About the Off-Season: What are they talking about?
By Tim Kabel
March 13, 2023
I like bourbon. If I'm going to have a drink, which is a relatively rare occurrence, that is my drink of choice. When I buy a bottle of bourbon, I read the labels. They tell me that the bourbon in question has hints of vanilla, cherry blossoms, and dark chocolate, with a subtle undertone of charred mahogany. To me, it tastes like bourbon.
When I look at a painting of an old plough horse pulling a wagon loaded with lumber, the caption next to the picture will tell me that it represents the last vestiges of a bucolic lifestyle or the never-ending struggle against Father Time. To me, it's an old plough horse pulling a load of lumber up a hill.
Some people will read a poem about a cardinal and a squirrel competing over a pile of bird seed and think it makes a statement about greed or class struggles. I think it's a poem about a cardinal and a squirrel and some bird seed.
I feel the same way when I hear or read that Aaron Hicks is having a very good spring training.
Yesterday, Aaron Hicks played leftfield in the game against the Boston Red Sox. He came up to bat three times in the game and struck out twice. In his third at bat, he singled but, was promptly picked off first base. In the field, he yet again gave up on a ball that landed fair, giving the batter a double. He is batting .286 in the spring, with one double, one home run, and one RBI. He has misplayed two balls in the outfield so far. When I hear people say he is doing well, I ask, “What are they talking about?"
Hicks had a dreadful season last year. He lost his starting job due to his poor play. He is only on the team because the Yankees owe him money through 2025 and so far, they have found no other team to take him in a trade. If he winds up in the starting lineup at the beginning of this season, it is simply through default. He will not be there by merit. You would think that he would be playing this spring with a sense of urgency and a renewed vigor. He has all the vigor of a three-toed sloth. Diamonds are formed with a greater sense of urgency than Hicks plays with.
Hicks stated last week that he views leftfield as his position. This attitude of complacency and entitlement is extremely troublesome. I realize that a .286 batting average is not horrible but, he hasn't really demonstrated much power and is just sort of going about his business. He is very pedestrian, at best. To put it in culinary terms, he is a liverwurst sandwich on day-old bread; something you eat because you're very hungry and have no other choice.
Many people talk about Aaron Hicks being the leftfielder or the centerfielder, with Harrison Bader on the IL as if it is a fait accompli. It's as if they are discussing a math problem and he is the given. In other words, X = 5 and Aaron Hicks is a starting outfielder. Does it have to be this way?
There is an outfielder in the Yankees’ camp who has been up the exact same number of times as Hicks and is hitting .428 with four home runs and nine RBI. He is 13 years younger than Aaron Hicks. His name is Jasson Dominguez.
I can hear the tongue clucking and see the wrist wringing now. People will say that Dominguez is not proven. He has only played a handful of games at AA and none at AAA. He is not ready. Well, he is playing better than anyone else in the Yankees’ camp. He clearly has talent. He clearly has desire.
When people talk about statistics and metrics and other ways of evaluating talent, I offer this suggestion: put down your abacus; put down your slide rule; release your grasp on Bill James’ hand. Open your eyes and watch Dominguez play. Then, open your eyes, hold your nose, and watch Hicks play. The difference will be stark. The fact that Dominguez has unbelievable talent is undeniable. Will he encounter slumps? Absolutely. Will he most likely struggle at the Major League level? Definitely. However, the talent is there.
I think the best thing that happened to Dominguez was going to the Arizona Fall League last year and struggling a bit. He was competing with players who were older and more experienced, and it showed. I believe that's why he is excelling at spring training.
Yes, he could benefit from more seasoning at AA and then, AAA. However, the injury to Harrison Bader opens a spot on the Major League team right now. If playing Aaron Judge in leftfield is truly an option, you could have an outfield of Judge in left, Dominguez in center, and either Stanton or Rafael Ortega in rightfield. You could also play Oswaldo Cabrera in either leftfield or rightfield.
It would not be a good thing to have Aaron Hicks starting the season in either leftfield or centerfield. It would be much worse to have him in centerfield. I checked the Farmer's Almanac and it clearly stated that having Aaron Hicks in centerfield would doom the Yankees to a below .500 season.
With Bader out of the lineup for at least six weeks, the Yankees should at least consider playing Jasson Dominguez every day in centerfield until Bader returns. If the kid struggles, he can go back to the minors and build off his experience. If he excels or is good but not great, then he could be shifted over to left field.
Realistically, I don't believe the Yankees will do this but, they should. There are 2 1/2 weeks left to spring training. If Dominguez continues to flourish and Hicks continues to be well, Hicks, I think the decision will be clear. However, I expect to hear Aaron Boone telling us that Hicks’ performance in left field when he goes 0-4. drops a ball and pouts has some positive aspects. You know, subtle overtones of vanilla, dark chocolate, and cherry blossoms with an undertone of charred mahogany.