NEW YORK — Brian Cashman spent the wee hours of Friday morning practicing rappelling off the side of a 22-story building for his annual appearance in a holiday festival in Stamford, Connecticut. In recent years, Cashman has done the EdgeWalk on the side of Toronto’s CN Tower and jumped out of a plane for excitement. He’s a daredevil, who likes to live dangerously.
For his next stunt, Cashman will present Aaron Boone as the 35th manager in New York Yankees history.
Boone has never managed a baseball game. He has never been a coach in the big leagues. But Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, decided he’s the best upgrade over the ousted Joe Girardi.
Arguably, the most prestigious job in the sport is now in the hands of someone who has never written out a lineup card. Cashman loves the high wire.
Boone, 44, will be entrusted with a jewel of an opportunity as the leader of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and the rest of the supremely talented Baby Bombers. The Yankees might have the best farm system in baseball and they hope to sign the Babe Ruth of Japan, Shohei Ohtani, this winter, while dipping under the luxury tax threshold, positioning them to spend big if they choose next offseason, with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper among the available free agents. From talking to Boone during the postseason, he knows this job comes with more than a few perks.
Boone is personable and well-liked, but even with those qualities, it’s not hard to wonder: If he didn’t hit that walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series to extend the Red Sox’s curse, would he have even been considered for the job? Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ owner, said he favored someone with experience. Boone smartly said it was a valid request, but given his family heritage — his grandfather, father and brother all were big leaguers, and his dad, Bob Boone, became a manager after his playing career ended — he made the case he has been training for the job since he was in diapers.
Sources said earlier this week that Boone knocked it out of the park in his interview. Two people with knowledge of the talks said they thought Boone would be the man, beating out a group that included Hensley Meulens (the runner-up), Carlos Beltran and longtime Yankees employee, Rob Thomson. Cashman became enamored with Boone because of his communications skills, which the Yankees hope fit the mold of the modern-day manager, a la the Astros’ A.J. Hinch and the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts.
Boone seems to have a lot of the traits to be successful, but it’s still unknown how he’ll react to the angst and grind of the job. It’s especially difficult with the expectations so high. With the previous manager let go after falling a game short of the World Series, those expectations aren’t lowering anytime soon.
Boone should be able to connect with the players. He has a good read on analytics. And he should be able to handle media sessions.
What will help him the most is a loaded roster and a lot more talent still on the way.
But Boone has to win — and win big. The Yankees need to avoid the one-game shootout of the wild card they survived this year. They need to win division and league championships and World Series. There can’t be any setbacks. It’s championships or failure.
And it is all in Boone’s hands, thanks to Cashman. The GM is a risk-taker. He has studied Boone and decided he’s the best man to lead what could be a Yankees dynasty. There is no safety net.