Savage in the Dugout: Aaron Boone aims for Yankees championship while continuing family legacy

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“This is a big f———- game, and my guys are f———- savages in that f———- box, right? And you’re having a horses—- start to this game. I feel bad for you, but f——— get better. That guy is a good pitcher, but our guys are f———- savages in that box, our guys are savages in the f———- box.”

NEW YORK — With those 59 words, mostly the ones that started with F, Yankees manager Aaron Boone delivered a moment so memorable the only way to surpass it will be to win a World Series.

Boone’s rant, aimed at home plate umpire Brennan Miller following a July 18 ejection, has amassed millions of views online. It’s spawned T-shirts, memes and became a calling card for this “savage” 2019 Yankees team.

The only people who loved it more than Yankees fans might be Aaron Boone’s mom and dad.

Rather than wash her son’s mouth out with soap, Susan Boone proudly owns 15 “Savages” T-shirts. His father, Bob, a former skipper with Kansas City and Cincinnati, called his son’s viral rant, “magnificent.”

“It was the most tremendous argument I’ve ever heard,” Bob Boone, who currently works in the Washington Nationals front office, told Yahoo Sports.

Two months later, on Sept. 19, Aaron Boone made history, becoming the first major-league manager to win 100 games in each of his first two seasons at the helm. Only three other Yankees managers have ever posted back-to-back 100-win campaigns: Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy (twice) and Joe Torre.

And Aaron has put himself into prime consideration for AL Manager of the Year honors by guiding his team to the AL East title despite an MLB-record 30 different players spending time on the injured list in 2019.

“Of course he should win it,” Bob said, while recognizing there are other great candidates — Terry Francona, Rocco Baldelli and Kevin Cash among them — but he’s a bit biased.

“They’ve had 15 guys on the IL all year,” Bob said. “What he’s done is impossible. His best pitcher? Gone. His best hitter? Gone. The other best hitter? Gone. It’s a miracle. What they’ve done is a miracle. You hope they can finish it off — well, as long as it’s not against us — but they’ve got a long road ahead.

“But Brian Cashman has built a great team with all that depth. And Aaron has done an incredible job. They just keep stringing wins together. They’ve probably had as amazing a year as anybody’s ever had given all they’ve been through.”

Yet for all his early managerial success, Aaron has come to be defined by the phrase: “F——— Savages.” It led to a public apology and a one-game suspension. But it also led to a change in public perception, and newfound respect from passionate Yankees fans who thought Aaron was too laid back for this gig in this town.

(Warning: Video contains NSFW language)

“It does seem to me that it’s been something that’s been positively received,” said Aaron, who has tried to remain diplomatic about what transpired — given that it wasn’t supposed to be heard by millions of people across the globe. “But I’m a little shy about it just in the whole grand scheme of things. It’s been something that’s been a galvanizing thing for us, but I don’t put too much thought into it, honestly.”

As for his mother’s clothing purchases after the rant, Aaron said: “I’ve seen pictures of my mom and my dad and other relatives in their different shirts from that. I kind of laugh about it. It’s pretty funny. I don’t know, I enjoy seeing it.”

What Aaron Boone would really prefer to see, though, is the Yankees back in the World Series — perhaps against his father’s Nationals.

A burning desire to reach the top of the mountain

Aaron Boone has already hit one of the most iconic home runs in baseball history. And one could argue he currently has the most iconic coaching position there is.

Yet what drives him now is something that has eluded him to date: a World Series title

The Yankees haven’t had a ticker-tape championship parade down the Canyon of Heroes since 2009.

“It’s something that I’ve dreamed about,” Aaron said. “So it fuels that competitive drive. I mean, that’s probably the biggest reason I’m here.”

In December 2017, despite a résumé lacking coaching experience, the Yankees selected the former ESPN MLB analyst to take over for Joe Girardi. He stood out from the rest of the pack in the interview process. They felt he would be able to relate to today’s players. And he had fully embraced analytics.

“He had no experience, and he ended up with the greatest managerial position in sports throughout the world,” Bob said. “But I felt all along that Aaron was going to get the job.”

“I remember feeling like I thought it went well, but I didn’t stress over it,” Aaron said. “I kind of went home with the idea that I didn’t know if I was their guy or not. But I was good with that. And that’s kind of who I am. It turned out that I got it, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Sep 19, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone is sprayed with champagne as he celebrates after winning the American League East after defeating the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Yankees manager Aaron Boone enjoys celebrating after his team captures the AL East title. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Two years in, Aaron has shown himself to be very capable. He’s overwhelmingly positive — and who wouldn’t be with the deep and talented roster he feels fortunate to have — while showing adeptness at handling adversity.

