Curry: For Aaron Boone, Joe Torre's 'presence' a major influence on his managerial style
Torre's 'soothing nature,' relationships with players stood out to Boone
TAMPA - As Aaron Boone embarks on a new pressure-filled job with the Yankees, we wonder what type of manager he will be. His actions will eventually show us exactly who he is and how he will perform. But Boone's words also gave a strong indication of who he hopes to emulate.
During Boone's first spring training press conference on Tuesday, I asked him whose voices resonated in his head on this special day. Boone smiled and mentioned his father, Bob, a former manager who he described as the "biggest influence" in his life. That was an obvious choice. But Boone proceeded to discuss Joe Torre, his old Yankee manager, and spoke more about Torre than he did about his own dad.
In the simplest terms, Boone wants to be a lot like Joe. He wants to be a smart and soothing manager, a manager who the players respect, a manager who creates a comfortable work environment and a manager who succeeds. The more that Boone cited Torre's influence, the more I was convinced that Boone will be poaching from the man who won four titles and the man who managed him for a few months in 2003.
After Boone was traded to the Yankees from the Cincinnati Reds on July 31, he vividly recalled ambling into Torre's office at the Oakland Coliseum and how Torre's "presence" and "soothing nature" instantly put him at ease. It wasn't necessarily what Torre said, but how he acted. Torre was calm and confident, an aura that helped Boone to relax.
"So, hopefully, I take a little piece of what I thought he was great at into the job," Boone said.
Since Torre was in his eighth season as Yankees' manager in 2003, he had become acutely aware of how impactful it was for a player to put on a Yankee uniform for the first time. When Torre met with Boone, he sensed how anxious Boone was so he told the third baseman about the basics of a job that was anything but basic.
"I always tried to make people feel comfortable," said Torre, in a phone interview. "I gave him the lay of the land and what he should expect and what was ahead of him. Boone, you know him. He was wound pretty tight. But what I loved about him is that he never shied away from any-thing. He never wanted the ball to be hit to someone else."
Once the Yankees dismissed Joe Girardi, who had averaged 91 wins per season, general manager Brian Cashman explained how they wanted a manager who could better connect with the next generation of players. Boone has embraced Cashman's message by using the off-season to start fostering relationships with several players and by repeatedly stressing how vital those connections are to his job.
As Boone envisions the machinations of 2018 clubhouse, he said he wants it to be a "winning culture, but also a culture where guys are at ease, where guys are allowed to be themselves." He added, "It's not a stressful place. It's a place where guys are at work and enjoy coming there to do their job and, hopefully, I'm part of creating that atmosphere."
Similar to Torre's first season with the Yankees in 1996, Boone will have a significant amount of pressure on him to succeed this year. Torre inherited a team that lost a memorable five-game American League Division Series to the Seattle Mariners. Boone is inheriting a team that came within one victory of advancing to the World Series. Dellin Betances has already declared that it won't be a great year unless the Yankees win a title. Of course, that's what Torre's first Yankee team did.
When a reporter theorized that Boone, as a rookie manager, could be the Yankee who has the most to prove, Boone paused and said, "O.K., yeah. I understand where we are." Yes, Boone knows he is in a situation where the expectations and the pressure will be as high as ever, a situation where he needs to at least get to the World Series to be better than the man who preceded him. To help make that happen, Boone will try to be a lot like Joe.
"I'm consumed with the job," Boone said, "and being great at it."