Keidel: Aaron Boone Deserved AL Manager Of The Year Honors


To the world west of the Hudson, the Yankees represent all that is wrong with sports, industry and New York City. They are the symbol of our size and distortion, the cash and cachet, and the native hubris of the New Yorker. 

To them, the Yankees weren't built. They sprouted from the rich soil of the city and kept the rest of baseball at a bat's length ever since. That doesn't mean we New Yorkers should feel sorry for ourselves, or expect anyone to feel empathy or sympathy for the Yankees. 

But Aaron Boone got hosed. 

The Yankees’ skipper did not win AL Manager of the Year. The award went to Twins skipper Rocco Baldelli, who did a fine job leading the Twins to 101 wins and their rightful place at the business end of a Yankees sweep in the ALDS. 

Baseball fans are snickering at any slight slung at the Bronx Bombers, who have added pain at some point in their lives. They loved to see the Yankees fall to the Astros in the 2019 ALCS, even as we learned Houston likely cheated when they beat the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS, using cameras and drumbeats and all kinds of malfeasance over seven games. 

But Boone is not the typical Yankee. He wasn't some baseball savant stolen from a secret cornfield. He wasn't poached after being groomed by another team. In fact, Boone comes from a royal baseball family that has virtually no ties to New York. Boone is a modest man with a Midwestern mien who accidentally became a symbol of Yankees dominance based on one swing in October 2003. In Boston, he is "Aaron f*%$ing Boone." To most enlightened fans, he's just a good, quiet guy who got the Yankees gig. 

The Yankees' Aaron Boone celebrates after hitting the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Oct. 16, 2003, at Yankee Stadium. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

And Boone did a bang-up job this season. The Yankees went 103-59 despite a biblical plague of injuries. The Yankees set the record in August when they posted their 36th separate trip to the IL. For the season, the Yankees sent 30 different players to the IL in 39 separate stints. And Boone did a masterful job juggling the disparate parts he had every day, crafting 155 different lineups in 162 games. 

Consider the Yankees' Opening Day lineup - Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Miguel Andujar, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitzki. Four of them were not in the lineup in the ALDS, and a fifth (Stanton) barely played all season because of injuries. 

This is not to dismiss Baldelli or Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, both of whom did a fine job reaching the MLB playoffs with payrolls that vanish in the monstrous shadow of the Yankees' yearly budget. But Boone should not be punished because his boss is richer than the other bosses. Boone led the Yanks to a bulging lead in the AL East with a modest rotation with no real ace. There was no Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg to kickstart a series. 

Not that the Yanks were bereft of talent. They lived up to their Bronx Bombers sobriquet, blasting 306 home runs - second all-time to the Twins' 307 homers - while scoring an MLB-most 943 runs. But no team dealt with the pressures and rotating players that haunted Boone all season. 

The Yankees have become a caricature and a silly stereotype. Every player is born like Mickey Mantle, with absurd power and obscene speed. Or perhaps like Aaron Judge, built like a power forward, launching fastballs at warp speeds and lunar distances. 

It's easy to forget about Cameron Maybin, Mike Tauchman, Gio Urshela and all the role players Boone placed so perfectly into sweaty midsummer games. And then there's the funhouse portrait of the manager/marionette who's little more than the GM's minion. Boone, like most managers, simply applies the algorithms spit out by the analytics people. Whatever. 

Boone should have been voted AL Manager of the Year. Ironically, he lost because he's a Yankee, because folks assume Boone was born on third and pretended he hit a triple. Anyone who thinks that, knows nothing about Aaron Boone or the 2019 New York Yankees. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel