Bob Boone is rooting against the Yankees in their two-game series with the Nationals, which begins Tuesday night in the Bronx. It matters not that Boone’s son, Aaron, manages the Yankees.
The 70-year-old Boone is the assistant general manager and vice president of player development for the Nationals.
“I get that question all the time,’’ Boone said Monday from Washington, D.C. “If your son’s managing, whose side are you on. Are you kidding me? It’s no question. The Nationals are paying me to win and that’s what I’m going to do. That’s just the way it is.”
And it always has been that way in the Boone family, starting with Bob’s father, Ray, the major leaguer in a family of All-Stars including Bob and sons Aaron and Bret. The family descends from American pioneer and folk hero Daniel Boone.
“We played games from the time they were babies,’’ Bob Boone said of his sons. “Whether it’s cards, dominoes, shooting baskets, playing ping pong. I beat them every time. I never let up. And after a while they beat me. I was that way, my dad was that way. When you get to the top of any athletic venture you have learned to play to win. And if you think you can show up here and be better than me, let me show you the difference between me and you. I think it’s ingrained in most professional athletes.’’
Boone certainly admires what Aaron, 45, is accomplishing in his first managerial season.
“Any time you’re measuring what a manager is doing you just look at the record, that’s certainly number one,’’ he said. “I think you also look at the team and how they’ve melded together. That’s one of the tremendous attributes that he has, that’s one of the reasons that he got the job. He’s always had the ability to bring people together and focus on whatever the duties may be. He really likes the club, he really likes the players. I believe the players really like him. Certainly, they play like it.’’
Boone said he and Aaron talk more baseball in general than specifics about the Yankees, but there was some fatherly advice given earlier in the season when Aaron got some heat for deciding to walk Josh Donaldson ahead of Justin Smoak, who hit a grand slam to beat the Yankees in Toronto. Boone would like his son to be a bit more glib.
“I said ‘Aaron you should have said, Look, Smoak makes [$4] million, Donaldson makes [$23] million. The contracts say I should walk Donaldson and pitch to Smoak. And obviously the contracts are wrong.’ Those are the decisions you make that don’t necessarily have an answer. After the fact they always have an answer. Before the fact they don’t. You can’t really worry about ‘I screwed that up. Why did you pitch to this guy, you know yeah that was stupid, wasn’t it?’ Obviously it was.”
Aaron played for his father from 2001 until midway through the 2003 season with the Reds when Bob was replaced by Dave Miley.
“He was a starter for me, he did a great job,’’ Boone said of Aaron. “But if he wasn’t doing a great job, he wouldn’t have been a starter for me.’’
Boone said his son never questioned his managerial strategy or decisions.
“He would never ask me questions the team wanted to know like who’s going to be the 24th player, who were the last two pitchers in the bullpen, I really like this guy is a utility player, I think he he’s better than the other guy,” Boone said. “That never came up, never.’’
It was no surprise to Boone when Aaron, a former analyst for ESPN, got the Yankees job despite having no coaching experience.
“When he got invited by Mr. [Brian] Cashman, I don’t think he really believed that Aaron would come out of nowhere and win this job. Because I know Aaron so well I thought ‘he’s going to get that job.’ I really did. It didn’t surprise me at all. Aaron knows the game. He spent years playing it and when you analyze it you speak it. That’s a huge advantage. You have to analyze for a national TV audience about different plays and different things that other managers are doing. He really got the analytics part of the game as an announcer. That was fed to them all the time as a broadcaster. During spring training they see all the teams, they learn about what the managers are thinking. And as you’re watching the game, you’re managing the game also. Experience is going to make him better and better. That’s the only thing he lacks right now. He knows how to do all the parts and do everything. That’s not a struggle at all.’’
The Yankees visit Washington June 18 to complete a suspended game and play another that was postponed by rain. Right now both teams appear headed for postseason play. Perhaps they could even meet in the World Series.
“I’d be pulling for him to do well but I’d be pulling for us to beat him, there’s no question,’’ Bob Boone said. “My wife might be on the other side of that, but that’s the way I’ve been my whole life.’’