Aaron Boone Knows ‘Secret Sauce’ to Being Yankees Manager

February is less than a week away. The start of spring training is in less than three weeks. Yankees baseball is almost back. With Yankees baseball being almost back, Aaron Boone went on a little media tour this week, joining both the Foul Territory and The Show podcasts.

I still can’t believe Boone remains manager of the Yankees. It makes me sick to think given how each of his six years in the position have finished:

2018: Eliminated in four games in the ALDS by the Red Sox after losing both home games in the series, including the most lopsided home postseason loss in franchise history.

2019: Eliminated in six games in the ALCS by the Astros after losing four of the last five games of the series.

2020: Eliminated in five games in the ALDS by the Rays after losing three of the last four games of the series.

2021: Finished third in the division and fifth in the league and eliminated in the one-game playoff.

2022: Swept in the ALCS by the Astros.

2023: Failed to reach the postseason when 40 percent of the league reaches the postseason.

When the Yankees were barely able to eke out a winning season last year, the narrative was that the team was too analytically-driven in their decision making and their offense. Boone denied that claim, saying both new-school and old-school methods are needed in today’s game.

“I think the secret sauce in this job is striking that balance,” Boone said. “There are a lot of players that can handle a lot of different things and information … and reach their potential as players. There’s other players you try to kind of get out of their way.”

Boone thinks he knows the “secret sauce” to being a major-league manager and Yankees manager. This is important to remember during the season because when bad decisions are made or things go poorly (like all of 2023 went), Boone is not accountable for the results. Why should he be? There are no repercussions or consequences for losing as manager of the Yankees in this day and age. Boone maintaining his position as Yankees manager and being asked to be interviewed coming off of an 82-win, postseason-less year is proof of that. Here I was thinking someone like Bruce Bochy with his four World Series rings and five league pennants to his name owned the secret sauce to managing. Little did I know, Boone has also mastered managing in the majors.

“I think about it all the time,” Boone said when asked about the 2024 lineup. “Right now, probably Juan in the 2-hole and Judge third. We’ll see. We’ll see how the leadoff spot shakes out.”

On the 2024 lineup cards the Yankees plan on using, Soto second and Judge third should be printed on the templates. The other seven spots can be left blank to write in the other spots for that day. As long as though two are healthy (knock on all the wood), no other Yankee should ever bat second or third.

“I’m excited about the balance that we have,” Boone said of the current roster.

Ah, balance. What a concept. It wasn’t long ago the Yankees were trying to complete their second-great illusion of all time by telling fans an all-right-handed lineup can be just as successful as a lineup featuring both right-handed and left-handed batters. (Their first-great illusion is convincing Yankees fans their payroll is increasing commensurately with revenue each year.)

To me, the Yankees should open the season with this lineup:

DJ LeMahieu, 3B
Juan Soto, RF
Aaron Judge, CF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Alex Verdugo, LF
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
Austin Wells, C
Anthony Volpe, SS

That gives the Yankees a right-lefty alternation through the lineup and allows Wells and Volpe to get settled in and develop at the bottom of the order.

The problem with that lineup is Stanton batting seventh. If you think for even a second Boone would ever bat Stanton seventh, let alone to begin the season, you must be new around here. Stanton hit .211/.297/.462 in 2022 and never batted below fourth. Last season, he hit .191/.275/.420 and never batted below fifth. I didn’t say that’s the lineup the Yankees will use, I said “to me” it’s what they should use.

Stanton won’t hit lower than fifth on Opening Day (if he’s healthy and available). Boone goes out of his way to appease his players, especially veterans. Boone would rather not put out the best possible lineup than have to have a conversation about lineup spot or playing time with Stanton, or put Stanton in a position in which he would have to answer questions from the media abut his place in the order or playing time.

“I’m going to do whatever we need to do,” Boone said about not playing Stanton if he doesn’t produce. “That said, I’m excited about where I believe Giancarlo is.”

Boone is going into the 2024 season acting like it’s six years ago and present-day Stanton is the same Stanton who hit 59 home runs and won the NL MVP prior to becoming a Yankee. Over the last two seasons, Stanton has hit .202/.286/.442 in 211 game and 867 plate appearances. That’s not a small sample size, and there’s only one reason someone with those numbers gets to continue to bat in the middle of the order for a supposed contender: owed money. And Stanton is owed a lot of money. He’s getting $32 million this season, $32 million next season, $29 million in 2026, $25 million in 2027 and a $10 million buyout in 2028. That totals $128 million, of which the Marlins are on the hook for $30 million. Hal Steinbrenner isn’t about to eat $98 million. It’s going to take a lot of strikeouts for Stanton to not bat in the middle of the order. It’s going to take a lot more than that for him to not remain on the team for the majority of that $98 million owed.

“I think ‘Big G’ has had a great winter,” Boone said of Stanton.

I want Stanton to be good. Not good, great. I want nothing more than for him to be a .900-plus cleanup hitter for the Yankees. But I’m a realist. Stanton has played in 63 percent of games since becoming a Yankee. Over the last five years, he has played in only 55 percent of the team’s games. If you think Stanton is going to get healthier and better as a now-34-year-old, well you probably believed Boone last offseason when he said this about Josh Donaldson last February:

“The things he did this winter to get himself ready to go, I think you’re crazy to think that a bounce back is not in there offensively. This guy still has bat speed, and is super talented. He’s in a much better place than he was a year ago right now.”

Or this:

“He had an amazing winter. He physically looks great. His assessments, everything, he’s moving really well.”

