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Aaron Boone Is Helpless

Aaron Boone imitating Laz Diaz
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

There are roughly two kinds of manager ejections. The more respectable arrive suddenly, like this one for Rocco Baldelli last year, when one bizarre and critical call makes a manager confused, frustrated, and eventually no longer welcome on the field. The sadder ejections are ones you can see coming hours and even days in advance, like Davey Martinez earlier this year lying down behind the plate and getting tossed amid a 3-14 losing stretch for his Nationals. These ejections are about the calls, to a degree, but they're better understood as a symptom of powerlessness as a season becomes increasingly lost. At a certain point, the best a manager can try to do is make a scene.

While the Yankees aren't quite as adrift as the Nats, it's getting late early for them. They're dead last in the AL East—a tough crowd, admittedly—and as they sit 5.5 games out of the final playoff spot, with a run differential of exactly zero, their play isn't matching the urgency of the moment, even with the long-awaited return of Aaron Judge. They lost two of three to the Orioles, then two of three to the Rays, and couldn't get a series win against the Astros on Sunday because of an exhausting 9-7 loss where they left 15 men on base. Facing a potential reprieve in the Chicago White Sox on Monday, the Yanks dropped their sixth out of the last nine games, leaving 13 men on base and going just 1-for-12 with guys in scoring position.

A small portion of blame for this 5-1 defeat can be tossed at home plate umpire Laz Diaz, who called the game with an oversized strike zone that hurt Yankee hitters more than Chicago's.

As the Yanks looked for some life with the score still 2-1 in the top of the eighth, an Anthony Volpe strikeout on what was actually not a bad Diaz call in itself caused New York manager Aaron Boone to lose his marbles. I'm not a lip-reader type, but it seems he emerged from the dugout with a line like "Please explain something to me: Why is your eyesight so fucking terrible?" Boone continued to point fingers, trace the perceived path of the last pitch in the dirt next to home plate, and then goofily imitate Diaz's called third-strike motion.

The Yankees would strike out twice more to end the half-inning, then surrender insurance runs to Chicago in the bottom half. They're now 58-55, with less than a third of the season remaining to leap over multiple teams and avoid total failure following a rocky but ultimately effective 99-win campaign in 2022. Everywhere Boone looks, however, there's trouble. Their lone trustworthy starter, Gerrit Cole, wasn't enough to secure a win on Monday. Anthony Rizzo is on the IL two months late. Giancarlo Stanton, when (if?) healthy, is struggling to put the bat on the ball. DJ LeMahieu is starting to show signs of life but has otherwise flopped this year. And Aaron Judge, in just 59 games, has been prevented from reproducing anything like last year's magic.

In the postgame, Boone sounded more resigned than furious, electing to look inward instead of continuing to rage about Diaz's zone. "It's on us to still break through," he said. "We had our chances tonight. It's not about the umpiring. We've got to capitalize." But while this may sound like a different Boone than the one that got thrown out, this is just the other of the only two modes available to the manager of a flailing team. There's "We've got to capitalize" and "You wouldn't know a strike if it stood naked in your bedroom." All Boone can do right now is toggle between the two.

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