NEW YORK -- Let's get this out of the way: None of us have any idea whether or not Aaron Boone is going to be a successful big league manager.For every skeptic who has wondered why the Yankees would entrust their young, talented core to a first-timer who has never
NEW YORK -- Let's get this out of the way: None of us have any idea whether or not Aaron Boone is going to be a successful big league manager.
For every skeptic who has wondered why the Yankees would entrust their young, talented core to a first-timer who has never coached or managed a day of his life in either the Minors or Majors, Boone began the process of answering that question Wednesday as he was introduced as the 33rd manager in franchise history.
Boone's introductory news conference had all the typical pinstriped pomp and circumstance one would expect. From the who's who of Yankees' executives lining the dais to the giant bouquet of flowers presented to his wife, Laura, there was little doubt that the Yankees saw this as a monumental day.
Big televisions screens all around Yankee Stadium welcomed "Manager Aaron Boone" next to a photo of him watching his pennant-clinching home run in the 2003 ALCS. That home run made Boone a part of Yankees lore forever, but he knows this next chapter will have a much greater impact on his legacy with the franchise.
• Steinbrenner impressed by Boone
By inheriting a team that came one win away from a World Series appearance last season, the pressure to win will be as high as ever. Boone might not have experience on the bench, but he has something that might be more important: Experience in the New York market.
"I understand what I signed up for," Boone said. "I understand what the expectations are. I hope those expectations are ramped up each and every year. That's certainly part of being here."
That understanding is why Boone's lack of experience shouldn't have -- and rightfully didn't -- prevent general manager Brian Cashman from taking a leap of faith in recommending him to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. More experienced candidates were out there, but Cashman wasn't looking for experience.
He wanted the right man for the job.
"In this interview process, with Aaron at least, he emerged as the best candidate despite, believe it or not, no managing experience," Cashman said. "And is that surprising? Sure. But that's how it played out. Then it just came down to, would I be convicted enough in that process to do what I feel is right or to do what I feel is safe? I'm doing what I feel is right."
As he went through the final stages of the process, Cashman reflected on his own hiring two decades ago. After Bob Watson stepped down as GM, George Steinbrenner rolled the dice and hired Cashman -- Watson's assistant GM -- rather than bringing in an established executive.
"The Boss said to me, 'I can go outside the franchise and recycle somebody who has done this job before and bring them in and plug and play, but I've talked to enough people who I who say you can do this,'" Cashman recalled. "So he took a chance on me back in 1998, and here I am 20 years later."
If things go the way Cashman expects, Boone's hiring will also be a long-term move. The days of the Boss hiring and firing managers with regularity are gone; Boone became only the third man to hold the position since 1996, following Joe Torre (12 seasons) and Joe Girardi (10).
Torre had 15 years of managerial experience when he was hired, while Girardi had been Torre's bench coach in 2005 and managed the Marlins in 2006 when he got the job. Boone? He's been broadcasting for ESPN for the past eight seasons, getting a wide-angle view of the entire league.
As backward as it may sound, that might have been better preparation for this job than riding busses around small Minor League towns.
"Baseball is a game; it's not rocket science," said Mark Teixeira, a former Yankee and an ESPN colleague of Boone's. "What you learn as a manager, you can learn in Spring Training and in the first half of the season. By the middle of the season, Boonie's going to be a veteran manager. The postseason will be something different.
"When you have experience being a Minor League manager, you're dealing with kids who are not in the big leagues; you're dealing with a whole different set of circumstances. Being a Double-A manager, to me, has no bearing on being a big league manager. I think being in the booth is way more experience than being a Minor League manager."
Boone loved his work as an analyst, but he admitted that in recent years, the itch to get back on the field -- or at least in the dugout -- began to overtake him.
"I just have felt this tug; I felt the game kind of calling me a little bit," Boone said. "And I have found myself more and more looking at the game through a manager's lens."
Seeing guys like Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Astros manager A.J. Hinch succeed -- guys he played against and considers both peers and friends -- only bolstered his resolve. He knows he can do this job. Now he has to prove that to the rest of the world.
"I think in a lot of ways, I kind of look in the mirror with these guys and I think it just solidified in my mind that I would want to make this transition," Boone said. "The one thing I know and live and am is baseball. In a lot of ways, I've been doing this my entire life."
• Boone answers questions in AMA
The experience factor was an issue for Steinbrenner, but Boone did enough during his interviews with Cashman and the baseball operations department to allay any of those trepidations.
"It was a concern, there's no doubt about it, but it was clear that his knowledge of the game is very, very impressive," Steinbrenner said. "Of course he had his career, but he grew up around the game; grandfather, father was a player and father was a manager. It was evident in talking to him, the questions that were asked of him, that a great deal of wisdom was imparted to him his whole life."
There was also that memorable home run against the Red Sox. He may have been a Yankee for only three months, but he put a permanent stamp on the franchise with one swing.
"The thing that was certainly attractive for me was just that he knows this organization, our expectations," Steinbrenner said. "He knows the New York market, he knows the fans, he knows their expectations. Home run or not, the fact that he played here, for me personally, was a factor, because I think it's important. He knows exactly what he's getting into."
For years, Boone tried to distance himself from his walk-off homer. After all, the Yankees went on to lose the World Series later that month. The memory of the Marlins celebrating on the field at Yankee Stadium still sticks in his head -- and serves as motivation as he slips back into pinstripes for the first time since 2003.
If Boone can help lead the Yankees' new young core to the promised land, he'll prove that bench experience is not all it's cracked up to be. If he stumbles, the critics will shout about the Yankees' unnecessary gamble.
In the end, Boone knows all too well that only one thing will determine how he's viewed.
"Obviously, I'm going to be judged on wins and losses in the end," Boone said. "With the New York Yankees, we're chasing championships."
He already sounds like a Yankee again.
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.