little more about the “baseball beat of New York.”
Here are some candidates to ponder. Willie Randolph was Boone’s coach during his playing time with the Yankees. (When the new manager made his mark in Yankee history in 2003, Randolph reminded Boone, before the famous at-bat, that he labeled him a “sleeper” to be a hero before the series) Boone respected Randolph and the two may work well together.
How about former managers Terry Collins or Dusty Baker. Either would fit the bill and bring years of experience as a bench coach. Collins knows New York and both he and Baker are baseball lifers who may still have the “itch” to be in uniform in some capacity.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild is the only leftover from Joe Girardi’s staff so at least there is continuity there. The remainder of the staff will need to be filled but the bench coach will be the most important hire for the Yankees and the neophyte manager.