Last Updated on October 29, 2023 at 11:41 am by Sara Molnick
As night falls once again, the New York Yankees continue their seemingly improbable quest for the wild card. Many, including myself, may view it as a fanciful pursuit to dream of an October appearance, but Aaron Boone’s squad doesn’t seem to share that sentiment. His youthful team is reveling in the journey.
Even if the Yankees ultimately fall short of the playoffs – and let’s face it, a 19-4 finish seems like an almost insurmountable task – the entire organization’s self-perception has undergone a profound transformation since the emergence of the Baby Bombers.
From the top brass in the front office to the camaraderie in the clubhouse, and most notably on the playing field, the narrative has shifted to focus on 2024 and beyond. It’s as if the struggles of the first five months have been wiped clean.
However, Hal Steinbrenner still intends to conduct a thorough, uncompromising external evaluation once the Yankees season concludes. All parties involved will be subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny, signaling the potential for significant changes on the horizon. After all, why would Steinbrenner seek external assistance if he didn’t plan to act upon the insights gained?
The question of whether Aaron Boone will receive a reprieve remains on the table.
Can Jasson Dominguez rescue Aaron Boone’s Yankees job?
Just a fortnight ago, the writing on the wall seemed clear, and Aaron Boone’s termination appeared imminent, despite having a year left on his Yankees contract. The Yankees’ performance had plummeted to such depths, and Boone appeared powerless in the face of the franchise’s most significant downturn in 32 years.
However, two pivotal factors have ushered in a change of fortune.
First and foremost, the Yankees, now riding a five-game winning streak, have undergone a transformation reminiscent of the rookie sensation Jasson Dominguez. In Wednesday’s Yankees’ 4-3 victory over the Tigers, Dominguez showcased his prowess with three hits, including his third home run in just five games.
At the tender age of 20, the Yankees rookie doesn’t exhibit the wide-eyed wonder of a rookie; instead, he exudes the confidence of a bona fide megastar who knows he belongs. Dominguez’s presence at the plate sends an ominous message, as he leisurely wags his bat over his shoulder, akin to a coiled python poised to strike. Pitchers seem increasingly reluctant to make even the slightest mistake against Dominguez.
The Yankees have rallied around this young prodigy, reminiscent of how they draw inspiration from Aaron Judge. They’ve triumphed over the reigning world champion Astros as effortlessly as they’re currently outperforming the Tigers. These days, it’s easy to be enamored with the Yankees.
Another significant factor at play here is how this unexpected surge aligns with Aaron Boone’s managerial strengths. Boone has consistently demonstrated that he excels when leading a team on an upswing. His most valuable asset has always been his ability to build players’ confidence, particularly the younger ones, creating an atmosphere where they can perform at their best. This is a quality that Joe Girardi, his predecessor, never quite possessed.
So, is it conceivable that the Yankees are in the midst of a campaign to secure Boone’s continued tenure?
The unofficial answer is: inquire with Hal Steinbrenner. Ultimately, the Yankees’ decision rests with him. It’s not in the hands of Brian Cashman, the General Manager, Aaron Judge, the team captain, or even respected veterans like Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rizzo. Only the youthful Boss truly knows what’s in his heart, though there are some telling indicators that favor Boone’s retention.
Steinbrenner has a personal affinity for the Yankees’ current manager. He’s actively seeking reasons to keep Boone on board, and it’s not merely about finances. The younger Steinbrenner is determined to differentiate himself from his legendary predecessor, George Steinbrenner, taking pride in the fact that he hasn’t fired a manager mid-season.
However, Steinbrenner is, fundamentally, a businessman. The dismal performance of his $264 million team, which plummeted to last place, endured a nine-game losing streak, and seemed dispirited, profoundly troubled the owner.
