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The Aaron Boone Home Run Was Good, Actually

The home run that saved the Red Sox

New York Yankees’ Aaron Boone hits a solo home run in the 11 Photo by Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

When Aaron Boone sent that Tim Wakefield knuckleball deep into the New York night in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, it seemed like rock bottom. Earlier that evening, the Red Sox were just six outs away from heading to the World Series when manager Grady Little decided to leave a tired Pedro Martinez in the game and... you know the rest. It was one of the most devastating losses in Boston history.

But, in hindsight, it may have been a blessing.

Who knows if the Red Sox win Game 7 if Boone’s home run isn’t hit, but even if we say they do, those 2003 Marlins were a wagon. So, maybe the Sox would have lost in the World Series anyway. Regardless, they were put out of their misery by Aaron Boone in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the ‘03 ALCS. So let’s look at the ripple effect of that moment.

First and foremost, Grady Little was promptly fired for his mismanagement of Martinez in Game 7 and Boston brought in Terry Francona. “Tito” managed the Sox to their first World Series championship in 86 years in 2004, as well as another in 2007. Definitely a net positive there. If the Sox managed to squeak out a victory in the Boone game, maybe the front office can overlook Little’s Martinez mistake and bring him back for another year with Tito getting hired elsewhere. See what I’m saying? Lots of moving parts here.

(3/31/03 St. Petersburg, FL) OPENING DAY: Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field. Though it looked like a somber moment for Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, his day had yet to be ruined giving up just 1 run in 7 innings. Here, he leaves Photo by Matthew West/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein went into overdrive in the offseason, acquiring second basemen Mark Bellhorn, closer Keith Foulke and, ace starter Curt Schilling. All key pieces in the 2004 Championship run. The signing of Foulke was a direct result of the failure of the 2003 Red Sox’s attempted “closer by committee”, an idea that reared its ugly head in Game 7 when Little decided to keep Martinez in rather than go the pen, which had no true shut-down man. Where things get interesting here is remembering that Curt Schilling was also a key piece in the aforementioned 2007 run. If the Sox make it to the ‘03 World Series, win or lose, maybe Theo doesn’t see the need to make a Schilling-sized plash and spends his Thanksgiving back in Massachusetts. Without Schilling, there’s almost certainly no 2004 ring, but maybe there’s no 2007 ring, either. Just something to chew on.

2007 World Series GM 2 - Colorado Rockies v Boston Red Sox

Here’s where things get really interesting. Say Boone never hits that home run and the Yankees lose Game 7. Maybe Boone trains extra hard that off-season and sticks to a strict regimen. Maybe he doesn’t play any pickup basketball on a particular December day in Newport Beach, knowing how important the 2004 season is for him. I don’t know. Instead, Boone entered the 2003 off-season a New York legend. He did play some pickup basketball that fateful December day and he did blow out his left knee in the process. Now the 2004 Yankees need a third baseman. And whose trade to the Red Sox just got vetoed by MLB?

Red Sox v Yankees Photo by M. David Leeds/Getty Images

That’s right: Alex Rodriguez, the central antagonist of the entire 2004 Red Sox season. From the late July fight with Jason Varitek that kickstarted the Sox’s second-half run to the Bronson Arroyo slap that caused garbage to rain down from Yankee Stadium, I cannot imagine 2004 without him. A-Rod made the 2004 season so much more special than it would have been without him. He was, to his credit, an absolutely perfect villain. When Rodriguez opted out of his contract in October ‘07, the Yankees responded by giving him a 10-year deal. Sure, Alex helped deliver a World Series to the Bronx in ‘09, but the later years of the contract were a complete disaster and the Yankees’ hands were tied. The Yankees’ first postseason miss in five years coincided with Alex’s fall-off in 2013. Stuck paying A-Rod more than $30 million a year, the Yankees were hamstrung. And you know who took advantage to win the AL East and the World Series that year?

World Series - St Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox - Game Six Photo by Jamie SquireREMOTE/Getty Images

Finally, we arrive at 2018. The New York Yankees were in search of a new manager after firing Joe Girardi, who had just taken an over-performing Yankee team all the way to within a win of the World Series. I’m still not entirely sure why they did that. Anyway, after a brief search, one Aaron Boone was hired to lead the Bronx Bombers.

Boone, with all of his zero previous years of experience as a manager and/or coach, was an odd choice. A choice that I believe, the Yankees do not even begin to consider if Boone never hits that home run in October 2003. Either way, Boone’s managerial tenure with the Yankees has been interesting, to say the least. In five full seasons managing the squad, Booney has taken the Yanks to the playoffs every year with two AL East titles and two ALCS losses. On the surface, that doesn’t seem so bad. The Sox have bested Boone’s Yankees twice. First in 2018 when the Sox beat them 3-1 in the ALDS on their way to another World Series victory. And again in the 2021 AL Wild Card Game. I’m not sure if a different manager could have changed the story for the Yankees in either of these examples, but I am certain that Aaron Boone didn’t do anything to help them. Ask any Yankee fan. They’re tired of Boone. They’re tired of his decision making and they’re tired of his presence with the media. Aaron Boone is not a great manager, and the Yankees will never be great again with him at the helm. Let me tell you, as Red Sox fan, that is a lovely feeling.

Wild Card Round - New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images

So thank you, Aaron, for everything. We’ll see you this weekend.