“He was a player, and that has immediate credibility with the rest of the guys. But most importantly, it’s his personality,” one Yankee front-office person employee. “He’s a very good people person. He knows how to adjust to different types of people. He doesn’t treat everyone the same. From CC [Sabathia] down to the rookies — unsung heroes like [Gio] Urshela and [Mike] Tauchman — and I say that in a good way — he has an ability to make each of them feel worthy and get the most out of them.

“The different crap that comes his way, he’s able to read it well and keep things calm. And he knows how to protect his players.”

Still, after winning 100 games in his first season at the helm, Aaron’s decision not to pull ineffective starter Luis Severino in Game 3 of the ALDS backfired. And he was understandably criticized as a result.

Down 2-1 in the series, the Yankees were ultimately eliminated by the eventual champion Boston Red Sox in Game 4.

“That’s part of the game and part of the job,” Boone responded when asked if he’s learned anything heading into his second postseason as a skipper. “One thing I’ll always say about baseball is that one of the beauties of it — and it’s a big reason why we love it so much — is that decisions are grey sometimes. Sometimes, something can work and it’s considered ‘the right decision’ but it may not have been the right decision.

“My job is to make what I think is the right decision and then learn and grow from them always and hopefully always get better and better at my process and what goes into it.”

In 2019, injuries have kept happening, and yet Aaron and his players have remained unflappable. Even after the franchise captured its first division title in seven years and enabled him to reach the century mark in victories yet again, Aaron gave all the credit to his players.

“Hopefully I play a role in their success but I see it as their success,” Aaron said. “I have a role in facilitating the process so they get the most out of themselves. To make them feel comfortable in there to where they can go out there and be at their best when they go between the lines. I’m a part of that, but I don’t know what I deserve in terms of credit on that.”

With their pitching staff somewhat in-flux — despite the emergence of staff ace James Paxton and back-to-back strong outings by Severino in his return from shoulder and lat injuries — Aaron may be forced to get creative with both his rotation and bullpen in October.

In New York, managers and players alike are judged on their successes — or failures — when the lights are brightest.

“When you get to the playoffs, there’s a lot of luck involved,” Bob said. “A lot of things can happen. One error. One bad call. One freaky thing is all it takes to derail you. And it’s not always the best thing that wins the thing but rather the team that has everything fall into place.

“You never know what’s going to happen, but to get there I think it’s magical what’s happened to the Yankees.”

2019 Fall Classic could be a Family Affair for Boones

After producing three generations of big-leaguers — from Ray to Bob to Aaron and Bret — the Boone family has become synonymous with baseball royalty.

“We were given a gift,” Bob said. “Nobody in the family has ever had a job. We just play baseball.”

And if the stars somehow align — with Bob currently serving as a special assistant to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo — it could be father vs. son in the Fall Classic.

“No, we haven’t talked about it,” Bob said. “But of course we can dream about it.”

“I haven’t gone there,” Aaron said. “But that would be great if that happened in a World Series.”

Cincinnati Reds manager Bob Boone (L) tells home plate umpire Doug  Eddings (R) that Arizona Diamondbacks Byung-Hyun Kim's first pitch to  Reds shortstop Barry Larkin during the ninth inning in Phoenix,  Arizona, August 20, 2002 was far below Larkin's knees and should not  have been called a strike. Boone was thrown out of the game, the Reds  lost to the Diamondbacks 5-3 and Kim earned his 30th save of the year,  tying a franchise record. REUTERS/Jeff Topping    JT
Aaron Boone's father, Bob, once managed the Royals and Reds. (REUTERS/Jeff Topping)

In the meantime, Aaron’s parents are always watching baseball from their California home.

Often, three games at the same time. The Yankees are on the TV. The Nationals are on the iPad. And the Phillies (who were chasing the Nationals in the NL wild-card race until they were eliminated Tuesday) are on the iPhone.

“When it gets around 4 o’clock [Pacific time], my wife always turns on the Yankees game instead of my game. And I’ll tell her, ‘Look at our paycheck, it says Nationals on it,’” Bob said jokingly. “I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ It’s ridiculous. She’ll always call me and ask me, ‘Did you hear what happened in the Yankees game?’”

Bret’s son, Jake, currently plays baseball for Princeton, where he hit .312 as a sophomore. There has never been a fourth-generation major-leaguer. But there’s also a chance the economics major could eventually become the first Boone to ever serve as a GM.

“There’s a lot of pressure on Jake,” Bob said. “I want him to become an MLB player, and he’s got a chance. He’s got a lot of heart and he can really play shortstop. But I told him if the hitting doesn’t work out, study your analytics because all the GMs come out of the Ivy League.”

“We’re really proud of Jake and he’s a special kid,” Aaron said. “So I’m excited to see what the future lies ahead for him — whether it’s playing the game or it’s in the game in some way, shape or form. He’s got a bright future.”

But Aaron, a father of four, predicts baseball won’t be the family business forever.

“Some of them will have to [get real jobs] eventually,” he said.

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