Boone went out of his way to praise Donaldson as being “not far removed from 2021, where he was still a wrecking ball,” and then Donaldson went on to suck, get injured, suck again, get injured again and eventually be released.

“The season will declare itself on who should play and where and when,” Boone said. “I would not write off Giancarlo just yet. I’m excited where I believe he’s at.”

Stanton’s evaluation of Boone sounds eerily similar to his winter evaluation of Donaldson a year ago.

Stanton wasn’t the only one to garner praise for their winter work. The way Boone spoke about Carlos Rodon on both podcasts you would think Rodon, not Gerrit Cole won the 2023 AL Cy Young.

“I really feel like Carlos is one of those guys that has had an outstanding winter,” Boone said. “He looks good already.”

No one in the league looks better in the last week of January than Rodon. Then again, allowing 49 earned runs in 64 1/3 innings doesn’t happen by accident. It takes hard work, dedication and preparation. The kind Rodon is putting in this winter.

“A lot of (last year) was due to him starting with injuries,” Boone said of Rodon’s 2023 season. “He was just playing catch-up all year. It’s just about being healthy for him.”

If “it’s just about being healthy” for Rodon, here are his starts by season in his career:

2015: 23
2016: 28
2017: 12
2018: 20
2019: 7
2020: 2
2021: 24
2022: 31
2023: 14

The most starts and best year Rodon had came in 2022, going into free agency. Sure enough, the Yankees were there waiting with open arms and an open checkbook for him.

“There’s never a guarantee,” Boone said about Rodon being healthy in 2024. “Such is the nature with pitching.”

Sometimes there’s a guarantee. Like when you’re given a guaranteed $162 million over six years, like Rodon was.

“My biggest message to Carlos,” Boone said, “Is do everything you need to do to make sure you’re ready to go to the post every fifth or sixth day.”

What was his message to Rodon last year? Get shut down in spring training, make a comment about how if it were the playoffs you would take the ball, miss half the season, be atrocious upon returning, blow a kiss to heckling fans in Anaheim, turn your back on the pitching coach during a mound visit and be the worst starting pitcher in baseball during the second half of the season?

Thankfully, the Yankees added more oft-injured starting pitching this winter to mitigate a potential loss of Rodon by signing Marcus Stroman.

“This is the place that he wants to be,” Boone said of Stroman as a Yankee. “I’m very confident that he’s going to make us a lot better.”

This is where Stroman wants to be when he isn’t ripping the Yankees and inciting fights with fans on social media. The Yankees are confident Stroman makes them a lot better in 2024, they just didn’t feel the same way almost five years ago when he was having his best season.

Other than watching Soto play for the Yankees and seeing Soto and Judge hit back-to-back in the lineup, the thing I’m most excited about in 2024 is the return of Jasson Domínguez, who is expected back during the season. When exactly is he expected back?

“So we’re saying the summer,” Boone said about Domínguez’s return. “We’re going to make sure he’s fully back and ready to play the field full time.”

Boone saying, “We’re saying,” is telling. “We’re” means the Yankees and that means as an organization they have decided to give the most general return date as possible for Dominguez given all the return dates they have screwed up in recent years.

The dates of summer in 2024 are June 20 through September 22. That’s a 95-day window they have given for Dominguez’s return if you go by the official dates of summer. If you go on traditional summer dates of Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day, well, that’s a 103-day window. So expect Dominguez back sometime between late May and late September.

“I think he likes being up here,” Boone said. “The higher the league, the better it makes him.”

Boone thinks Dominguez likes being in the majors, earning a major-league salary, eating, traveling and living in luxury and being on the New York Yankees more than playing in the minors, traveling by bus and having a load of bread and some old condiments available as a postgame meal spread.

When Dominguez does return, he will be returning to an outfield that Boone plans on playing Judge in center field a lot in.

“I’m planning on playing Judge in center field a lot,” Boone said. “I really feel like Giancarlo can give us an occasional look in the outfield as well. He’s preparing for that.”

Boone feels like Stanton can play the outfield when he can barely handle hitting only. Back in February 2021, Boone said Stanton would play the outfield that season as well. He said it again in March, April, May and June and then eventually play Stanton in the outfield on the second-to-last-day in July.

Stanton has been the most-commented-on Yankee this offseason by the team’s general manager and manager. In November, Cashman went out of his way to shit on Stanton, only to then walk back his comments and try to claim they taken out of context less than a week later. That was back when Cashman was on his own media tour, which included his expletive-filled rant in which he said the 82-win Yankees “are pretty fucking good.” What did Boone think of that embarrassing rant from his boss?

“I pulled out my bag of popcorn and just kicked my feet and enjoyed him getting after it,” Boone said. “We understand, obviously, we’re coming off a year that’s not acceptable by our terms and our standards.”

“Obviously” the 82-80 season the Yankees are coming off of is acceptable by the organization’s terms and standards. How do I know this? Because Boone is able to give that quote and be interviewed as the manager of the Yankees despite finishing two games above .500 last year. Because Cashman is still employed by the organization.

The Yankees finished in fourth place in the division, were barely able to finish above .500, missed the postseason in a format in which 40 percent of the league recaches the postseason, and no changes were made in terms of decision makers in the organization. I don’t know how something can be considered “unacceptable” like the Yankees say 2023 was, and yet, there were no consequences or ramifications for it.

“Talk is cheap in the end,” Boone said. “We gotta go out and do it on the field.”

Yes, it is, and yes, they do.