Yankees manager Aaron Boone during spring training last month in Tampa.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone during spring training last month in Tampa. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — As Aaron Boone begins his seventh season as manager of the Yankees, he sat down with Newsday in mid-March and talked about a disappointing 2023 season, and hopes for 2024.

NEWSDAY: What do you know about this job  that you couldn’t have possibly known when you took it?

Aaron Boone: “I knew there were going to be a lot of things that came across my desk that you [can’t account for], but I think it’s just that: the non-baseball things that are part of managing the team all the time that, how can you possibly account for until you experience it? Hopefully your life experiences and everything has prepared you to handle things, but you can’t possibly [understand] until you go through it.”

ND: An example?

AB: “How could you possibly prepare for COVID, or some of the social justice things that were hot and heavy in the middle of COVID and around it? How do you navigate that as one of the leaders in the organization? Those are two big ones. How do you deal with things that come up in a player’s personal life that may or may not have an effect on what’s going on in here [the clubhouse] or their ability to do their job? And are there tough decisions to make around that in regards to their job? One thing I always try to go on, and I don’t think I’ll ever lose this . . . I always try and respect the fact that this is everyone’s livelihood, and so anything you do, you try not to take lightly because sometimes there’s very difficult decisions to be made that, frankly, sometimes are gray. [It] may be the wrong decision, may be the right decision, but they’re difficult decisions, so I try not to ever take that lightly.”

ND: Surprised at how your “hell-bent on being champion” took off in public?

AB: “I guess I still don’t know to the extreme how much it’s taken off.”

ND: It got a lot of attention. Coaches and managers, Rick Pitino recently as one example, sometimes will send messages to their team through the media. Was this one?

AB: “That was just an off-the-cuff line. There’s times when you know there’s a significant subject brewing, whether it’s around a particular player that may be out, so you try to be a little more prepared in how I want to answer something. But that wasn’t one of those . . . I think it’s fitting. That was in the moment how I felt, and I feel like a lot of our people in this room feel that way.”

ND: Players have talked about 82-80 being an embarrassment and wake-up call to them. Collectively as an organization, what did it do?

AB: “There’s no question there’s an edge and a sharpness to the focus and to the preparation that happened in the winter. I’m careful, though, because it’s always like that here. I haven’t walked in here any spring since I’ve been here where that hasn’t been the goal, or the expectation, and I haven’t felt like we haven’t had our foot on the gas on that burning desire to achieve that. I do feel like our guys have been hungry over the last several years for that. That said, I think if you can go to another level of desire . . . The way I would put it, there’s an edge, a sharpness, hell-bent. I think our group as a whole has done an amazing job this winter of just preparing themselves and laying that initial foundation to give yourself a chance. And then you shrink that down to six, eight, 10 people that I feel like, man, they need to have great offseasons, and I feel like that happened. And I feel a part of that is 82-80 and being hurt and not living up to the standard that they expect.”

ND: The impact on those outside the clubhouse?

AB: “I think it made us probably do a deeper dive on every aspect of the organization. But again, there’s always an urgency and we’re always trying to, as Cash [general manager Brian Cashman] puts it, find higher ground and push to that. That said, I think we did communicate more. Obviously had the meetings down here where there were some very pointed conversations. So trying to just be better at how we communicate department to department. Probably did a deeper dive on, where can we improve, change, double down on certain things? So maybe as an organization as a whole, there was more intensity to that. But, again, that’s kind of every winter too. I would like to think if win the World Series this year, we will be trying to win again. It’s the New York Yankees. I think Cash and Hal set that tone of, we are constantly trying to."

ND: Entering the last year of your contract, is that something you think about?

AB: “Not even a little bit. I feel like we have such a great opportunity in front of us. I feel like the year’s off to a good start, even though we haven’t played a game yet, but it’s off to the kind of start I would hope and we’re trying to build on that and understand what an amazing opportunity we have in front of us. And that’s as far as I go. How it ends, where it ends, I don’t worry about that.”

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