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Yankees players go to bat for manager Aaron Boone

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 26: Manager Aaron Boone

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 26: Manager Aaron Boone #17 of the New York Yankees looks on before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 26, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) Credit: Getty Images/Omar Rawlings

While Yankees fans are no doubt split on the future of manager Aaron Boone — whose contract is set to expire — there seems to be little doubt about what the players want.

"It's been great," Giancarlo Stanton said of playing for Boone, who, like the outfielder/designated hitter, came to the Yankees before the 2018 season. "We've been here the same amount of time, so we watched each other grow in this uniform and been through it all together. So it's been great with him."

Boone succeeded Joe Girardi in December 2017 after the Yankees lost in seven games to the Astros in that year’s American League Championship Series. He became only the second manager to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons, but the Yankees were eliminated from the postseason on Tuesday night when they lost to the Red Sox, 6-2, in the AL wild-card game at Fenway Park.

In Boone’s first season, the Yankees beat the A's in the wild-card game before losing to the eventual World Series champion Red Sox in four games in the Division Series. In 2019, the Yankees won their first AL East title since 2012 and earned a three-game sweep of the Twins in the Division Series before a crushing six-game loss to the Astros in the ALCS.

In a remarkable foreshadowing of 2021, the Yankees went through a roller-coaster ride in the COVID-19-shortened 60-game 2020 season, beating Cleveland in the best-of-three wild-card round before falling in a five-game Division Series to the Rays, the organization the Yankees are all but obsessed with when it comes to their baseball operations.

This season started with the grandest expectations yet for any of Boone’s teams. The Yankees left spring training a prohibitive favorite to not only win the AL East title but represent the AL in the World Series, which the Yankees haven’t reached since winning their most recent title in 2009.

Instead, the Yankees started horribly at 5-10 — a stretch so bad that general manager Brian Cashman characterized the club as "unwatchable" — the beginning of an almost indescribable up-and-down season that featured periods of awful baseball and at times brilliant ones, mostly notably when they won 35 of 46 games, a stretch that included a 13-game winning streak.

Boone maintained calm — and confidence — publicly at all times, even when the Yankees were at their worst. His constant "I believe in the guys in that room" mantra further endeared him to the players but widened an already existing gap with parts of the fan base.

"He's been great," Brett Gardner said of Boone, who is 328-218 (.601) in his four seasons. "Since Day One, coming over to the Yankees and just being in control of that room and really taking care of me as a veteran player and always being honest with me and communicating with me and just keeping his door open all the time and that line of communication open. Very thankful for the things that he's taught me and the things that I've learned from him and the way that he's treated me and the rest of my teammates. Just thankful for his dedication and time."

For Boone, a baseball lifer whose grandfather, father and brother also played major league baseball, the job is one he very much would like to keep, but the decision is out of his hands. He still is held in high regard by Cashman and, according to more than a few accounts, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.

"Look, all I can say is that I love doing this, I love doing this with this group," Boone said after Tuesday night's loss. "I felt incredibly supported from the organization and ownership and Cash and the front office and on down. Whatever happens moving forward I'll be at peace with. I walk out of here tonight proud of what a lot of people have done here since I've been here. And it's a group and a shared effort, and I love going to battle with all these guys — players, coaches, support staff, front office. So we'll see what happens on that front. But whatever does happen I'm at peace with and I know that I can hold my head high."

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