Aaron Boone of ESPN‘s Sunday Night Baseball called to chat about his first full year on the show and gave his thoughts on the Yankees vs. Red Sox three-game series happening this weekend.
Forget the home run in 2003. Forget the All-Star status. Forget the MLB playing career that lasted 12 years. Forget him being a part of a famous baseball family. The California native has arrived and he’s kickin’ it for ESPN’s featured program, Sunday Night Baseball. Alongside Dan Shulman, Jessica Mendoza, and Buster Olney, Aaron Boone has been showing up on television screens around the world at 8 p.m. on Sundays to bring his A-game of baseball analysis to us, the viewing public.
I had the privilege of having a one-on-one conversation with Boone yesterday afternoon, discussing his time with ESPN and asked him to give his thoughts on the three-game series between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Some well-known people, whether in the media or on the playing field, can make the rest of us feel uncomfortable. Not Boone. He was very gracious and friendly as soon as we greeted each other on the phone. When asked about how he felt being in his first full year as a member of the Sunday Night Baseball team, Boone’s reaction emanated a distinct love for his colleagues as well as producer Andy Reichwald, who worked with Boone when he was on ESPN‘s Monday Night Baseball. Boone expressed how “hard-working and so professional” Reichwald has been and how happy he is that the pair are working together on this new venture.
Boone shared equal praise for the other members as well. Being Canadian, I couldn’t help but ask Boone about Shulman, as he is also from the Great White North. Boone responded with high regard for his colleague, stating that Shulman, “no matter the sport, is one of the best play-by-play announcers around.” As Shulman has provided commentary for many different sports over the years, that is no small compliment. Boone further continued with Mendoza and Olney, where the word “passionate” was the key word, regarding their hard work, dedication, and love for their jobs as baseball analysts. Boone called them all his “good friends”, not just co-workers. They eat dinner every Saturday night, discussing Sunday night’s game and their ideas on what to bring to their program. They go down to the field as a group and talk shop with the players in a relaxed atmosphere, where information and good times are shared by all. They each feel at ease in expressing their thoughts on what to add to the show and how much each of them supports the rest of the team.
A great work environment to say the least!
I have to admit that I felt that same energy and ease as I continued our discussion regarding the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry. Boone was very open and provided many of his thoughts with detailed elaboration, all done with class that put me in a relaxed state that felt like he was just one of the guys I talk to about baseball all of the time. Except this particular guy happens to be a former MLB player who just happened to hit a famous home run in 2003. You may have heard of it. It’s mentioned everywhere Boone goes ever since he did it. I mentioned to ESPN, prior to the interview, that I would not be asking Boone about it, as I felt that I didn’t want to bore the poor man. That, and I didn’t think too many members of Red Sox Nation reading this article would want to relive it again.
It’s already in their nightmares, so why bother? Right?
The Yankees (8-12) find themselves in last place in the American League East division, taking on the Red Sox (12-10) in Fenway Park with Boone and his colleagues covering the last game of the series on Sunday.
- In his last three starts, Tanaka has allowed only two runs per appearance against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Seattle Mariners, and the Tampa Bay Rays. However, his only win came at the hands of the Mariners. When asked about Tanaka, Boone commented that he is “an out-in-front pitcher,” earning strikes early in the count. The Red Sox bats will “have to be careful not to get down in the count too often or Tanaka will have a great night on the mound.”
- Owens had a shaky start to the season, after being called up to play the Houston Astros. Boone said that “the deal with Owens is that it all comes down to the command of his fastball.” The rough patches are when his location with the pitch is spotty at best. If the Yankees jump on it sitting high and over the plate, or just wait for the pitch to stay outside or off of the plate, then they could have some big success. Owens will want to “avoid the home-run ball” if he wishes to set himself up for the win.
- In the last three games, Pineda has allowed 11 runs but seven came in one game, in his last start against the Rays.
- When asked about Porcello’s success, I also commented about the fact that he has had his own troubles with the long ball, giving up a pair of homers to both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in his two starts against the Blue Jays. However, Boone replied, “except for Bautista and Edwin, [Porcello] has looked great on the mound. I’ve been really impressed with his stuff.” Boone also remarked that “the Red Sox should be really excited that [Porcello] looks to be more of the pitcher they originally went out to get.”
- Eovaldi had a strong outing in his recent start against the Texas Rangers, allowing only two hits and no runs. I asked Boone about Eovaldi’s record and how it may be the result of poor support, as the Yankees are 27th in the majors in runs scored; however, Boone was also quick to mention that “as long as [Eovaldi] keeps throwing like he has, his team will still be in the game.”
- When asked about how excited he was about watching Price live and up close on Sunday night, Boone said, “Price’s last start against the [Atlanta] Braves was what the Red Sox paid for […] This could be the start that gets the ball rolling for Price this season.” Boone felt that Price looked like “a real, true ace” against the Braves, striking out 14 opposing batters in eight innings.
- Boone said that he was “not surprised at all” about Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz and his success in his final season with the team before he retires. “Although he’s known to be a late starter,” Boone felt that everyone knows how good Big Papi is and that his good start is due to him being just a great hitter, one of the best to play the game of baseball. It is worth noting that Ortiz leads the team with 16 RBIs but he also leads in on-base percentage (.418).
- I asked Boone about which players he would choose if he had to pick one player, a real pitbull on offense and defense, to be the leader of each team. I offered my own choices of Dustin Pedroia for the Red Sox and Brett Gardner for the Yankees. Pedroia leads the Red Sox in batting average (.333) and has had stellar highlights playing second base this season. Gardner has also made the highlight reels on sports channels everywhere with his diving catches in the outfield, and he leads the Yankees with a .382 on-base percentage. Boone said that he agreed with both of those choices. He said that Pedroia “is that real blue-collar worker aspect that symbolizes what Boston is all about.” Boone also stated that “Gardner’s also a good choice […] He does whatever he can to contribute to the team, showing that grit.”
- When asked about Yankees big-name Alex Rodriguez and the fact that he’s hitting only .190, Boone remarked that Rodriguez “is very intelligent at the plate,” and that he’s proven to be a dangerous hitter in his career, so the Red Sox definitely cannot take him lightly, even through recent struggles.
- “The perfect storm” was the exact phrase that Boone used to comment on the question pertaining to the woes of Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval and the discovery of Travis Shaw. The Red Sox weve very fortunate that they were able to replace Sandoval internally with a prospect, who is having great success with both the bat and the glove at the Major League level.
- Boone also stated, while he would like Hanley Ramirez “to spread his legs out a bit more” at the first base position, he feels that Ramirez is looking very good in his transition to the position, demonstrating “a great attitude and commitment” to the defensive role.
Boone’s own positive attitude and commitment throughout the interview was evident. He was as professional and yet relatable to me as he has been to millions of baseball fans watching him on ESPN, whether on Mondays or Sundays. If you are a real baseball fan, or even a casual fan, watching Boone and the entire Sunday Night Baseball team is an excellent choice for quality baseball analysis, explanations, and entertainment.
Anyone else as excited as I am to watch the game on Sunday night?
** To watch and listen to Boone and the rest of the Sunday Night Baseball team, check out ESPN, ESPN Radio, and ESPN Deportes TV for details.