Aaron Boone could be a bellwether for the entire future of the Yankees

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Aaron Boone looks out from dugout
Aaron Boone looks out from dugout

The Yankees aren’t going to fire Aaron Boone any time soon. But whether Boone is managing the team in 2022 could answer far bigger questions about the direction of the franchise.

Boone is the tip of a much deeper iceberg. People around the Yankees acknowledge more uncertainty than usual and see Boone’s future as perhaps the most telling indicator about where the organization will go.

In addition to covering the Yankees on a daily basis, SNY spoke this week to five league sources with a feel for the team’s dynamics. To put it simply, people around Brian Cashman will be stunned if the GM decides to change managers after this season, even if the Yankees miss the playoffs.

But those same people wonder if it will be Cashman’s decision to make.

On a Zoom call with reporters Thursday, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner spoke in complimentary terms of Cashman, Boone and the coaches -- but refused to commit to Boone as his manager next year if the Yankees fail to reach the postseason.

“That’s a hypothetical, and these aren’t things I want to contemplate hard on until the season is over,” Steinbrenner said.

"But making the playoffs is important, and the reason it’s important is not just because we do it every year and the fans expect it -- that’s important -- but it’s important because it will show that we have come back, because we ain’t there right now. The season ends today, we’re not in the playoffs. So it’s very important from a standpoint that it proves we did turn it around and get ourselves into a position where we made the playoffs. And we’re not there right now."

I followed up by asking simply, “Is making the playoffs essential to offering Boone another contract?”

“I can’t answer that question right now,” Steinbrenner said. “It’s July 1. I’m just not going there.”

That deflection could carry one of a few meanings:

1. Steinbrenner simply didn’t want to commit to anything publicly in July, preferring to reserve wiggle room for later.

2. Steinbrenner and team president Randy Levine would overrule Cashman and move on from Boone – but keep Cashman -- if the Yankees miss the playoffs.

3. The next general manager of the Yankees will hire Boone’s replacement.

The third point is, obviously, where this gets interesting. Boone is under contract through the end of this season, Cashman through 2022. If Steinbrenner and Levine want a different manager from the one Cashman handpicked and still prefers, would they want Cashman to make the next hire? Would Cashman want to stay?

That’s why Boone could prove the bellwether.

Feb 19, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner look on during spring training workouts at Yankees Players Development Complex.
Feb 19, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner look on during spring training workouts at Yankees Players Development Complex.

From where we sit, it seems absurd to even contemplate changing the leadership of a team that hasn’t had a losing season since 1992.

Fortunately for the Yankees, the younger Steinbrenner understands that his father’s impulsive firings were counterproductive, no matter how often they are romanticized today.

“He certainly did that a lot,” Steinbrenner said. “I think what people forget is that oftentimes, it didn’t help, didn’t work. And oftentimes, quite frankly, he was criticized for it. So I’m just a believer in seeing an entire body of work ... Knee-jerk reactions to appease this person or that person, when I really don’t think there’s a problem — that’s certainly something I’m not going to do.”

That same philosophy should apply to the offseason. If Steinbrenner likes Cashman and Boone – and by all accounts he still does – he should keep the leadership together for years to come.

This is how many successful teams operate. Think Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman in Tampa, followed by Kevin Cash and Erik Neander. Bob Melvin and Billy Beane/David Forst in Oakland. Even Dayton Moore and Ned Yost during the ups and downs in Kansas City.

Those teams have enjoyed playoff years and endured down seasons – and in both outcomes were allowed to continue fruitful collaborations.

New York is different. It’s the passion of the fans -- even the lunkheads chanting “Fire Boone” in the wee hours Thursday after the team’s star closer blew a four-run lead (who was the manager supposed to summon in the save situation, Lucas Luetge?) -- that helps elevate the baseball environment.

Will those customers who are angry enough to demand changes be able to convince Steinbrenner?

As we await an answer, it seems to me that Boone’s job is the one that will tell us if other dominos will stand or fall.