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Aaron Boone to return as Yankees manager

Yankees manager Aaron Boone before a game against

Yankees manager Aaron Boone before a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium on Monday, June 28, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Brian Cashman described the 2021 Yankees as a "Jekyll/Hyde" outfit — one that vacillated between being "unstoppable" and "unwatchable."

Ultimately, the longtime general manager determined the best course of action for the franchise, which lost in the wild-card round to the still-alive Red Sox to extend its World Series drought to 12 years, is to stay the course when it comes to how it operates.

"Our analytics department’s very good at what they do," Cashman said Tuesday. "They're really good. The people we have served us well and allowed us to maintain a successful, consistent playoff-caliber team and a World Series-potential contending team on a year-in and year-out basis."

Cashman spoke for more than an hour via Zoom on Tuesday regarding the club’s announcement earlier in the day: that Aaron Boone, who qualified for the postseason each of his first four seasons as manager, had been given a new three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year.

"We have a person and manager in Aaron Boone who possesses the baseball acumen and widespread respect in our clubhouse to continue to guide us forward," managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement announcing Boone’s return. "As a team and as an organization, we must grow, evolve and improve. We need to get better. Period. I know Aaron fully embraces our expectations of success, and I look forward to drawing on his intelligence, instincts and leadership in pursuit of our next World Series championship."

Said Cashman, an organizational lifer and the GM since 1998 whose contract expires after next season: "I think I would turn back to this summer [and my comments]. I would reiterate that I thought Aaron Boone was part of the solution; wasn't a problem or the problem. I think Aaron brings a lot of great qualities."

Cashman, citing some of the available openings elsewhere, later added: "If he was entering the free-agent market, I believe he’d be the No. 1 managerial candidate in baseball."

So what were the problems in 2021 as the Yankees — who entered the season a prohibitive favorite to reach the World Series for the first time since winning it in 2009 — went through a roller coaster of a season in which they finished 92-70?

"We went backwards in categories that certainly we didn't see coming or expect," Cashman said.

The offense first and foremost.

"The season started playing out [and] our strengths were no longer our strengths," he said. "We'll continue to try to figure out what ails us."

Cosmetic changes were made to Boone’s staff last week as hitting coach Marcus Thames, assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere and third base coach Phil Nevin were let go, and other staff changes can’t be ruled out. But expelling those three coaches — and getting rid of or demoting others — ignores what many inside and outside of the Yankees see as the organization’s No. 1 issue. That would be the reliance, when it comes to pretty much all baseball decisions, on an ever-growing analytics department that has accrued more and more power in recent years but has yet to demonstrate it deserves that power.

As an executive with one National League club’s analytics department put it bluntly to Newsday in June: "Some of us are better at it than others."

And while Cashman on Tuesday again pushed back on the narrative that the Yankees are completely run by their analytics department, one rival American League executive told Newsday in July: "They’re pretty much all analytics now," adding that was among the worst-kept secrets in the sport.

Based on Cashman’s comments, that dynamic won't change, something one clubhouse insider Tuesday characterized as "disheartening," citing Nevin’s removal as Exhibit A. (Cashman and Boone both spoke in generalities regarding his non-renewal.)

"[Nevin] pushed back on some of that [behind the scenes]," the insider said of the amount of information players and coaches are presented daily by the analytics department. "It’s been made pretty clear around here they don’t want to hear it. Go along to get along."

Cashman presented it somewhat differently.

"Ultimately, I think from the operation I'm running, it's a buffet table that gets set for our staff," he said. "And it's information that they can pick from. It's not dictated to, it's not affecting us anywhere near in an adverse way that I think the public perception seems to be. But we'll continue to evaluate all of our ways we communicate, but as I said, analytics, I believe, have served us extremely well to get us to this level, to maintain and put us in a position to have success."

Aaron Boone's success in the regular season — a .601 winning percentage — has not carried over to the postseason in his four years as Yankees manager.

Record Div. Finish Postseason

2021 92-70 T-2nd Lost WC

2020 33-27 2nd Lost ALDS

2019 103-59 1st Lost ALCS

2018 100-62 2nd Lost ALDS

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