About Aaron Boone lay an easiness. He chooses the gait. He chooses the vibe.
He did when he showed up, a couple decades back, untroubled in a veteran Cincinnati Reds clubhouse that included his brother Bret, and otherwise possessed a scent of chaos. He continued across a dozen big-league seasons, in a reasonable career if not an exceptional one, though with more than a few exceptional moments. Then, again, in retirement, he picked up the same gait, the same vibe, and on Friday, according to sources, had been chosen to become the 35th manager of the New York Yankees.
He replaces Joe Girardi, who replaced Joe Torre, and 22 years of Joes and stability come to the next generation, to the 44-year-old Boone and a wealth of organizational talent that just six weeks ago played to the brink of the World Series.
Boone, of course, knows a thing about legacies. His grandfather played. His father played. Just 15 years ago, Bob Boone was manager of the Reds. Just 14½ years ago, he was fired, how the game works. His brother played.
Maybe all of that explains the easiness with which Aaron Boone arrives in this job, among the most revered and challenging in sports. Boone has not managed before. He has not coached. He left the game and became a television analyst, and while this is generally not the road to the top step at Yankee Stadium, again, Boone chooses the gait, and folks seem to arrive at the same place with him. This time, those folks include Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who a month back cut the reliably earnest Girardi loose, and owner Hal Steinbrenner, who entrust that organizational overhaul and a wholly promising future to a man whose done plenty, but never this.
After his interview with the Yankees a couple weeks back, Boone told reporters, “Obviously, experience is very valuable and should be a checkmark for somebody. But I would also say, in a way, I’ve been preparing for this job my entire life.
“Hopefully I can be a part of them now taking it to even another level.”
Along with Boone, Cashman considered Hensley Meulens, Eric Wedge, Rob Thomson, Carlos Beltran and Chris Woodward. Most followed the pattern of other recent and successful hires across baseball. That is, men with charisma who also could run a baseball game. Men who put a smile on the face of the organization. Men who related to the 25 men in the clubhouse. At a time when analytics often cast players as numbers, or define them by their limitations, the science of the win circles back to getting 10 or 12 men a night to play hard and smart and committed.
As Boone told reporters that day in New York, “My job as manager would be to forge really strong relationships where these players understand that me and my staff are going to really care about them, that they’re going to be able to trust us, and that at the end of the day, we are going to do things that are best for the Yankees. Those are the three things that I really want to get across to my players. We have a chance at really impacting and getting the most out of each and every guy if those three things are prevalent in our relationship within the clubhouse.”
Boone was a Yankee once, for 71 games. He hit eight home runs, one of which everyone remembers. He was smart and composed and, turned out, was even in those moments preparing for the job that came Friday. It’s a hard job. It’s broken plenty. The only reasonable outcome can be had in late October, and sometimes even that is not enough. The rest is grounds for something new. For the next guy. Today, that’s him. And now he chooses the vibe, again.