09-02-2013, 01:26 PM #1
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"Tough love": The proper treatment for Aaron Hicks?
Brian Dozier was promoted to the Twins for the first time in 2012. He had completed his best year in the minor leagues, then impressed everyone in spring training. He went to Rochester and was dominant early. The Twins recalled Dozier in May and he was installed as the regular shortstop. After a decent start, Dozier demonstrated he wasn't ready to be an everyday regular. He was dispatched to Rochester after 84 games and wasn't productive with the Red Wings. Dozier was thought to be a lock to return to the Twins when rosters expanded. The Twins thought otherwise and Dozier's season ended on Labor Day when the Red Wings played their final game of 2012. Dozier returned to spring training this year with a chance to win a job at second base and has succeeded, playing terrific defense and displaying extra base sock from the middle infield.
It appears the Twins are preparing to handle Aaron Hicks in a similar way. Hicks had a fine 2012 in the minors and played very well in spring training, winning a job on merit as the Twins' center fielder. Hicks was demoted in August to Triple A and hasn't performed well. He has had injuries, but until the last couple of games just wasn't swinging well. With the activation of Darin Mastoianni and the acquisition of Alex Presley, the Twins suddenly have a lot of center field options. It appears they will not recall Hicks when the Red Wings are finished and hope that he comes to Fort Myers with both a chip on his shoulder and increased focus.
It seemed to work for Dozier. The jury will be out on whether this "tough love" will work for Hicks, who did seem to sulk or at least be disinterested when he was sent to Rochester. From the athlete's perspective, they must feel like they've been whipsawed. They are told to just play the game, that they are doing fine, and suddenly told that they're not playing well enough, go home and think about it. I don't know how many meetings players have with their managers or general managers. I doubt there is much communication between them. I think the players need to know what is expected of them, what they need to work on, and if they need to make changes (different position, different spot in the batting order, perhaps hitting exclusively RH). The worst thing that can happen is to squander the obvious talent that a first round draft choice like Hicks possesses.
09-02-2013, 01:48 PM #2
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I think tough love is a behavior management technique. Was that what Dozier needed? Was it his attitude or behavior that was keeping him from being successful at the plate?
Is it Hicks' attitude? I don't think so.
It really comes down to whether he has done the work to make changes to his swing. Assessing whether he has made the necessary adjustments to approach or technique should be the determine factor.
They are individual cases. I don't think attitude is part of the mix.
09-02-2013, 01:50 PM #3
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I think Hicks' initial rough time in Rochester (if we are to attribute it to anything beyond injury) is something that's pretty frequently observed with guys shuttling between their first MLB taste and AAA. Call it a big league hangover. My general outlook on it is that I am deeply impressed by guys who immediately shake off a demotion and start performing like management was wrong all along - but that I don't want to knock guys who have trouble with that for the precise reasons you named.
In any case, good post. Hicks' day so far in this extra weird Rochester/SWB game is kind of why I'll remain fascinated with him as a prospect. When the entire roster is getting their shots in (13 hits and 12 runs through four innings), Hicks is 0-1 and has taken a pair of walks. He has his game and he's going to play it. I love that.
09-02-2013, 02:07 PM #4
I suspect part of the struggle isn't as much as ML hangover as it is "work on X" (whatever that may be). They could tell Hicks to go down to Rochester and only swing at breaking pitches. Who knows. That's part of the equation too.
09-02-2013, 03:44 PM #5
It certainly sounds like they won't be calling him up. At least we know players can positively respond to this treatment, and let's not forget how much Dozier struggled in the beginning of the season before he turned it around--so I wouldn't necessarily connect the two events, but rather the lesson to be learned is that some players take more time (in years and in at bats) to develop than the fan base expects or likes.
09-02-2013, 03:46 PM #6
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I expect Hicks will be back in AAA to start next year. He will be promoted when the Twins feel he is ready.
09-03-2013, 12:21 PM #7
With the aquisition of Presley, I'd say it's a given that Hicks will start in Rochester.
09-03-2013, 12:30 PM #8
Like Dozier at 2B, Hicks had little competition in CF this spring and early this season when Thomas was hurt in Rochester. The thing Dozier and Hicks had going for them was their defense and that's not going anywhere. Hicks can be a solid big leaguer just by playing his defense. But, when a guy is as talented as he is, we don't want them to come up and just get by. We want them to succeed, and that's why the demotion makes sense.
I don't believe, in either case, it was at all about attitude. It wasn't about effort. It was just about results, and overcoming struggles.
Dozier's been able to do that, after a very rough first two months this season. Hopefully Hicks WHEN he gets another chance is given the time to work through his struggles as well. I just don't believe it's a tough love thing at all.
09-03-2013, 02:45 PM #9
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I hope this gives him a chance to take an early break and collect himself before going to winter ball. I doubt he'll make the team out of spring training next year because he had about as good a spring as you could hope for this year and he still struggled to start the year. The Twins will be hard pressed to make that mistake again. But if he has a good month or two in Rochester, he'll get the call. It would be great if his sophomore season is as good as Dozier's has been."If you'da been thinkin' you wouldn't 'a thought that.."
09-03-2013, 03:14 PM #10
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I think Hicks's goose is cooked. He has until July to show he has a future with the Twins before Buxton is promoted to rochester and made the everyday CF. Presley will wear a Ryan-granted Halo at least through September. If his September is solid said halo will carryover to Spring training. Either Mastroianni or Thomas will be a backup CF. There are way too many options for corner OF to mention starters and bench. Hicks is relegated to Rochester--and his Spring had better be strong! I expect that Hicks or Presley will be traded by the end of July. I also think it would be better for Hicks's career to be the player traded.
09-03-2013, 03:26 PM #11