Yankees Mag: Steady Hand

Aaron Boone coolly guides his team -- and his legacy -- upward

June 7th, 2024
Known for his strong ability to communicate, Boone has earnest and meaningful conversations with everyone, from the biggest stars on the team to wide-eyed newcomers still finding their way. “I’m so grateful to have a manager like Aaron Boone in the beginning of my career because of the way that he tries to help players like me, young players,” Oswaldo Cabrera (left) said. (Photo Credit: New York Yankees)

Brian Cashman knew it might sound crazy. His team had just come within one win of reaching the World Series, losing Games 6 and 7 of the 2017 American League Championship Series in Houston, and now not only was the Yankees’ GM parting ways with the skipper of his 91-71 team, but he was prepared to replace him with a 44-year-old broadcaster who had no managing experience whatsoever.

But Cashman and his advisers just had a gut feeling about Aaron Boone.

They held a long interview that was intended to touch on nearly every situation that the job might present. Managing a big league ballclub requires a keen ability to think on one’s feet, to pivot on a dime when necessary, to expect the unexpected. And whatever they threw at Boone, “his responses were like music to my ears,” Cashman said recently. He walked away from the meeting believing that they had found the perfect person for the job.

“It just came down to, would I be willing to make a recommendation to ownership and put my [neck] on the line to hire somebody who’s never done it before,” Cashman said.

Boone might not have had managerial experience, but in a very real sense, he had been preparing for the role his entire life. From tagging along with his father -- four-time All-Star catcher Bob Boone -- as a kid to his own 16-year professional playing career to his eight-year stint at ESPN, Boone lived and loved baseball for as long as he could remember.

Cashman went to Hal Steinbrenner and made his case for hiring Boone. The Yankees’ managing general partner was convinced. “I firmly believe that Aaron possesses the attributes needed to follow in the tradition of great Yankees managers,” Steinbrenner said in a statement at the time of Boone’s hiring in December 2017.

That belief has been validated, as Boone, now in his seventh season, finds himself on the cusp of surpassing Billy Martin for seventh place on the Yankees’ all-time managerial wins list. His longevity is a testament not just to his ability to guide the Yankees to victory with regularity, but also to the way in which he has handled everything that has come his way -- with a measured, ever-optimistic approach that you can set your watch to.

“I believed in the person that was sitting across from us in that interview so much that it was like, He is definitely worth taking a chance on, and I will not be disappointed. And I haven’t been,” Cashman said. “I think he’s fantastic. He’s done a great job. I’m proud to say he’s our manager.”


A few hours before a midweek game against the Astros earlier this season, Boone sat at his desk in his neatly appointed office just outside the Yankees’ newly renovated clubhouse. On the walls are framed photos of Yankees greats, historic moments, friends and family that have contributed to the game they all love. In a way, the images help tell the history of the sport, and when that narrative turns to the chapter on Yankees managers, Boone’s name is a significant part of the tale.

Of the 33 skippers in franchise history, 25 failed to last seven seasons. The shortest tenure was Art Fletcher’s 11-game stint in 1929, when he took over for Hall of Famer Miller Huggins, who had fallen ill and would die before season’s end. (After turning to Bob Shawkey for one year in 1930, the Yankees would name another Hall of Famer, Joe McCarthy, as manager, but Fletcher would spend the next decade and a half as a valuable member of McCarthy’s coaching staff.) Even such baseball savants as Buck Showalter, Lou Piniella and Yogi Berra were let go after just a few seasons. It’s a tough job in a demanding city, and while Boone doesn’t spend much time contemplating his place in the team’s pantheon of pilots, he has nothing but admiration for his predecessors.

When Cashman (second from right) first interviewed Boone for the Yankees job, the GM was blown away by the answers he was hearing from a candidate who had never managed before. But even if Boone, who was introduced in December of 2017, hadn’t coached at the professional level, his entire life was preparation for the position. (Photo Credit: New York Yankees)

“You’re humbled to sit in this chair and understand the magnitude of it, and the history of this chair, especially for this team,” he said. “So, I’m certainly respectful and mindful of it, and I try and have a reverence for it. But at the same time, I’m not here to climb a list. I’m here to try and play my part and help lead a team to a championship. That’s where the focus is. I love doing it. I love our team and the people I get to work with, from ownership, front office on down to our players and coaching staff and support staff. It’s been a privilege, and I love it. But it’s not something that I reflect on a lot, certainly not now.”

