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December 11, 2018

Aaron Boone

Las Vegas, Nevada

Q. Just how you're feeling about what's been accomplished so far?
AARON BOONE: Really good. It's been a little bit slow here so far. I think as a whole Winter Meetings-wise, haven't had the huge splashes yet. To get James Paxton to kind of kick off our offseason, huge. We're so excited what he's going to bring to our club. We feel like for as good a pitcher as he's been, we feel like there's even more upside and feel like we have a chance to even get his best years out of him with us. We're really excited to add him to our rotation.

And now obviously Cash and all of the guys are really hard at work. And whether it's through trades, through free agency of trying to upgrade and tweak and help us get a little bit better so that we're ready to roll come spring.

Q. As you self-evaluate the last two months, your season, what do you look at that you would like to do better?
AARON BOONE: I hate to be too generic, but everything. And I don't know it's so much self-evaluating as you go through the winter, every day is an evaluation. Every day you come in during the season, whether you won, whether your lost, whether a move worked out, you know, a decision made, hopefully you're always taking stock of those things and evaluating, and putting into your experience and learning from it and that continues in the winter.

Living in the area, obviously no I'm at the ballpark all the time. And in there most days kind of getting ready and thinking through things for next year and Spring Training and up in the front office collaborating as much as I can, as well. Nothing really stops. And you're constantly trying to do things that hopefully improve myself, but more importantly improve our club.

Q. There's a common thread among the new wave of managers, it's communication skills, whether with the media or the players. How has that player-manager relationship changed from when you were a player? Is there more communication between the manager and the players?
AARON BOONE: I don't know, maybe it's a little bit more widespread. Maybe back in the day you had the level of certain managers that didn't really communicate as much. But I still think the really good ones in their own way do a great job of communicating and tapping into the individuals. It's obviously a team game but played by individuals that we're trying to get the most out of every guy.

I feel like that's one of the most important jobs I have, my coaches have. And it's upon us to kind of figure out what makes them tick. Everyone is a little bit different. Some guys you kind of leave alone, go get them. Other guys it's more of a daily checking in, talking, coaching, whatever. And I think that's one of the challenges -- one of the fun parts of the job is trying to figure out how to tap into those guys.

Q. What has been the process of self-evaluation from your first year, what you need to improve upon?
AARON BOONE: I don't know. My process, it's just kind of in a way, obviously you're not playing games, so you're not in the grind of the every day of the season. But for me, I'm here. I'm in the ballpark probably three or four days a week. I'm in the front office. So it's just kind of a continuation of trying to where can I get better, where can we get better, what are things we can implement in Spring Training that maybe help us get a little bit better, conferring with different people within our organization, our coaches, about things that we want to impart on some of our guys to work on in the winter or things to think about in the winter to apply to their game as they get ready in their offseason training.

All those things, in a way, it's just kind of a continuation and kind of a way of life, really.

Q. What's the biggest lesson for yourself last year?
AARON BOONE: You know, I think you become hyperfocused on understanding how important the next play is, tomorrow is. And I've always tried to carry that with me in sports, whether I'm coaching my kids in youth ball or at this level, how important the next play is. And to try and not let your emotions really get the best of you to where you're affecting the next play. I tell my players that all the time: The next play is the most important one.

But constantly trying to live that.

Q. Where the roster stands right now, how large or small do you see the gap between you guys and Boston?
AARON BOONE: Oh, I don't really look at it that way at this point in the winter because everyone's kind of rounding out their teams in varying degrees. So you know as we sit here today, we're going to be a little bit different two months from now as we head into Spring Training; I'm sure they will. I'm sure all these teams that are here trying to improve in varying degrees.

Obviously they were an unbelievable team this year, a monster. But we also understand that we feel like we're very much on level ground with them. We've obviously got areas that we need to improve to kind of close that gap but we feel like when we're at our best we're as good as any team in the world.

Q. As you've gone through the options of what you have to do to take Didi's spot as long as he's out, do you have a preference as to whether you'd like a shortstop or --
AARON BOONE: I don't. I think the offseason will kind of dictate it and the different moves we make will kind of dictate that. I will say that with Gleyber and his versatility, I feel it becomes about the best player and the best option and what makes the most sense roster-wise. And I think Gleyber gives us that flexibility with his ability to play a couple of different spots. So I feel really good about that.

Wherever we go, I hope it's more about getting best player. And obviously so many things go into that, as far as financial considerations, contracts, all that. But I think Gleyber gives us that flexibility.

Q. A lot in flux in terms of lineup. Cash was pretty resolute about Gary Sanchez being the starting catcher. What has been the winter process with him to get him back on track?
AARON BOONE: Well, I would like to think that he was very much back on track at the end of the season. And I think those of you that cover me all the time understand that I really love the player. I love the person. Obviously this year in a lot of ways was a very tough year, dealing with some injuries, offensively, the scrutiny that goes on with him behind the plate all the time. But I think a lot of the things that I witnessed from him behind the scenes, that actually did show up in games.

