Aaron Boone and the early lessons of being a rookie manager
He’s had plenty of advice thrown his way, from his dad, Bob Boone, who played in the majors for 19 years and managed for six years, and from friends and former teammates.
“I don’t know if you truly know what to expect,” new Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after a two-hour bus ride from Tampa to the Twins’ spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., on Thursday. “The answer I give to that is I don’t think I’m blindsided by anything. How do you know exactly what to expect?
“Time management is important. Things you need to prioritize and things you need to do and spending your time wisely, [that’s] something that’s important because you’re bound to be pulled in different directions on any given day so it’s important that you make your list of things you must do during the course of the day.”
Has it been overwhelming at times?
“I haven’t felt that way at all,” Boone said. “The days are full. They are challenging at times, but that’s what happens when you’re a big league manager. It comes with the territory. One thing that’s tough is having to make tough decisions like sending people down, especially when it involves someone’s livelihood. It’s something I have a great deal of empathy for. It’s never easy to do that, but that’s your job as the manager.”
So Boone accepts all of the advice. He welcomes it.
Boone comes from a baseball family. His grandfather, Ray Boone, was a two-time All-Star in his 13-year career and a longtime Red Sox scout. Bob won seven Gold Gloves and caught 2,225 games, third most in history. Aaron’s brother Bret Boone had a very good 14-year career, driving in an American League-leading 141 runs while hitting .331 with 37 homers for the 116-win Mariners in 2001.
Aaron is best known for his 11th-inning, first-pitch, walkoff homer off Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, which he entered in the eighth inning as a pinch runner.
Boone spent seven of his 12 seasons with Cincinnati and played just a half-season in New York.
He’s even received advice from Alex Rodriguez, who is an adviser for the Yankees as well as an ESPN baseball analyst.
“He has a unique view of the game. A good view of the game. He’s very astute. He sees things that can help our team and our organization. So yes, I welcome Alex’s input,” Boone said.
Boone and Rodriguez have an odd career intersection.
Boone injured his knee playing basketball after the 2003 season, which led to the Yankees trading for Rodriguez (who took over for Boone at third base) and releasing Boone a week later.
And when Boone took the manager’s job in New York, A-Rod replaced Boone on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast team.
“And so I guess you know who the next manager of the Yankees is,” quipped Boone.
Boone also is friends with new Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Their MLB careers overlapped for 12 seasons and they worked together at ESPN. They text each other all the time.
“He’s been a friend and someone I have a lot of respect for and someone I’m going to enjoy competing against,” Boone said. “I think we can relate to each other a little bit. That’s safe to say, but I’m sure there are going to be times when we’re not so friendly to each other. That just comes with the territory. But at the end of the day we’re going to stay friends even though we understand that the competition between us could create some tension between us.”
Boone and Cora have the monumental task as rookie skippers of leading their high-profile teams to the World Series.
Both managers were hired to better communicate with their players and staff.
Both Joe Girardi and John Farrell were let go because they were perceived to be lacking in that aspect.
“I think it’s a part of who I am,” Boone said. “I’m communicating with the front office, coaching staff, players, support staff. Hopefully that’s a strength and something I’ll do well. I’m not sure it’s as much a point of emphasis as I try to be myself every day.”
Boone already has decided that the Yankees will open the season with 13 pitchers. He’s also decided that there won’t be a “personal catcher” situation with his backup because he wants Gary Sanchez to catch the majority of games and because he doesn’t want to create a scenario where a pitcher is dependent on a backup catcher in the playoffs.
“If we can avoid getting pigeonholed I’d like to stay away from that,” Boone said. “I guess on other teams where you have a situation where the catching is split more, I understand it, but Gary will do the bulk of the catching.”
Boone said that Sanchez has gotten better at game-calling and understanding game situations. He’s also improved his blocking skills.
Boone also said that he doesn’t envision batting Aaron Judge leadoff (though he tried it against the Red Sox on Friday). Boone will have to find an outfield/DH rotation to accommodate Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, Giancarlo Stanton, and Judge.
Boone knows he’ll be asked often about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. He thinks it’s never been better.
“I feel we’re in a good place,” Boone said. “We have a chance to be an excellent team. Our goal is to win the World Series, but that’s also so far out there. If you’re thinking about that, you’re getting ahead of yourself, but you have to live day to day and there’s a lot of steps along the way to get to that situation.
“The Red Sox are always a concern. They’ve won two [straight] divisional titles and they are a really good team. We have to deliver and perform to the level they’re capable of. The AL East is a grind. Baltimore just got better by adding Alex Cobb and Toronto is scary. So we have to be at our best every day.”
Minor leaguers seek pay bump
Minor leaguers have been paid paltry salaries for years, and apparently that will continue after President Trump signed into a law the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday. Minor leaguers will be exempt from federal labor law concerning minimum and overtime pay, meaning players would make as little as $1,100 a month and a maximum of $2,500.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 in Section 13(a) says, “Any employee employed to play baseball who is compensated pursuant to a contract that provides for a weekly salary for services performed during the league’s championship season (but not on spring training or the off season) at a rate that is not less than a weekly salary equal to the minimum wage under section 6(a) for a workweek of 40 hours, irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities.”
“It would be totally impractical to treat players as hourly employees,” Daniel Halem, MLB’s deputy commissioner of baseball administration told the New York Times. “Minor league baseball is not a career. It is intended to be an avenue to the major leagues where you either make it, or you move on to something else.”
