Hurt playing hoops, Boone might miss season

Updated: January 28, 2004, 9:33 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone injured his left knee playing basketball and might miss the season.

Boone was hurt Jan. 16 and may have torn his anterior cruciate ligament. He was examined three days later by Anaheim Angels team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum, and Boone informed the Yankees of the injury that night.

Fantasy Focus
If Aaron Boone's 2004 season is over before it's begun, this is bad news for fantasy baseball owners who already are scraping the barrel of third basemen. It's also really bad news for those who made Boone one of their keepers in an ESPN league, since the deadline was earlier the same day word of Boone's knee injury got out. Those owners are stuck with him. It's a shame, since Boone was ranked as the No. 2 third baseman in the 2003 Player Rater and was also eligible and highly ranked at second base and shortstop. In drafts we've already held and observed, Boone was being selected no worse than fourth in most -- behind Scott Rolen, Eric Chavez and Mike Lowell -- but remember, Boone's the only one among them who steals bases and can play three positions. Now where to look? We don't know what the Yankees will do, but don't panic to fill third base when better players are on the board at first and outfield. Remember that guys like Joe Crede, Eric Hinske and Sean Burroughs will likely match some of Boone's numbers.
-- Eric Karabell

The extent of the injury will not be known until swelling subsides, and he has not yet been examined by Yankees' doctors.

Boone agreed Dec. 1 to a $5.75 million, one-year contract, and the contract contained language saying it would become nonguaranteed if he played basketball.

"Concerning his contract, I can confirm that there are certain prohibited activities, which include basketball," Cashman said.

If there is a complete tear, he would require reconstructive surgery that could keep him sidelined until 2005.

"We are currently evaluating the extent of the injury and expect to solicit multiple opinions before providing a complete diagnosis," general manager Brian Cashman said Monday.

In response to Cashman saying certain activities in Boone's contract were prohibited, the Major League Baseball Players Association said it would fight any attempt by the team to terminate Boone's contract.

The Yankees do not have a backup third baseman with full-time experience. Enrique Wilson and newly signed Miguel Cairo are options to fill the spot.

New York acquired Boone, who will turn 31 in March, from Cincinnati on July 31, and his 11th-inning homer off Boston's Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series won the pennant for the Yankees.

Boone is eligible for free agency after next season, and if the Yankees successfully converted the deal to a nonguaranteed contract, they could release him and be responsible for only 30 days' termination pay, about $942,000.

The Yankees had hoped minor leaguer Drew Henson would be an option at third this season, but the former University of Michigan quarterback struggled mightily in the Yankees' farm system and the trade for Boone signaled that New York did not think Henson would be ready for 2004.

Henson agreed to a $17 million, six-year contract with the Yankees in 2001. He hit .234 with 14 homers, 40 doubles and 78 RBI at Triple-A Columbus this season. But he also struck out 122 times and made 28 errors at third.

The Yankees and Henson's agent recently have had talks toward severing his ties with the team. The Houston Texans drafted Henson last year and hold his NFL rights until April. If Henson and the Yankees come to a resolution that would free him from his contract, it's expected that Henson would work out for teams (by invitation only) interested in trading for him.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.