The New York Yankees ended last season just one game away from going to the World Series. In a seven game series against the Houston Astros, one more Yankee win gives them another American League Championship—they have 40—and the opportunity to compete against the Los Angeles Dodgers for their 28th World Series title, the second one under manager Joe Girardi. Girardi led them to their 27th chip in 2009, beating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
The Astros, down three games to two, outscored New York 7-1 in Game 6 and 4-0 in Game 7 to win the American League Championship Series, their second. The first in the American League and one in the National League in 2005.
Each team had won their home games. Houston had home field advantage. Games 1 and 2, won by Houston, were each 2-1 games. Yankee losses were not dominant, lopsided ones. It was anyone’s game. In the 7-game series, the Yanks had compiled 22 runs to Houston’s 20 and 45 hits to 40.
The Yankees finished the regular 162-game baseball season 91-71, the 2017 American League Wild Card team behind the Cleveland Indians (102 wins), the Astros (101 wins) and the Boston Red Sox (93 wins).
Under Girardi, last year’s team overachieved. A foundation formed, a nucleus, a contender, something to build on this year. Yankee fans have expectations: another postseason, an ALCS, a World Series appearance. Maybe the team will add a player, augment the pitching with a starter or a reliever. This team is even more formidable moving forward. But the Yankees decide to replace Girardi as manager, not renewing his contract. A search for a new manager begins. The name that emerges from their exploration? Aaron John Boone.
Boone’s name will be forever etched in New York Yankee history. It’s securely locked, guarded, bolted down and hermetically sealed there. His 10th-inning, first-pitch, walk-off home run into left field in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox is a story creatively made for a Disney television biopic, but Boone has never managed a major or minor league baseball team.
Since retiring from baseball in 2010, he’s been a television analyst, contributor and color commentator employed by ESPN until being named the 33rd manager in the history of the Yankee franchise.
In the 10 years that Girardi has managed the Yankees, after several years of experience elsewhere, after being named Manager of the Year in 2006 as the skipper of the Florida Marlins, he has averaged 91 wins per season, compounded years of on-field experience and won that World Series.
When the Yankees take the field today against the Toronto Blue Jays to start the new baseball season, Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, Luis Severino and the rest of their stellar roster, along with their front office, will look to a manager hired because he tested well during his interview, and his ability to relate to the media, his communication skills. He has a lot to prove. Fans have expectations, but so do their players.
“I think in short order, I’ll be able to earn their respect, that they’ll be able to look at me, trust in me, know that I have their interest at heart, but know that hopefully, I know what the heck I’m talking about,” said Boone. “That’s something that you have to earn over the initial days in spring training, in the season.”
The earning begins today in Toronto against the Blue Jays, starting the Yankee season off with a four-game road trip after 32 spring training games. The earning continues Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays for two games (Monday and Wednesday), officially opening up Yankee Stadium for the season, and a four-game home stretch against the Baltimore Orioles from Thursday to Sunday and the rest of their 152 games.
“A lot of people can’t wait to see what my style is, or how I’m going to go about things, or how I’m going to command the team,” noted Boone. “Maybe it’s one of the more interesting things, to see how that kind of unfolds.”