The importance of forging strong manager-player relationships in the clubhouse is an aspect of his new job that Aaron Boone stressed numerous times Wednesday, after the 2003 Yankee ALCS hero was formally introduced as the franchise’s new skipper.
“I expect myself and our staff to be very forthcoming and honest with our players,” Boone said.
One of Boone’s first agenda items will be helping further mold and develop catcher and Baby Bomber cornerstone Gary Sanchez, who clashed with Joe Girardi this past season over effort and some defensive flaws. The 25-year-old Yankee backstop was tied with the Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal for most passed balls in the majors (16), and tied with the Cubs’ Willson Contreras for most errors (13) by a catcher.
Boone said he had already been in communication with many current roster members after getting hired, including Sanchez.
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“I have a priority in that Gary and my relationship is important. I expect it to be very strong. My expectation is that he’s going to be one of the great, impact players on both sides of the ball for a long time to come,” Boone said. “I’ve already texted back and forth with him a little bit, I expect to meet up with him at some point in the next couple of weeks.”
Of Sanchez’s miscues on defense, Boone reminded the reporters that the Dominican-born backstop is still very new to the game, having been called up in August 2016. Sanchez already has socked 53 career home runs in 177 games.
“I think we forget how young (Sanchez) is and how great he’s been so far. He’s been massively successful at one of the most demanding positions in all of sports,” Boone said. “We’re going to continue to support him. We’re going to continue to build our relationship so that we can grow him in every facet because we know what an impact player he can be.”
Another potential impact player in the majors that Boone will not manage is the “Japanese Babe Ruth” – two-way star Shohei Otani – since the Yankees got dropped from Otani’s list of teams he will consider signing with after being posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters Friday. Boone injected some levity into his answer about whether he was disappointed Otani won’t be on the Yankee roster.
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“I called (Yankee GM Brian Cashman), and said, ‘Sorry I couldn’t get Otani for you.’ It seemed like I got named (manager), and Otani wanted no part of it,” Boone joked. “So hopefully it had nothing to do with me. I don’t know if surprised was the word, but obviously playing for the Yankees always is an appealing situation usually for most people. But I respect the player’s right to choose his path for his career and his life.”
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner, however, expressed disappointment that Otani snubbed the Bombers. Steinbrenner said Cashman and the front office had “worked hard on scouting” Otani this past year and had done “a great job with the presentation we put together” for Otani’s CAA representatives.
But Steinbrenner said the franchise hadn’t put all its faith in the Otani acquisition happening and that now it was time to move ahead.
“I don’t bank on anything. Maybe that’s the pilot in me,” Steinbrenner said. “You can’t bank on anything. You have to react to what happens. You react hopefully in a chronological way and that’s the same process we go through every off-season. A special young player, would have been a lot of fun to have (Otani) here but it just didn’t happen. Step Two.”
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