John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
By Friday morning it seemed the whole world had seen the Aaron Boone video, and as much as I knew it would resonate with Yankee fans, I didn't realize just how much until the huge Joe Girardi fan at my gym walked over to tell me the Freakin' Savages ejection, if you will, practically melted his heart.
"I didn't know Boone had it in him," the guy said. "You know I loved Girardi for his intensity, and I'll always think he got a raw deal. But Boone showed me something. I thought he was just kind of a nice guy who was hired to keep the players happy and carry out (Brian) Cashman's orders.
"But that was some Billy Martin stuff, the way he went after that young umpire, trying to intimidate him. I have a whole new respect for him."
Now, it's not as if Boone hadn't been ejected before. It just shows you the power of the audio, which we rarely get to hear when a manager argues with an umpire, and how it may well have changed the perception of Boone for a lot of Yankee fans.
The widespread reaction of delight, meanwhile, is something MLB should take note of before turning the calling of balls and strikes over to robot umpires. Baseball needs this type of passion and personality, and the use of replay has already taken much of the arguing with umpires out of the game.
Removing even more of the human element in a sport where its own commissioner, Rob Manfred, hints at the need for more of an entertainment factor, doesn't seem like such a great idea.
Maybe there's a compromise salutation to be found on that front, as we discussed on SNY's "Baseball Night In New York" show Thursday. In fact, I like the idea that host Doug Williams suggested, giving a manager a designated number of challenges and then, getting the crowd involved the way tennis does, showing in real time via the video board whether the pitch in question was a ball or a strike.
There will be plenty of time for debating all that, of course, but let's get back to Boone and his ejection, for which he was suspended one game by MLB on Friday.
Who didn't love it, other than umpire Brennan Miller? Boone's line about his players being bleeping savages is bound to become a catchphrase the 2019 Yankee embrace all the way to October.
Yet it was his Billy Martin-like attempt to bully a young umpire that seemed uncharacteristic for Boone, as he went brim-to-brim with Miller, telling him in somewhat condescending fashion that he felt bad for how poorly he was doing his job and the criticism he was receiving, then clapping in his face while demanding in that he "Tighten. This. (Stuff). Up."
People who know Boone well, however, say they weren't surprised in the least.
ESPN's Tim Kurkjian, who calls Boone "a dear friend" after doing TV for seven years with him, said he'd seen that side of him in the broadcast booth.
"One time I remember calling a game without Aaron," Kurkian recalled on Friday. "There was a nasty in-between hop that ate up the third baseman, and I gave him a pass, saying it was a really tough play. Well, Boonie was watching and he immediately shot me an angry text.
"In the text he said: 'That is not a difficult play. He went about it the wrong way and that's why he made it difficult play. You are wrong about that.' And he was a dear friend of mine by then.
"That's when I knew. Look, he's got the Boone arrogance to him. And I mean that as a compliment. You better have some arrogance if you're going to play in the big leagues, and manage in the big leagues. So I wasn't surprised when I saw the video. Neither were the other people from ESPN who sent me texts right away, calling it the greatest thing ever."
That said, Kurkjian made the point that Boone's true nature is indeed a nice guy and says the swearing that made the ejection video such a viral sensation was something he rarely heard from the former third baseman.
"In seven years I might have heard him swear about seven times," Kurkjian said. "That's just who he is. So when he got thrown out of a game earlier this year, I jokingly looked at him the next time I saw him and said, 'I guess you're cussing again.'
"He smiled. He wasn't really proud of that, but he was acknowledging that when you're managing a major league team, and you're sticking up for your guys, sometimes you have to drop an F-bomb, sometimes you have to point in somebody's face when you're three inches away from him.
"So this whole thought that, oh, he's too nice to be a big-league manager, he's too nice to manage in New York…we used to laugh about that at ESPN because we know when push comes to shove, he's going to protect his players, but he's also going to correct them if he needs to.
"We know the modern manager doesn't talk to players the way managers did 30 years ago, but this thought that he won't take a player on, there's no chance that's right. I don't think he'll belittle players but I do think that somewhere private he'll get in a player's face and say, 'we can't have that.'"
There was nothing private about the way he got in the young umpire's face on Thursday. And if it was more in keeping with Boone's personality than most realized, it might still be remembered as a moment when many a Yankee fan, like my guy at the gym, began to warm up to him.
Of course, now all he needs to do is go win a championship.