Russell: Aaron Boone’s Baptism By Fire

Aaron Boone said it was “surreal” to go into spring training as manager of the Yankees.

That would be a good way to describe Friday night’s (or is it Saturday morning’s) 7-3, 14-inning loss to the Orioles, in which four Yankees left the game with injuries, the team almost ran into a little league double play at third base, and Didi Gregorius was thrown out at the plate on a wild pitch to end the 11th.

There were no position players left on the bench, and no relievers remaining in the bullpen in the 14th inning of the five hour and 20 minute game. “You use them all up and you start thinking back at plays and opportunities that you had,” Boone said. “It’s one of those when you exert everyone and you’re losing guys like that, yeah, it hurts.”

For the over caffeinated critical fans doing their Chicken Little “The sky is falling routine” with the Yankees at 4-4, don’t forget last year’s team was 1-4. Joe Torre’s teams had their share of slow starts as well although they didn’t have to deal with criticism by irrational fans on social media. The 2004 Yankees were 8-11 on their way to 101 wins. The 2005 team was 11-19 before winning 95 games. The 2007 team started 21-29 before finishing with 94 wins. And Joe Girardi’s 2009 World Series champions started 13-15.

The pressure is on Boone as a first year Yankee manager of a World Series contender. But that’s part of the deal as a manager. There are no widespread Phillies pennant predictions but Gabe Kapler’s name has come up as possibly being replaced later in the season, despite being less than 10 games into his tenure.

Boone last played for Washington in 2009 and moved to ESPN, where he worked from 2010-17. Maybe it ran in the family, considering Bret Boone was an analyst for Fox during the 2003 ALCS when Aaron became a postseason legend. Boone came across well on television, which was no surprise given he had once been a recipient of the “Good Guy Award” presented by the Cleveland Chapter of the BBWAA.

But for Boone, a third generation big leaguer, there’s a difference between being around the game and being on a team.

“I love the competition part of things,” Boone said. “I love being in the game and being back in the dugout where everyone’s kind of pulling on that same rope, trying to get it done. And there’s nothing better than shaking hands at the end of the day. The negative part is those losses. They’re no fun. You stew on those quite a bit.”

Some fans were stewing last week when Boone had David Robertson intentionally walk Josh Donaldson to load the bases and then watched as Justin Smoak launched a go-ahead grand slam. Bob Boone told his son “welcome to managing.”

Bob managed Kansas City and Cincinnati, which included managing Aaron during his time with the Reds. Aaron was actually traded to the Yankees several days after Bob was fired as skipper. They are the third father-son combo to manage in the majors after George and Dick Sisler, and Bob and Joel Skinner.

While the role or importance of a manager can be debated, obviously managers want their players to do well. It’s necessary to keep their jobs. (And sometimes that’s not enough.) Boone has also come to like his players personally in the two months that he’s known them.

“You want them to do so well,” Boone said. “And I have so much respect for every guy in our room and who they are, not just the players. But we got really good people, so it makes it easy to kind of get behind these guys and want to see them have success.”

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