CLEVELAND — Aaron Boone twice uttered a phrase late Friday night that is rarely heard from the vast majority of coaches and managers at his level, in any sport.
“I second-guess it a little bit,” Boone said of his decision to send Aaron Judge from first base with the Yankees trailing by two runs in the eighth. The result was an inning-ending strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play that left Giancarlo Stanton stranded on deck in what would become a 6-5 loss.
Making the situation even more stark, Stanton homered to lead off the ninth inning. He almost certainly would have been pitched differently if he had batted in the eighth, but even if he had batted with Judge on first base, he would have represented the tying run.
A day later, Boone was just as comfortable, and open, in discussing it. When a reporter wondered why he seemed comfortable with the admission, he said with a shrug and a smile, “I got asked.’’
He continued: “That’s one of those that was a tough call for me on the spot. I could have gone either way on it. I feel like my reasons for sending were sound, but I also think there’s a strong case to be made to not send him in that spot. So that’s something I wrestled with and it bugged me a little bit.”
With the Yankees trailing 6-3 Friday, Tyler Wade led off the eighth against Shane Bieber with a double down the leftfield line. Lefty Oliver Perez came in to face Brett Gardner, and a passed ball moved Wade up. Gardner’s groundout to short made it 6-4.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona brought in righty Neil Ramirez, who hit Judge with a pitch. With Stanton on deck, Aaron Hicks struck out and Judge was thrown out stealing second by Yan Gomes (the original safe call was overturned on a replay challenge).
“I try to prepare myself the best I can to make sound decisions,” Boone said. “I’m comfortable and feel like I make pretty good decisions, but you also understand you’re not always going to be right. And I’m not suggesting I wasn’t right, but I’m just saying there’s a case to be made the other way, and it was in my mind that there was a strong case that way as well.”
On Friday, Boone explained his rationale for pulling the trigger. “It was a close call for me, but I was also betting on if Ramirez came into the zone that we’d put the ball in play,” he said. “Anything out of the zone, coupled with him being slow to the plate, I figured we’d have the bag and have another guy in scoring position there.”
The counterargument in his head?
“Even though the pitcher’s slow to the plate, still on a 3-2 count, you’re not getting a stolen base-type break necessarily because you’re kind of making sure,” Boone said. “So that, in essence, speeds up the delivery a little bit technically. You punch out, you open yourself up to that [the strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out] with power [Stanton] coming behind.”
Stanton, of course, homered to lead off the ninth, but it’s a fallacy — the famous “fallacy of the predetermined outcome’’ — to assume he would have done the same thing had Judge been safe, or if he had not run at all.
“I love this game and there’s a lot of decisions that come down over the course of a game,” Boone said. “One of the great things about this game is a lot of different people, a lot of smart people, have different thoughts on different situations that we can all debate on. Me, in this position, I have those internal debates all the time.”