The roots of baseball’s family tree spread far and wide, and Boone’s own foundation connects him to the franchise’s very first manager, Clark Griffith. After piloting the Highlanders for their first five-plus seasons, Griffith went to the Reds for three years, then served as the Washington Nationals’ manager from 1912 to 1920. His second baseman in 1920 was Bucky Harris, whose 29-year managerial career would include a World Series title in his first year with the Yankees, 1947. But Harris was fired following the 1948 season after the Yankees fell to third place and watched as the Cleveland Indians won it all. Among the players to receive a ring that year was the Indians’ 25-year-old infielder, Ray Boone.

Aaron’s grandfather would play 13 seasons, mostly in the American League, earning two All-Star selections with the Tigers in the mid 1950s. Bob Boone -- a world champion with the 1980 Phillies -- played 19 seasons, earning seven Gold Glove Awards and mentoring countless catchers. When Aaron’s brother, Bret, reached the big leagues in 1992, it marked the first time in baseball history that a family had produced three generations of big leaguers. And when Aaron, who played 12 seasons in The Show, singled off Angels pitcher Scot Shields on June 25, 2008, all four Boones had reached the 1,000-hit plateau.

Those bloodlines and that background were part of what made Cashman so comfortable in hiring Boone. “He’s an exceptional baseball person,” the GM said. But they’re also a big reason why Boone is able to connect with his players so effectively. Communication is everything in the Yankees’ clubhouse, and Boone’s direct way of letting people know exactly what is going on is always welcomed.

“He’s been clear when he’s been talking to me, and it’s just great to have a guy like that,” said one of the team’s newest members, Juan Soto. “Whenever you’re doing something right, he will let you know, and he’s a guy who also is going to let you know whenever you [mess] up. And so, I really appreciate that because sometimes, players need a guy to be right there, letting you know that, ‘Yeah, you’re doing it right, you’re doing well, keep doing it,’ or, ‘You’re not doing it right, and we’re not going to let these things go by; we’re going to let you know and make sure you are aware next time.’”

Nestor Cortes gained much respect for Boone in 2019, when as a 24-year-old rookie the left-hander made 33 appearances over eight stints with the Yankees. Regardless of how well he pitched, Cortes could expect to be called into Boone’s office afterward and told that he was being sent back down to the Minors.

“After like the fourth or fifth time, he goes, ‘I hate to do this. I want you here, but just because of what we need and what’s available right now, we’ve got to option you,’” Cortes recalled. “I’m like, ‘I understand.’ At the time, I was just happy to be in the big leagues.”

Those face-to-face conversations mean a great deal to all young players, who often thrive under Boone’s leadership, partly as a result of the comfort they feel in the Yankees’ clubhouse.

“I’m so grateful to have a manager like Aaron Boone in the beginning of my career because of the way that he tries to help players like me, young players,” said Oswaldo Cabrera. “We can have a conversation about whatever, you know? He talks to me, and I know he talks to many other players, whether we are people like Aaron Judge or whatever, like Gerrit Cole, he can have the same conversation with me or with any other player. That means a lot for a person.

“He’s a guy who cares about the players, a guy who care about the wins. So, for me, to be honest, it’s one of the really good things that happened since I’m here in the Major Leagues.”


Since 1996, the Yankees have employed just three different managers: Joe Torre, Joe Girardi and Boone. Only the Atlanta Braves can make the same claim. That continuity contributes to the culture of comfort in the Bronx, where players, front-office personnel and even opposing managers point to perhaps Boone’s greatest attribute: consistency.

Anyone is capable of having a bad day, but for Boone, remaining a steady, reliable presence has been a hallmark of his leadership style since the beginning.

“When I was playing, something that I wanted and expected and hoped for from my manager was, I knew who they were day in and day out,” he said. “Whether I was riding high or going through a tough stretch, there is emotional stability in this chair.

“Hopefully, anyone that walks by that door knows who I am and what to expect and how I’m going to interact with you. And that it’s not tied to what we do between the lines. We’re people working toward a common cause.”

Boone began this season close behind Billy Martin but still far from reaching Joe McCarthy on the Yankees’ all-time managerial wins list. One record that he now holds, though, is the franchise mark for managerial ejections. Boone’s players appreciate the way their manager constantly comes to their defense, often in memorable, meme-able fashion. (Photo Credit: New York Yankees)

Through the ups and downs -- and there have been plenty -- Boone has maintained an even keel. Some of the challenges are to be expected; even Casey Stengel had his detractors. But no manager expects to have to navigate the absurdity that was the pandemic, or to need a pacemaker inserted during Spring Training, as Boone did in 2021.

