Nothing changes for Aaron Boone.
The third-year Yankees manager in February – back when a 162-game season was considered a certainty and well before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sport – firmly believed he had a team good enough to win the World Series.
Now that the season is slated to be 60 games, Boone, not surprisingly, sees his club in the exact same light.
“The expectation doesn’t change at all, it’s the same,” Boone said Wednesday on a conference call. “[But] it's absolutely different. Hopefully it serves us well, but baseball certainly is designed to play 162. But all 30 teams are starting from the same point and the bottom line is we have 60 games to go out and try and prove our worth and prove to the world how good a club that we think we are. So it's certainly different, but the goal and the focus does not change.”
He added later: “I think we're a very balanced, well-rounded, outstanding club with a lot of potential. I'll take that going into any scenario, whether we're talking about 162 [games] or we're talking about this 60-game season. I'll take our guys against anyone.”
Boone, who spent most of the last three months quarantined at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut, with his family but who observed plenty of throwing sessions by one of his new neighbors, Gerrit Cole, without question has a team that should excel.
Cole anchors a solid rotation, an uber-deep bullpen features a handful of power, strikeout arms, and the lineup is long and potent.
Since spring training was officially shut down March 13, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and James Paxton have all used that time to heal, and the expectation is the quartet should be ready for the July 23 opener in Washington. And the Yankees by all accounts, including those offered by opposing team scouts and talent evaluators, seem to have the roster depth that will be necessary to navigate this oddest of seasons. Depth overwhelmingly has been mentioned by rival executives and talent evaluators across the sport as key for any team to have success as the overall industry expectation is the suddenness of the restart will bring an abundance of injuries.
“We [have] trust in our depth,” Boone said. “You look at our team, if we're fortunate enough to be healthy at the end of end of this camp, we feel like we have a lot of players that are capable of being everyday players that won't necessarily be that and we'll lean on those guys, especially in the early days, to make sure we're building guys up properly.”
Players began streaming into the Stadium Wednesday for testing and Boone said while some smaller groups of players may get some work in Thursday and Friday, the first full-squad workout will be Saturday.
Boone delivers a message to his team every spring training and did so again in February. The manager’s message then, paraphrasing, was embracing the World-Series-or-bust expectations set for the club from the outside.
His message this time around will include some of that but mostly, Boone said, it will be addressing the circumstances that have led to this point, specifically diving in on the 100-plus page operations manual recently sent to all clubs and the role players have in an actual season being played.
“One of my messages from Day One, and constantly reiterating it to the group as a whole but also in little groups and individuals, is that we all have a responsibility in this,” Boone said. “There’s going to be things that are challenging, there's no question. There's going to be things that we're probably not even accounting for yet at this point. There's going to be things that are a nuisance, probably, on a daily basis that you're going to have to navigate and get through. And I believe one of my biggest jobs will be to make sure that there's a message that guys are constantly enforcing with one another and that we're constantly holding each other accountable as we navigate these waters.”