I think this year is going to be a huge year of growth for him. And going through some of the challenges and adversity that he went through I think is going to make him a better player. He's spent a lot of time in Tampa this winter. He's already in very good shape. And I feel like he's going to come back and have a really great season for us on both sides of the ball. And I think a lot of that started to happen towards the end of the year. And frankly, was happening maybe a little bit in an inconsistent manner, but things we were seeing behind the scenes, and even showed up in games at times, I think we're going to see a great player.

Q. Now that you've had some time, what do you think you need to do better?
AARON BOONE: I don't know that I have anything specific for you. As I sit here today, basically a little bit over a year after I was hired, and being at the Winter Meetings, last year I was learning people in the room's names and what they did, and what are their values, who are they, how does this all work, who's got a loud voice in the room, those kind of things. I have relationships with all these people now.

So hopefully I'm so much ahead of the game from where I was last year and hopefully we hit the ground running. In a lot of ways I think we were able to do that last year, actually, and I credit the people around me for allowing that to happen. But hopefully we'll just, in every area, be that much more buttoned up than we were at this time and then heading into Spring Training last year.

Q. Back to Gary and his defense. His shortcomings are easier to see when people talk about his strengths, game calling, games planning, sometimes those aren't as easy for people to see. Are there examples of that that stand out to you as to why he is good at those things that you guys have kind of been touting?
AARON BOONE: Yeah, you know, as much as we can quantify things, we do do that. Obviously I think a lot of times when we talk about Gary people talk about the passed balls and something that certainly we want to improve on. We want him to improve on. But sometimes that's one time in the course of a couple of days that shows up and kind of I think clouds and takes away 95 percent of the work he's doing back there that's really good and really efficient.

As far as his continued ability as a receiver, that I feel like he continues to get better and better at, I think everyone sees and understands what he does to a running game with his ability to throw. And then just as we kind of evaluate each and every day and to see how he's invested in the game plan and the ability to go out there and execute it, in our judgment, and that's something that's frankly a little subjective, you know, in our judgment something that he was really good at last year. And I feel like something that he takes pride in and hopefully an area that he even continues to improve at.

Q. Is that simply about knowing hitters and how to execute?
AARON BOONE: Yeah, I think obviously we have a game plan each and every day that Larry and the catchers are intimately involved with, with the starting pitchers. And, yeah, so it's diving into that, understanding. I think he has a really good feel of opposing hitters. I think he's got a really good sense of that. And just as we kind of -- again, as we evaluate each and every night, more often than not we came away kind of giving him high marks in that regard.

Q. When the Yankees come to play in Europe for the first time, there's potential new fans. What is it about the game of baseball you love so much?
AARON BOONE: I love the competition of it, but I think we can say that in any sport that you're passionate about or someone that plays the sport or is involved in, the competition is ultimately the best.

The game is -- I was born into this game and played it and lived it my entire life, so it kind of becomes a part of you. I just think the conversations, the camaraderie, even talking with you guys throughout the year, just all the nuances that you can talk about over the course of a season, over the course of the game, the differing opinions that people have, kind of the grayness of the game is something that I appreciate.

But the competition and for me just the lifelong relationships and the camaraderie you form amongst the team.

Q. What was the toughest part of the job for you to get through the year?
AARON BOONE: You know, I think at times some of the -- and in my own way I kind of prepared myself going in, the inevitable unpredictable things that come across the desk almost on a daily basis, from minor things to things that are more serious, and how you handle those. You never know how you're going to handle those. And that's a challenge. You're never totally prepared, I guess, for all the different things that do come across on a daily basis.

So I would say that's the biggest challenge, the unknown of what's around the corner, all the time, that may be baseball related or may not be baseball related. When you're dealing with an organization and over 25, 30 players and coaches and everything, things come up all the time that you've got to deal with in real-time. That's a challenge.

Q. Would you have to get better during the year, and sit down, you are to be traded?
AARON BOONE: It's kind of different. Each case is a little bit different. Sometimes it's expected and it's not a big surprise or it's a younger player that knows it's coming, and most times it's a little easier. But there's sometimes where there's a difficult decision that needs to be made. And it's one of those decisions that may be a little gray. There may be some people in the room that are arguing one way. Somebody maybe arguing another way. And at the end of the day these decisions sometimes affect the livelihoods of players and people that frankly you really care about. So you don't take that lightly. And at times that can be difficult. But also you understand it's one of the parts of the job.

Q. Given some time to reflect, Judge came back from his injury, were there some things that you saw in him that maybe go away with some rest in the offseason? He'd be in a different place in Spring Training than he was the last week of September.
AARON BOONE: Yeah, I think he'll be physically a little bit better. And I think every player that goes through the wear and tear of the season, you know, especially when you've dealt with injuries that he's obviously just getting over. But the totality of injuries that accumulate over the course of years, you benefit a lot from the rest, and recuperation you get in the winter. And I think Aaron is one of those guys that will absolutely benefit from that.