Minor leaguers are considered seasonal employees.
In no way does MLB want to dip into its $10 billion in revenues to take care of minor leaguers, and minor leaguers are not represented by MLB’s Players Association. Some minor leaguers earn large signing bonuses after being drafted, but that’s mostly for players taken in the first few rounds.
“It’s a joke,” said one longtime minor league coach. “The hard work and long hours people put in at the minor league level to be paid what we all get paid is ridiculous. These kids are the future and the coaches and managers are developing the future of their organization. Makes no sense.”
Apropos of nothing
1. Alex Rodriguez was extremely insightful in his first game in the ESPN booth on Thursday, when the Yankees played the Twins. Rodriguez, who’s a Yankees adviser, said, “It’s the most talent I’ve ever seen on a Yankee team.”
2. Some Red Sox players consider Joe Kelly to be one of the best athletes on the team, if not the best. Kelly thinks he might be the fastest player on the 25-man roster. “We’ve got some good [athletes],” he said. “I still think I’m the fastest. Running and jumping I could beat anybody.” Even Mookie Betts? “In a race? Oh, yeah,” Kelly said. “We don’t really have anyone that blazes. When I was in St. Louis everyone wanted me to race Peter Bourjos. That would have been nose to nose.”
3. I still love NESN anchor Tom Caron’s take on the Yawkey Way debate. Caron suggests as a compromise to change the name to “Yawkey Foundation Way.”
4. Two free agent pitchers who could be scooped up next are Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Feldman. They are drawing interest from teams looking for depth starters. On the relief side, the big name still out there is Greg Holland. In this era of relief pitching, you would think Holland would be desired, but his price tag is keeping teams away.
5. I remember a time when Sparky Anderson would break Tigers camp with eight pitchers. This year, a few teams — most notably the Yankees and Astros — are going with 13.
6. The Dodgers don’t feel compelled to bring in another infielder to replace injured third baseman Justin Turner, who suffered a fractured left wrist when he was hit by a pitch last week.
7. John Farrell, who has joined ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” crew, has mostly stayed clear of the media since he was let go by the Red Sox. Now he’s part of the media.
Updates on nine
1. Estevan Florial, OF, Yankees — Florial, a lefthanded hitter who turned 20 in November, opened eyes in Yankees camp. The feeling is once he learns to hit the breaking ball, there’ll be no stopping him. He has five-tool ability and is a tremendously smooth outfielder.
2. Aaron Judge, RF, Yankees — Judge is making huge strides in being a team leader. His teammates have great respect for him, even as he enters just his second full season.
3. Alex Cobb, RHP, Orioles — The Orioles put in a waiver claim on Cobb last August but couldn’t work out a deal with Tampa Bay. They got their man last week, signing Cobb to a four-year, $57 million deal. Cobb was seeking four years and $70 million and turned down a four-year, $48 million offer from the Cubs.
4. Lance Lynn, RHP, Twins — The Orioles were in on Lynn but didn’t want to give up a draft pick for a one-year deal; they proposed two years. The Twins signed Lynn to a one-year, $12 million contract. Lynn’s agent, Casey Close, is betting that Lynn will have a good season and then hit the market again as a noncompensation free agent in an offseason where there won’t be a lot of quality free agent starters. Close also used that tactic with Dexter Fowler and it worked out very well. Fowler re-signed with the Cubs in 2016 on a one-year, $8 million deal after being traded to Chicago by Houston in 2015. The next offseason, Fowler signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Cardinals as a noncompensation free agent, as compensation cannot be assigned to a free agent more than once.
5. Jorge Polanco, SS, Twins — Polanco was suspended for 80 games by MLB for testing positive for a PED. In his first 78 games last season, Polanco hit .213 with three homers and an OPS of .570. From then on, a span of 55 games, he hit .316 with 10 homers and an OPS of .931.
6. Clay Buchholz, RHP, Royals — His minor league deal appears to be good for both sides. Buchholz will get ready in extended spring training as he continues his rehab after shoulder surgery. His wife, Lindsay, is a native of the Kansas City area. The Royals also signed Ricky Nolasco. The hope is that both pitchers perform well and can be flipped at the trade deadline.
7. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Nationals – A lot of baseball people had wondered why no team had taken a chance with Hellickson. The rap is that Hellickson showed a lot of wear and tear on his arm down the stretch with the Orioles after a decent start with the Phillies. Ultimately, the Nationals beat out the Marlins for the righthander.
8. John Lackey, RHP, free agent — Word is that Lackey would only return to baseball in the right situation. The 39-year-old doesn’t want to join a rebuilding team or one that’s in transition.
9. Pedro Alvarez, DH, Orioles — Alvarez will likely replace the injured Mark Trumbo in the lineup, though he still needs to be added to the 40-man roster. After the outlay of money for Cobb, it doesn’t appear the Orioles will add a free agent hitter like Mike Napoli, Mark Reynolds, or Melky Cabrera.
From the Bill Chuck files — “According to Elias, since the start of divisional play in 1969, the record for back-to-back homers belongs to the 1996 Mariners, who did it 19 times, followed by the 18 times by the 2016 Orioles and 1977 Red Sox. You can be sure the Yankees will be tracking this in 2018.” . . . Also, “Let’s see what happens when Alex Cora faces his protégé Carlos Correa this season. In 2017, Correa hit .524 (11 of 21) against Boston with an OPS of 1.473.” . . . Happy birthday on Saturday to Mike Brown (59) and Bruce Hurst (60).