About the Off-Season: Is He Kidding?
By Tim Kabel
March 18, 2023
I don't know if any of you remember the old TV show, Candid Camera. The basic premise was there was a hidden camera that would film some average citizen who was being subjected to a completely bizarre scenario. The camera would capture this individual's reactions to the unexpected or strange situation. Hilarity would ensue. Eventually, before the individual exploded in some manner, someone, usually the host, Alan Funt, would come out and inform them that they were in fact on Candid Camera and that it was all just a prank. Everyone would laugh and the world returned to its natural order. That show is no longer on television.
However, I recently began to suspect that it was, and that I was Alan Funt’s latest victim.
I read a very interesting article about the tremendous hardships that Aaron Hicks is enduring in spring training. The article detailed his first at-bat on Wednesday against the Phillies. Hicks marched up to the plate to bat against the Phillies ace right-hander, Aaron Nola. Hicks was digging into the left-handed batter's box when he looked up and saw that Nola was being replaced because he had thrown too many pitches. Hicks was reportedly “in a huff.”
Hicks was upset that he had invested a great deal of pre-game preparation on facing Nola. He had conversations in the dugout and took swings in the on-deck circle. “It's tough,” Hicks was quoted as saying. “Especially when you prep for a guy, and you don't face him until your second at bat. You don't really know the next guy coming in and he comes out throwing freaking fuel. You've got to switch the mindset.” Few of us have been subjected to such adversity.
Instead of facing Nola, one of the best pitchers in the game, Hicks batted against Phillies’ lefty Jordi Martinez, who finished last year in high-A ball. Martinez does throw 96 miles an hour but so do a lot of pitchers. Hicks struck out on three pitches. Hicks felt he could have done better against Nola. In his second at bat, Hicks did face Nola. He struck out again. There goes that theory.
Hicks has now struck out 11 times in 10 spring training games. Hicks complained that he has been batting more often from the left side because the coaching staff feels that he needs to work on that side. Hicks believes that the right side is his stronger side. Consequently, he hasn't worked on it as much this spring.
Hicks also lamented the fact that he would most likely be playing leftfield this season. Hicks feels more comfortable in centerfield. He griped that it wasn't his decision where he would play.
As anyone who is reading this knows, I am not a fan of Aaron Hicks. I think he should be off the team. That being said, let's take a step back and consider his statements after putting them in perspective. The last good year Hicks had was 2018. That's five years ago. He was awful last year, offensively and defensively, and lost his starting job down the stretch. Inexplicably, at this point, he is in competition to start in the outfield when the season begins on March 30th. With Harrison Bader down due to an injury, it is even more likely that Hicks will play, unless he is traded. He hasn't earned this. If he plays, it is by default and attrition. It is simply because the Yankees don't have any better options. That is the reality. Hicks did not become good during the winter. He is just as dreadful as he was last summer. He could conceivably be worse because he's older.
Having set the scene, let's analyze what Hicks said. A few weeks ago, he announced that he viewed leftfield as his job. Other than the fact that he has a contract that runs through 2025, there is no logical reason to think that. There was certainly no reason to assume that the competition was over and that he won.
Now, let's consider what he said on Wednesday. He was upset then he had prepared to bat against a right-handed pitcher but then had to hit against a left-handed pitcher. Apparently, Hicks does not realize that he is a switch hitter. He bats from both sides of the plate. Against right-handed pitchers, he bats left-handed. Against left-handed pitchers, he bats right-handed. Theoretically, it shouldn't matter whether the pitcher is right-handed or left-handed. That is the whole point of being a switch hitter. Am I lost here? Is there something I don't understand? It’s too bad Mutt Mantle and Casey Stengel aren’t around to explain it to Hicks. Do you think Oswaldo Cabrera or Jasson Dominguez (also switch hitters) would have complained? How about Mickey Mantle?
Now that we have established that Hicks is a switch hitter, let's go a little deeper. Aaron Nola is a great pitcher. Jordy Martinez Is a minor leaguer. Hicks has almost 10 years' experience in the Major Leagues. Yet he was whining about having to hit against a minor leaguer. Hicks seems to find something to complain about in almost every situation, despite the fact that he will be paid 30 million dollars over the next three seasons for inferior performance.
He wasn't happy about having to switch to the other side of the plate. He was irritated about having to do extra work on his left-handed swing. He batted .216 last year. He should be grateful he has a uniform. He thinks he should be the starting leftfielder but actually, would prefer to be the centerfielder. He has dropped two balls in the outfield so far this spring.
We have heard and read all spring about the wonderful attitudes of Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, and Oswaldo Cabrera. That is very refreshing and encouraging. When you hear than Oswaldo Cabrera told a group of youngsters that his favorite position is wherever the manager tells him to play, as a fan, you feel good. That's wonderful. When you hear other players and the coaching staff praising all the Yankees’ young players for their work ethic and desire, it makes you believe the Yankees are headed in the right direction.
Then, you read an article about a churlish, bitter, disgruntled player who is clearly on the downside of his downside. He was “in a huff,” because he didn't get to hit against Aaron Nola. It's as if that's the reason he struck out. Well, what was the excuse when he struck out against Nola three innings later? The absurdity of Hicks’ statements is mind boggling. It's not just that he is an awful player, he is an awful player who thinks he's very good. There is no basis for that opinion.
As weak as Hicks is as a player, his attitude is even worse. Selfishness and negativity have no place on this team. He grumbles about having to do work. He grumbles about his lack of playing time. He whines about having to face a different pitcher even though he's a switch hitter and that should be something he is happy about. He feels slighted; he feels he is being treated unfairly in every possible way by everyone.
When I read that article, I was waiting for Alan Funt to leap out from behind my couch and tell me I was the victim of one of his amusing pranks. Obviously, that didn't happen. Sadly, this is not a joke. Well, maybe it is but, it's on us, as fans. The Yankees need to rid themselves of Hicks. I don't care who plays the outfield. It could be Oswaldo Cabrera, (who started in center field Thursday night), Rafael Ortega, or Willie Calhoun. They could bring Mickey Rivers out of retirement. Anybody would be a better option than Hicks. The statements he made the other day and the attitude he is exhibiting at this crucial point in his career are the straws that are breaking the camel's back.
One way or another, he needs to go.