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Higher hopes: Can Aaron Boone improve on 102-win season?

Yankees manager Aaron Boone speaks during a news

Yankees manager Aaron Boone speaks during a news conference Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

The Yankees won 102 games (including postseason) in Aaron Boone’s rookie year as a manager last season. Still, when Hal Steinbrenner the other day called it “a great season for Boone” on “The Michael Kay Show,” there had to be a segment of Yankees fans who wondered if a season that ended with a four-game loss to the Red Sox in the Division Series could truly be considered great.

Considering that he had no managerial or coaching experience when he moved from the TV booth to the dugout, it was a great season for Boone.

Considering that the Yankees were vanquished by the Red Sox in both the regular season and ALDS and Boone made some questionable moves in the Division Series, it certainly didn’t feel great at the end.

That’s what Boone signed up for when he stepped into the big chair. And for all that has been said about how Brian Cashman has assembled an even better roster for 2019, there’s one question that really hasn’t been scrutinized as much:

Is Boone going to get better in his second season?

“I hope so,” Boone said.

If he does, with all the talent the Yankees have, maybe that will be enough to close the gap on the Red Sox and bring World Series trophy number 28 to the Bronx.

We don’t talk a lot about manager WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Was Boone by himself a positive or negative when you consider the Yankees’ won-loss record?

There must be data on this somewhere out there. Or — in a sport in which every pitch thrown and every blade of grass on the field is measured and analyzed — can managerial worth still be one of those things you have to judge for yourself without breaking out the slide rule?

The indispensable website baseballreference.com lists WAR for every player. Aaron Judge was worth the most (5.5) on the 2018 Yankees, Greg Bird (minus 0.6) the least.

But the managerial page lists won-loss records and other basic numbers and also gives you “managerial tendencies,” which include things such as steal attempts, sacrifice bunts and intentional walks. Chances are Cashman isn’t evaluating Boone based on those kinds of numbers.

I asked Boone the other day if he had a sit-down meeting with Cashman after last season to discuss his own performance.

“No, because we’re talking every day about all the things we do,” Boone said. “So this never stops. It’s living, breathing. So was there a big sitdown and you reflect? No, because it’s constant.”

Just to refresh your ALDS memory (sorry, Yankees fans), Boone may have stayed with Luis Severino and CC Sabathia too long in Games 3 and 4 at Yankee Stadium. Since there was no Game 5, Boone won’t get a chance to rectify those mistakes — if they were mistakes — until the Yankees make it back to the postseason.

Boone’s second spring training went smoothly. He seemed just as comfortable as he was as a rookie. The tone Boone sets is one of calm confidence in his players — and in himself.

That doesn’t mean the baseball lifer doesn’t think he has room to improve in Year Two.

“Even though I felt comfortable, I felt confident with where we were going and everything, still you’re a year further along in relationships with players, front office, people within the organization,” Boone said Wednesday at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day eve. “There’s just a comfort level and hopefully a better understanding of our personnel and decision-making and how you handle different things. I’d like to think I’m a year further along on a job you learn every day from.”

 But is he better? He better be. Remember, Boston’s Alex Cora won 119 games (including postseason) and the World Series as a rookie manager in 2018. Now that’s a “great” season.

New York Sports