School’s out for Aaron

Boone must learn from first-year mis­takes to make grade in 2019

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - KRISTIE ACKERT

Aaron Boone has a lot to learn.

That’s not an in­dict­ment on his first year as a man­ager, it’s just a state­ment of fact. Com­ing into this as­sign­ment with zero ex­pe­ri­ence in man­age­ment or coach­ing, this learn­ing curve should have been ex­pected.

Now, the big­gest ques­tion the Yan­kees front of­fice and fans have about the 45-year-old head­ing into 2019 is whether the base­ball lifer is will­ing to ac­cept the mis­takes he made this year and learn from them. That is one of the things Boone can be ex­pected to an­swer to­day, when he and GM Brian Cash­man meet the press to wrap up the 2018 sea­son.

Let’s be fair here. In his first year of man­ag­ing, Boone did lead the Yan­kees to a 100-win sea­son and got them to the Amer­i­can League Divi­sion Se­ries. This was not a dis­as­ter you see with some rookie skip­pers.

But clearly, there is a learn­ing curve when you look at his han­dling of the pitch­ing.

Whether that is def­er­ence to a veteran pitch­ing coach or a frontof­fice an­a­lyt­ics depart­ment, Boone has to get a bet­ter gut feel for man­ag­ing his pitch­ing. Per­haps a veteran bench coach, which first-year Red Sox man­ager Alex Cora had in Ron Roenicke, could have been a help in these sit­u­a­tions.

In the wild-card game, it seemed pretty ob­vi­ous that Luis Sev­erino was done af­ter he got out of a jam in the fourth in­ning. The pri­mal scream he let out as he walked off the mound might as well have been a cry for the bullpen, but Boone tried to “steal,” a few more outs from him. It didn’t bite the Yan­kees, be­cause the of­fense and bullpen bailed them out.

In the ALDS, how­ever, it came back to hurt the Yan­kees in Game 3. Boone stuck with Sev­erino too long and the game got away from him and out of hand quickly. In Game 4, he again showed a hes­i­tancy to pull the trig­ger on a bullpen change.

Con­sid­er­ing how in­volved an­a­lyt­ics de­part­ments are now with ev­ery as­pect of game prepa­ra­tion, man­ag­ing the pitch­ing is one of the hard­est things left for a man­ager to do. Just look across town. Rookie Mets’ man­ager Mickey Call­away, con­sid­ered an ex­pert as the pitch­ing coach for the In­di­ans, blew through his bullpen in April and strug­gled to get a han­dle on it most of the year.

So, that is the ob­vi­ous thing Boone needs to ad­dress this win­ter.

But the bot­tom line is, he had a suc­cess­ful first sea­son, nav­i­gat­ing some of the other ob­sta­cles that trip up rookie man­agers.

Sure the Yan­kees’ lineup was stocked with the likes of Aaron Judge and Didi Gre­go­rius and break­out stars like Miguel An­du­jar and Gley­ber Tor­res, but it wasn’t sim­ply a mat­ter of plug­ging names into the lineup. You have to give Boone credit for get­ting the Bombers through a sea­son that in­cluded sig­nif­i­cant in­juries.

He had to nav­i­gate an ini­tial missed prognosis of Judge’s bro­ken right wrist be­fore the trade dead­line. (Cash­man didn’t give him a lot to work with there un­til nearly a month later, well af­ter Judge was sup­posed to be back in the lineup.) He also had Gary Sanchez not only miss 57 games be­cause of a groin in­jury, but go through a night­mare of a sea­son at the plate and a pretty bad one be­hind it.

Boone man­aged to get the Yan­kees to 100 wins with a ro­ta­tion that could be de­scribed as medi­ocre at best, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing how Sev­erino strug­gled in the sec­ond half.

And as Boone fi­nally ac­knowl­edged in the play­offs, the Yan­kees won 100 games in a divi­sion where they had to spend their en­ergy chas­ing great­ness — the Red Sox.

Boone seemed to have a solid re­la­tion­ship with his play­ers, never pub­licly (or off-the-record) dis­parag­ing their play. That re­flected in a re­laxed club­house that was ap­par­ently one thing the Yan­kees were look­ing for when they re­placed Joe Gi­rardi last win­ter.

If you don’t think those things mat­ter, then take a mo­ment to con­sider what hap­pened across town. How many times did Call­away end up in the head­lines for say­ing some­thing that re­flected badly on the team, or­ga­ni­za­tion or him­self (“This isn’t Cleve­land,” or “How it works in base­ball is...”)? Boone never em­bar­rassed the Yan­kees or his play­ers.

Sure, Boone made mis­takes in his rookie sea­son, but the key now is if he learns his lessons go­ing into 2019.

Aaron Boone takes lumps, es­pe­cially in ALDS, but can re­bound quickly if he learns from first-year mis­takes. GETTY

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