Its up to Aaron Boone to change his Yankees fate

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A slumping Aaron Boone needs a big swing, and yes, there is precedent for that. He was having a brutal postseason when he stepped to the Game 7 plate in the 2003 ALCS. Before Boston’s Tim Wakefield threw his first 11th-inning knuckleball, Boone was just hoping against hope that he would run into one.

“And I finally ran into one,” he said that night.

When things were looking bleak against the Red Sox, Derek Jeter had assured his teammate, “The ghosts will show up eventually.” But 18 years later, those reliable ghosts still haven’t shown up for Aaron Boone. And if they don’t make an appearance over the final 64 games of the regular season, he’ll likely be out of a job.

Boston or Tampa Bay will win the American League East, and the runner-up should claim home-field advantage in the wild-card game. And that’s OK. Boone’s mission now is to beat Oakland, Seattle, and Toronto to the second wild card, and then to hope for a sudden-death road victory over the Red Sox or Rays that turns the Yankees into a hot and dangerous team that could actually win the whole thing.

Today, after producing, directing, and starring in a summer-long series of Hollywood-sized disasters, the Yankees are only two games behind Oakland in the loss column for that second wild card. Two. They have to hurdle Seattle on the way there, but the A’s and Mariners are operating with payrolls that are less than half of New York’s $203 million.

For all of the conspicuous flaws currently defining Brian Cashman’s roster, the Yankees certainly have enough talent to prevail here. Once more, with feeling, is it really too much to ask Boone to finish third in his division and second in the wild-card standings?

The beleaguered manager keeps doing things that opponents would want him to do. Sunday, Domingo German was having a special, gonna-tell-the-grandkids-about-this afternoon at Fenway when he surrendered his first hit in the eighth, a double to Alex Verdugo, with the Yanks holding a 4-0 lead. Had you conducted a quickie poll in the Red Sox dugout — Would you like to see Boone call an immediate end to German’s 10-strikeout, one-hit, one-walk masterpiece? — the answer would have been unanimous. Had you conducted a follow-up quickie poll in the same dugout — Would you like to see Boone leave in Jonathan Loaisiga to face Kiké Hernandez after allowing three straight hits, or take your chances with the next Yankee out of the bullpen door? — that answer also would have been unanimous.

Boone has had that kind of season. He obviously knows what he’s doing, or he wouldn’t have won 203 games in his first two years on the job. But when your team is forever falling apart at the worst possible time, turning rock-bottom into a twice-a-week event, the man responsible for preparing, motivating, and leading the team needs to be held accountable.

Meaning that Boone has to do something much sooner than later to rewrite the narrative arc of the 2021 Yankees. It’s not too late.

A local example that’s worth taking a look at: Tom Coughlin’s 2011 Giants couldn’t play defense, couldn’t run the ball and, at 7-7 entering their Christmas Eve game against the Jets, couldn’t convince anyone they were worthy of making the playoffs. Coughlin sat down with an ineffective and banged-up Justin Tuck, and implored him to dig deep, rise above his pain, and lead the Giants to victory. Touched by his coach’s personal plea, Tuck started thinking about playing for his family and his legacy and responded with strong performances in his final six games (all Giants victories), including two sacks of Tom Brady in the franchise’s second Super Bowl triumph over the Patriots.

Can Boone reach a player like that in his clubhouse? Does he have it in him to push the right human button with a particular Yankee who could inspire the entire team to play at a higher and much more consistent level?

We are all about to find out.

After sending his team to the 2003 World Series, Boone cost himself his Yankees career by blowing out his knee in a pickup basketball game. For all of us who have done really stupid things in pursuit of a loose pickup-game ball, it was a relatable (if costly) moment.

Boone got a shot at a second Yankees career after Joe Girardi was fired, and his overall body of work has been good, not great. In his division, during his time in The Bronx, Boston’s Alex Cora and Tampa’s Kevin Cash have reached the World Series, with Cora winning it.

So it’s time for the Yankees manager to make his own move. If Aaron Boone does have greatness inside of him, he’s got 64 games to show it.

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