For those operating under the assumption that Aaron Boone acts solely as the clubhouse button-pusher for the front office, or that anyone could do his job by simply pulling on the same pinstriped pants, think again.
There were no strings on Boone during the pivotal moment of Thursday’s first game against the Rays as his Yankees started to become unhinged mentally, thanks to the spotty work of rookie umpire Brennan Miller. If you watched closely, as Boone did, you could see Domingo German’s frustration percolating, then Gary Sanchez. Aaron Judge, too.
Those were the more subtle clues. A ticked-off gesture, or a pointed conversation with their head tilted sideways. But once Brett Gardner was called out on strikes in the second inning and returned to pummel the helmet rack with his bat, then hammer at the dugout roof, Boone knew it was time for the nuclear option.
What followed was a wildly entertaining monologue, captured by on-field mics, that not only greatly enhanced Boone’s standing as manager but already had launched a variety of T-shirts by the end of the Yankees’ 6-2 win (they also won Game 2, 5-1).
There is nothing that players and fans appreciate more than seeing their own manager go ballistic on an umpire. What earned Boone extra credit Thursday, however, was the creative language.
There was no dirt-kicking, no hat-throwing. Boone just got in Miller’s face and went on a riff that had the internet buzzing shortly after his ejection.
“My guys are [expletive] savages in that [expletive] box, right?” Boone yelled. “And you’re having a piece of [expletive] start to this game. I feel bad for you, but [expletive] get better.”
Amid the verbal attack, Miller’s only counter came when their two visors clipped each other, with the umpire saying, “That’s contact.” But Boone paid it no mind. He went out in style, jabbing both of his index fingers at Miller, then clapping his hands together before storming off.
“Tighten it up right now, OK?” Boone said. “Tighten. That. [Expletive]. Up.”
Having hot mics on these conversations is not something that regularly happens, and the only reason this one was so clearly audible probably had to do with the virtually empty stadium. What instantly came to mind was Terry Collins’ dust-up with crew chief Tom Hallion back in 2016, the infamous “[expletive] in the jackpot” exchange that became a viral sensation.
But Boone’s goal wasn’t to provide amusing content. As a former player, he knows the impact a manager can make in these situations, and not all of them have the feel for such a moment. Boone not only recognized the significance, he acted on it.
“There’s always obviously some chirping from dugouts and stuff,” he said afterward. “But when it gets to a certain level, you don’t want to get players thrown out, and coaches. So sometimes you’ve got to take it on yourself.”
Once Boone was finished with Miller, Gardner applauded as his manager headed for the exit. But he wasn’t the only one Boone was protecting. German, his starting pitcher, also had to deal with the rookie umpire’s amoeba-like strike zone. After Boone’s explosion, German put up four scoreless innings, allowing only a single and a walk.
“I loved it,” German said through a translator. “He had a reason to go out there and fight for us. Personally, I was able to feed off that energy. You want to go out there and get the victory for him . . . to return the favor.”
That’s where managers still can make a difference. It’s not just stating their case to the umpire, or blowing off steam. There remains a human element at play, and what Boone did is another extension of that. Maybe lineup cards now are a collaborative effort, and in-game decisions are more scripted out than in the past, but Boone continues to show why he may be developing into the ideal manager for this year’s title shot. He displays a cool temperament during his postgame pressers, and that fits the Yankees’ corporate structure. Between the lines, however, he’ll spit fire when necessary. And if what he says winds up on a T-shirt, as his instant classic did Thursday, all the better.
But we did have a question: where did that whole “savages” thing come from, anyway?
“Sometimes in the heat of battle, you just kind of utter some things,” he said. “But I feel that way about our guys, no doubt.”
The rookie umpire got the message. So did the Yankees, who were spurred on to take the opener. And Boone deserves a cut of those T-shirt sales.