NEW YORK — For Aaron Boone, it’s like The Boss is back in town. The expectations for what he needs to accomplish as the next manager of the New York Yankees are straight from the late George Steinbrenner’s merciless ethos: Either win a World Series, or fail.
The job is a blessing and a curse. There is so much young talent on the roster and so much more on the way, which makes the Yankees a win-now team. But if Boone doesn’t win over the next couple of years, fingers will be pointed at him and the man who hired him, general manager Brian Cashman.
Steinbrenner’s heavy hand might be long gone, but his ruthlessness is ingrained in a fan base for a team that has been America’s most successful for more than a century, and hasn’t had a losing season in 25 years.
This week, Cashman will hand Boone the keys to a potential dynasty. Fair or not, he will be expected to drive it at least once, if not a couple of times, down the Canyon of Heroes. The Yankees were one game from the World Series in a “rebuilding year” in 2017, and it cost Joe Girardi his job.
For Boone, the expectations will be for more. The sooner, the better.
Even with his zapping of Girardi, Hal Steinbrenner has not turned into his father — not even if he truly believes he would’ve let Girardi walk even if the Yankees had won this year’s World Series. But he and Cashman have handed Boone, 44, a chance at greatness as a manager with the same bottom line as The Boss in his prime.
George M. Steinbrenner passed away seven years ago, and since then, there has been this feeling when things go wrong with the Yankees: “If The Boss were still around …” That’s not exactly accurate, because, forgetting the revisions, Steinbrenner’s reign was far from perfect.
However, the one enduring trait that has been missing in recent years is the expectation to win it all every season. The Yankees were first too old and then too young before nearly going all the way this year. As such, it will not be Hal who acts like The Boss, but rather the team’s fans.
Many of them were on board for the rebuild, but even as affable as Boone is, the fans figure to have little patience if his rawness as a manager holds the Baby Bombers back.
There is so much talent at Boone’s disposal. At some point this season, the Yankees could potentially have a starting lineup of All-Stars, most of whom are well below 30, which should make Boone look smart when he fills out the lineup card (with the front office’s help).
1. LF Brett Gardner (34), one-time All-Star
2. RF Aaron Judge (25), one-time All-Star
3. C Gary Sanchez (25), one-time All-Star
4. 1B Greg Bird (25), potential All-Star
5. 2B Starlin Castro (27), four-time All-Star
6. SS Didi Gregorius (27), potential All-Star
7. CF Aaron Hicks (28), potential All-Star
8. 3B Gleyber Torres (20), potential All-Star
9. DH Clint Frazier (23), potential All-Star
Their rotation could be:
1. RHP Luis Severino
2. RHP Masahiro Tanaka
3. RHP Sonny Gray
4. LHP Jordan Montgomery
5. LHP CC Sabathia (a free agent at the moment)
The bullpen could be pretty stacked as well:
1. LHP Aroldis Chapman
2. RHP Dellin Betances
3. RHP Chad Green
4. RHP David Robertson
5. RHP Tommy Kahnle
6. RHP Bryan Mitchell
7. LHP Chasen Shreve
This roster might be ridiculous, and Cashman hasn’t even done any of his tinkering yet. The Yankees never got to go to bat for Shohei Ohtani, whom they really wanted, but they still have a strong outlook.
Torres might not be at third on Opening Day, but he could be in the majors at some point in 2018, replacing Headley. Castro could be dealt, which could open up another spot for Torres. Oh, and the Yankees — with guys such as Frazier, Albert Abreu and Estevan Florial — might have baseball’s best farm system.
Between Alex Rodriguez and Sabathia, the Yankees have $46 million coming off their annual payroll, though they could still sign Sabathia at a reduced rate. That’s while saving up for next year’s epic free-agent class led by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
(A note for your consideration: The Yankees could favor Machado by next winter, putting him at third and moving Torres to second. Machado already has his own rivalry with the Red Sox.)
A tasty treat of talent awaits Boone. There is a new boss in the Yankees’ dugout, but the credo of the old Boss is back in the Bronx. We know Boone will be way more personable than Girardi, but if he is going to more liked, Boone better win.