Few people have talked baseball with Aaron Boone more during the past two years — publicly and privately — than Jessica Mendoza, his fellow analyst on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”
That has made her even more curious to watch how he translates his knowledge to his new job as Yankees manager, and more confident that he can.
Mendoza said one of the best things about Boone is that while he values analytics, as a baseball lifer, he also appreciates nuance in matters such as baserunning and bullpen use.
“I just feel like he has a natural intuition about what’s happening,” Mendoza said Saturday. “It’s not so much just the numbers — that’s a lot of what dictates these days — but he has a really good eye for being able to see who’s telegraphing stuff, how things are happening. In a day and age where we get caught up in the numbers, I feel you forget those things.
“There are times he would predict stuff in the booth, saying this is going to happen, and it would. It’s when you have the script and everything written down like it’s supposed to play out, then you can have the ability, which you can’t teach, to know what actually is going to happen.”
Mendoza said Boone’s lack of managing experience is mitigated by being a third-generation major-leaguer and the son of a former major-league manager.
“The thing with Aaron and the way his brain has always worked — and a lot of it has to do with his father, Bob — he’s always processing things in that matter,” she said.
“He’s always seen the game from the point of view of what he would do if he was managing it. It’s been really cool to get into late-inning stuff, bullpen scenarios and the way his brain works . . . I have zero doubt it will be a problem because I feel like he’s been doing this his whole life.”
Mendoza said Boone, 44 — like the Mets’ Mickey Callaway, 42 — is another example of the shift toward younger, analytics-oriented, player-friendly managers. She worked with Boone and new Red Sox manager Alex Cora, 42, at ESPN.
“The manager role has changed to work with the front office in a way we’ve never really seen before,” she said. “One of the most important things is to understand how to manage players and know their players, now more than ever because we’re seeing younger and younger players come up, and still have veterans and a mix of personalities.”
One area in which Boone should have no trouble is media relations.
“It’s really cool to hear him think long and hard about how he’s going to speak and even use of social media, all of that,” she said. “He’s already thought long and hard about it, and knowing it’s not going to be perfect.
“The New York media is never going to every day wake up and say, ‘We love Aaron Boone.’ . . . He just doesn’t have a huge ego. He doesn’t need everybody to love him. He just wants to win. And gosh, is he excited about this Yankees team, because he got dealt a good one, that’s for sure.”
Mendoza is the last person standing in the Sunday booth. Dan Shulman left play-by-play after last season. She said she texted Boone and Shulman on Saturday and asked, “Did I miss the secret handshake?”
One possibility for Boone’s replacement: His predecessor as manager, Joe Girardi.