“He’s a model of consistency in an environment that challenges that every day,” said Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, who has known Boone since they were teenagers, as teammates on Team USA and as Pac-10 opponents when Boone played for Southern Cal and Hinch was at Stanford. “The pressure that’s on the manager in [the Yankees] organization is immense. But his consistency in his approach to managing has been remarkable.”

“He handles the adversity of the toughest market to manage in in all of baseball,” said Cashman. “He’s really consistent in his day to day in terms of prep, his demeanor, his handling of our players. He’s cool as a cucumber …

“Despite being thrown out a record number of times by the umpires.”


Ahh, yes. The umpires. No conversation about Aaron Boone the manager would be complete without mentioning his run-ins with the game’s arbiters. According to the data available on Retrosheet.org, Boone’s ejection on April 22 -- when home-plate ump Hunter Wendelstedt tossed him just five pitches into the game for something a fan appeared to have said -- was the 35th of his career, breaking a tie with Girardi for the most of any skipper in team history.

For the previous generation of Yankees fans, Martin was the patron saint of getting tossed. The first image that came to mind when the word “ejection” came up was that of Martin kicking dirt on an umpire or, if the infield was still wet, scooping some up and heaving it into the ump’s chest. But in Martin’s 941 games at the helm in the Bronx, he was ejected just 14 times, or once every 67 games. McCarthy, the franchise’s winningest manager, was booted just six times over his 16-year Yankees career -- once every 391 games -- and three of those came in 1945, as he was beginning to distance himself from first-year team president Larry MacPhail.

Boone got run nine times in 2022 alone.

The stoic Torre (a surprisingly high 22 ejections in 12 Yankees seasons) seemed in sharp contrast to the pugnacious Martin, but then Girardi came along and showed how a well-timed ejection could have a profound impact. In June of 2009, the Yankees had lost five of six games, had fallen five games back in the AL East and were getting shut out, 1-0, in the sixth inning of a game at Atlanta’s Turner Field. Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk, then got picked off first -- a call that would have been overturned had replay existed then -- causing Girardi to come storming out of the dugout. “This might be a good time for Girardi to go nuts and fire up his team,” said YES Network play-by-play announcer Michael Kay. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Girardi got the heave-ho, and in that instance, it worked. The batter, Francisco Cervelli, homered. The Yanks scored three times in the inning and went on to win, 8-4. That began a streak of seven straight victories and 13 out of 15, as the team marched into a tie for first place and then rumbled all the way to a World Series championship in the inaugural season of the new Yankee Stadium.

Boone said he has never intentionally gotten tossed, although there have been times when he has turned to his bench coach during the early innings and admitted, “I don’t know if I’m going to make it through this one.” He smiles when he sees a “Savages in the Box” T-shirt, knowing that fans are having fun with one of the game’s oldest traditions. He harbors no ill will toward the umpires, but he will always fight for his players and do what he can to keep them on the field, even if it means an early shower for himself.

“I’m fighting for something that I think is important in the moment,” he said. “A lot of times, it’s around strike zone stuff. I’m very demanding with our group, with our players, about our strike zone discipline. That’s something that we want to own, and so, I’m going to fight for that. Sometimes that’s the thing that gets me going the most, and I would rather me take up a lot of that than our players. We haven’t had a lot of players get run from games since I’ve been here, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

Ask any player in the clubhouse, and they’ll tell you how much they appreciate it. Before Alex Verdugo even put on a Yankees uniform for the first time, the former Red Sox outfielder referenced Boone’s famous “savages” diatribe and said how much he looked forward to playing for that type of manager.

“When he gets tossed, it’s for a purpose,” said Cabrera. “It’s because something real is happening in the game, and he is trying to protect us. And we love that.”

“No matter what, he’s going to have your back,” Soto said. “It just tells you that he’s going to give his 100%, so you better give your 100% also.”

Boone is too focused on the task at hand to consider how long he might be willing and able to do the job. “I love what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m focused on this, the 2024. … Be where your feet are, stay in the moment, and do your job. That’s what I’m trying to do.” If he sticks to those principles -- as he has done from the first day he stepped inside the manager’s office at Yankee Stadium -- Boone can expect to see his name creep even higher among the team’s list of all-time skippers.

“I hope he climbs a long way,” said Cashman.

Nathan Maciborski is the executive editor of Yankees Magazine. This story appears in the June 2024 edition. Get more articles like this delivered to your doorstep by purchasing a subscription to Yankees Magazine at www.yankees.com/publications.