Yankees will not be whole again until empathic leader Aaron Boone returns

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Andy Martino
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
312711694 021020 AARON BOONE Treated Art
312711694 021020 AARON BOONE Treated Art

It was awkward standing on the edges of the Yankees’ clubhouse in Houston after Jose Altuve’s season-ending home run in 2019. Aaron Boone and his players shared a moment so intense that you felt like an intruder watching it.

For many long minutes, as Boone walked around the room, the only sounds were sniffles and firm pats on the back. A close friend of Boone’s later told me that it took him weeks to recover from that night.

All of this is to say, Boone is a real one. This is why the news of his medical leave of absence to receive a pacemaker -- while expected to be brief -- surely landed hard in the Yankees organization, from the clubhouse to the front office. Boone cares about his co-workers, and anyone attuned enough to understand this cares right back.

No manager is universally beloved among his players. The basic responsibilities of the job require you to offend and disappoint people.

Boone, though, actively seeks to minimize conflict. He, along with his friend Alex Cora in Boston and a few others, are models of the contemporary skipper -- not a taskmaster like Dick Williams or a hothead like Lou Piniella or even a stern technocrat like Joe Girardi, but a gentler leader for a generation that needs it.

He occupies a nearly impossible space between the front office and the clubhouse, tasked with selling to players strategies that run counter to their experience and sometimes competitiveness.

Boone pushes back more than the public realizes on certain strategies -- perhaps even the controversial Deivi Garica/J.A. Happ game in last year’s division series -- but then, once the group makes a decision, he presents a united front to reporters and players. He’s often walking on a tightrope, and almost always doing it with grace.

He also offers both players and superiors an earnest desire to offer help when needed. While working with Cora at ESPN, Boone would text his less experienced colleague insights to use on Baseball Tonight. He keeps an open line with his current team, reaching out when players are injured or sick, or just to stay in touch during the offseason.

Part of Boone’s commitment to the team is based in faith, a component of his life that he mentioned in the news release announcing his leave of absence. That is literal -- he’s a devout Christian -- but it also translates to belief in players.

Part of the reason Boone is shocked every year when the Yankees lose in the playoffs is that he is convinced, with the confidence that a child has in Santa Claus, that his team will win. Fans might get frustrated with his unwillingness to publicly criticize slumping players, but that’s because he genuinely believes in all of them.

For these reasons, specific to Boone and who he is, he will be deeply missed. Players and staff will be assured that the situation is not serious, but they will worry and pray anyway. The Yankees will not be whole until he returns.