Higashioka’s heartfelt gesture to Austin Wells
In 2017, when Kyle Higashioka, the catcher for the New York Yankees, made his debut in the major leagues, Brett Gardner, a veteran outfielder, showed a kind gesture. Gardner sent Higashioka to his preferred suit designer in Manhattan. This generosity came after Higashioka had spent a decade grinding it out in the minor leagues, enduring long bus rides between cities where the Yankees’ minor league teams played. During those tough times, he often wore comfortable clothes that doubled as sleepwear. However, now that he was part of baseball’s richest franchise, flying on first-class private jets for their games across the country, Gardner believed it was time for Higashioka to have some outfits. Wearing just a hoodie and sweatpants wouldn’t quite cut it anymore.
Higashioka returned the favor on Wednesday by doing something similar for Austin Wells, who is the Yankees’ top prospect as a catcher. This kind gesture happened on the day when Wells made his debut at Yankee Stadium, and the team won the game.
Wells expressed his gratitude for Higashioka’s generosity, saying that he was super thankful for what Higashioka had done for him. He also mentioned that he went for a fitting earlier that day.
At the beginning of this season, The Athletic reported that team captain Judge gave a similar gift to rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe. On Friday, the Yankees brought Wells up to the major league team. In their preseason rankings, The Athletic placed Wells as the eighth-best prospect in the team.
Higashioka, who is 33 years old, has seen reduced playing time since Wells was promoted, adding that he feels responsible for aiding the 24-year-old Wells in his adjustment to the major leagues. He also shared that his own transition to the Yankees was made easier with the assistance of former Yankees catcher Austin Romine.
According to Higashioka, having an older teammate to offer guidance is beneficial. He noted that while Wells is highly talented and doesn’t require much assistance on the field, there are aspects like establishing a routine, time management, and learning how to warm up during a game, especially for a possible pinch-hit situation, where some guidance can be helpful.
Wells had his first visit to Yankee Stadium on Monday. Although he was drafted in the first round in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic limited his travel opportunities. He couldn’t make a visit to Yankee Stadium in either the 2021 or 2022 seasons because he was focused on playing in the minor leagues. Therefore, Higashioka played the role of Wells’ tour guide, taking him on a tour of the clubhouse, the players’ area, and the dugout. He also shared some insights about the little things that contribute to the team’s success, according to the young catcher.
Wells commented that Higashioka has been a valuable and supportive presence for him.
He also stated that both Jose Trevino, who’s on the injured list after wrist surgery in July, and catcher Ben Rortvedt have been significant sources of assistance for him. Wells had been behind the plate for all three games during the weekend in Houston, but he got a break on Monday due to an off day and was given Tuesday off as well.
Wells explained that Higashioka has been welcoming and genuinely has the best interests of everyone at heart, including himself. He emphasized that having Higashioka’s support was significant, especially during the first weekend, particularly when facing the Astros. During that time, they collaborated in team meetings and focused on the smaller details that helped players become more comfortable with various aspects of the game.
Spencer Jones reacts to Aaron Judge’s comparisons
Wells mentioned that Higashioka had been welcoming and genuinely had the best interests of everyone at heart, including himself. He emphasized that having Higashioka’s support was significant, especially during the first weekend, particularly when facing the Astros. During that time, they collaborated in team meetings, focusing on the smaller details that helped players become more comfortable with various aspects of the game.
Jones expressed his gratitude for the comparisons but also attempted to downplay them during a conversation with a group of reporters in Somerset on Wednesday.
Jones, who is 22 years old, was recently moved up to Double-A Somerset. In his time there, he has a batting average of .156 (5-for-32) with one home run, five RBIs, and nine strikeouts. Previously, at High-A Hudson Valley, he batted .268 and hit 13 home runs in 100 games.
According to Jone, he finds the comparisons to Judge to be quite cool. He noted that his parents and grandparents were thrilled about it, considering it a fantastic thing. Then he emphasized that he had a unique set of skills and areas he needed to concentrate on to develop as a player in his own right. Therefore, he was primarily focused on improving himself.
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