The prior offseason he had the shoulder surgery. So he probably wasn't able to have his normal offseason, as far as training regimen and how he would go about getting ready for Spring Training. I think he'll be ahead of the curve in that way.

Obviously he finished the season very strong for us in his play. So I'm not worried about anything with him. But I am excited that he's going to have a normal offseason as far as going into the offseason fairly healthy and hopefully that benefits him and his ability to get ready for this season.

Q. Did you see anything in those last few weeks that he came back where you saw the effects?
AARON BOONE: I think maybe early on he wasn't consistently -- the power didn't come right away, the normal, awesome power we saw. But again, from the first day he stepped in the box with no rehab games, he hits a rocket to right field and the at-bat quality was there. And then he goes and obviously has a huge postseason, he played great in the playoffs, hitting for power, the power that he didn't have maybe that final week of the season certainly was there in the postseason.

No, I think he finished the season in a very good place physically.

Q. Did you buy into the New York factor, that maybe there's more pressure in New York? Do you think that's affected Sonny's performance, and what can the organization do bringing in a new guy like James Paxton to help?
AARON BOONE: Sure, I think there can be that factor. I think sometimes -- I do believe we overstate that sometimes. Sometimes a guy just struggles. Sometimes the guy comes and has a great year and it's not necessarily because of New York or the other one. But we attach it to that probably more so than we should.

But there's no question that playing in New York is a little bit different, and I think does take a special kind of makeup. So as best we can as an organization we try and prepare our players coming up through the Minor Leagues as best we can to be equipped to handle all that goes with being a New York Yankee, playing in New York. And as best we can when we bring somebody from outside the organization we try and ultimately put them in the best position to succeed and have so many resources at their fingertips to hopefully help adjust and get acclimated as best you can, and we'll continue to do that. I think overall we do a pretty good job of that.

Q. You said before that you believe that your team is level, as good as the Boston Red Sox. What was the difference, the fact that they won and you didn't?
AARON BOONE: They had such a great season. 108 wins I think speaks for itself. The run they went on in the postseason, to take us out and do what they did to Houston and the Dodgers, there's no denying that they were the best team in the game this year. And they did it from basically Opening Day through the end of the World Series.

I just know that we're capable when we're at our best of beating anyone, and we will continue to feel that way. And hopefully the things we do this winter, the tweaks we make to our club, the inevitable changes we make with our club, hopefully allow us to close that gap.

What they did really well, I think from a lineup standpoint they were just so dynamic. Really balanced, obviously, a few really superstar players, MVP caliber seasons in what Mookie and J.D. were able to do. The versatility of their offense. You saw it manifest itself in the postseason with their ability to just get big hits in tough spots. The ability to also get the ball out of the ballpark. The ability to steal bases. Athletic group. It was a real dynamic offense. And I think proved to be the best offense in the game throughout the year.

Q. Do you see Stanton in any way benefiting from his first year with you?
AARON BOONE: Yeah, I do. I think I've said a lot, and a lot of you guys witness just what a good pro he was from really the start. He was accountable. I think he worked really hard to get settled in to endear himself to his new teammates, the work ethic he showed day-in and day-out, the consistent person he was day-in and day-out through all the ups and downs of the season. And when you look back on it turned in a really productive year.

But I think there's no question he's going to come in this year knowing his teammates, knowing where he lives, knowing the city, knowing the organization, knowing the resources available to him on a daily basis and hopefully it allows him to go out and have an even bigger year than he had this year. I think that is my expectation for him.

Q. Is there something you would like to see him do better at the plate?
AARON BOONE: I always want to see our guys do things a little bit better.

Q. More specifically, not so much the results.
AARON BOONE: Sure. But I don't want to get too far in the weeds with the things we do behind the scenes. I think he's very aware of the things he wants to do from an approach standpoint, from how he prepares and gets ready. And I'm confident you'll see even a greater spike up in what he was able to do this year.

Q. Do you have a better sense what Greg Bird was dealing with physically in the second half, and what's your communication with him?
AARON BOONE: Yeah, I was just in Tampa a couple of weeks ago and he was there working. You know, I think there were some things -- I don't know so much second half. But I do think there were still some physical things that he was kind of dealing with, grinding through, that probably had some affect on performance.

One thing I've said about Greg, even though it was a very tough year for him and obviously him losing a lot of playing times towards the end of the year, certainly in the organization's mind and in my mind, I understand what he's still capable of being. And opportunity will knock for him at some point. It's inevitable. And he'll just -- it will be incumbent on him to take advantage of the opportunities when they're made available to him. We still feel given the opportunity when he's in a good place that he has a chance to still be an impact player for us.

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