Yet not three weeks into the young season, Boone's Yankees find themselves where they didn't think they'd be: at .500, 8-8, looking up in the standings at both the Red Sox (not surprisingly) and Blue Jays (unexpectedly). George Steinbrenner is long gone, so there won't be any bombastic declarations emanating from the Bronx. Boone's job is safe. But that's not to say there isn't danger lurking.
Contributing to the Yanks' subpar start are the struggles of Giancarlo Stanton. Adding the reigning NL MVP to the their already formidable lineup made the Yankees a popular choice for the World Series. But Stanton has underperformed even the rest of his teammates. He has been uncharacteristically bad in his first 16 games in the Bronx, batting just .197 while striking out 29 times, the most in the AL.
After last night's loss to the lowly Marlins, Boone was asked about Stanton. The new manager expressed confidence in his scuffling slugger:
"He’ll get rolling here and eventually the league will pay for some of his early struggles."
But then Boone continued, saying that he'd consider dropping Stanton down in the lineup:
"I might flirt with splitting different guys up and stuff, but not moving him down too far. Because he’s one at-bat away from getting locked back in, and then the last thing you want is him hitting down in the order and getting pitched around."
I'd argue that the last thing you want is to tell your $235 million MVP that you don't trust him to hit in the 3-hole right now. This isn't some nervous rookie, a slumping Aaron Judge circa 2016, that you can move down to ease up the pressure. By virtue of his résumé, and his contract, Stanton has no place to hide. Batting him 5th or 6th won't likely change anything, except maybe make him press harder. Imagine getting dropped in the lineup and still not hitting. Yankee Stadium fans will be booing him before he steps into the box.
Playing with the lineup, shaking up the bullpen -- these are all rookie manager moves. Veteran managers understand that the baseball season is long, and most times, these things work themselves out. A former player like Boone should know that. And he probably does, which makes the possibility of him dropping Stanton in the lineup all the more puzzling.
One last thing before I go. Not that the stakes are as high, but the last time a manager decided to move a struggling slugger down in the lineup, it didn't work out well. It's safe to say that the relationship between Joe Torre and Alex Rodriguez never recovered from that October move. Making matters worse, it certainly didn't help that night. Something Boone might want to keep in mind.