Aaron Hicks' defensive gaffes draw manager's ire
With Jonny Gomes up at the plate, the Sox’s beefy right fielder lifted a fly ball into short center field. Hicks came racing in from the deepest regions of center field in Fenway (which is also shallow Maine) and in one motion nabs the falling sphere and flips it to second baseman Brian Dozier.
Afterwards, the Fox Sports North camera transitioned to the ancient Fenway dugout to capture manager Ron Gardenhire mimicking Hicks’ maneuver to one of the coaches and displaying general displeasure for what his center fielder just did. The broadcast team went over the play several times and then provided a close-up of Hicks who seemed to be peeking in the direction of the dugout while his manager fumed.
Here you can find a quick glimpse of the play in question:
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When he came in after the inning, Hicks was greeted by Gardenhire, who, if he had any sense of Lou Brown/Major League humor at all, would have said “Nice catch Hicks, now don’t ever f**king do that again.” Instead, in the far corners of the green dugout, Gardenhire subjected Hicks to a Twins Way re-education seminar.
Again, it was simple enough. Nothing overtly flashy or egregious. It was not as if the rookie had flipped the ball behind his back or between his legs. He did not take a pen out of his back pocket and sign it nor did he perform the Sam Cassell “big ball” celebration dance. While one cannot say for certain, this feels like a move that Torii Hunter and Carlos Gomez had done a handful of times during their tenure with the Minnesota Twins. Still, when you are put on Gardy’s double-secret probation list, the slightest indiscretion triggers these types of reactions.
Hicks’ recent defensive gaffes had pushed him out of the lineup on Tuesday. On Monday, the center fielder allowed a seemingly catchable fly ball to drop to the earth and on a later play he overshot his cutoff man by four states – a play that was only salvaged because Pedro Florimon was able to make a strong throw home and Joe Mauer was able to sell the fact that he applied the tag when no tag was made.
Ron Gardenhire thought the play should have been much easier than that.
"If we'd hit the right cutoff man, he'd have been out by 50 yards. Second baseman Brian) Dozier was standing with his hands up, and we threw the ball to second base with (Pedro) Florimon, so now the ball has to bounce and gives the guy extra time. Florimon got rid of it quick, threw it high and Joe made a heck of a play. Dozier was standing there with his hands up. That's where we want the ball to go: our first guy."
Monday night was not the first time this year in which the manager had to take a moment to lecture his young player on the merits of hitting the cut-off man. During spring training, Hicks missed his cut and Gardenhire talked to him afterwards in the dugout.
"It was perfectly understandable why he got into me," Hicks told reporters after the spring training game. "I have to be able to hit the cutoff man. That's my job. That's what needed to be done, and I didn't do it."
Overall, his defensive performance has been even more troublesome than just those two isolated instances. According to UZR/150, his mark of -14.2 runs is 18th out of 23 qualified center fielders. Meanwhile, his Revised Zone Rate (RZR) of .862 ranks 22 out of 23 – meaning that he is making just 86.2% of in-zone plays that center fielders should make. Lastly, Baseball Info Solution’s Plus/Minus has his contribution at -5. Certainly the small sample size warning applies but the three metrics all agree and appear to confirm the eye test that Hicks is not a defensive wizard to this point in the season.
There is no question that Hicks has the speed to cover copious amounts of real estate and an arm to shut down opponents’ running games. He still has a lot to learn about how the game is played at the major league level. Gardenhire wants him to understand that you cannot have a million dollar arm and a ten cent head.