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  • Aaron Hicks' defensive gaffes draw manager's ire

    On Tuesday night in Boston, Aaron Hicks compounded his issues with the manager with a seemingly innocuous action on the field in the eighth inning, with the Twins securely up by six runs.

    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:




    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.
    This article was originally published in blog: Aaron Hicks defense graffes draws manager's ire started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 98 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Still, when you are put on Gardy’s double-secret probation list, the slightest indiscretion triggers these types of reactions.
      What Gardy got upset about tonight was as slight as it gets. It was nothing. By itself, there was absolutely nothing that Hicks did wrong with the flip.

      The bigger story is that Hicks has struggled defensively. The biggest issue was what made his catch last night so tough. There has been many times where his first step after contact is back and then he really has to race in to make a catch. Last night, he covered a lot of ground to make a very nice catch after one false step. In previous games, that one false step has meant the ball has dropped in for a hit.

      Missing the cutoff man is another strange one. Obviously you coach to hit the cutoff man... just like you coach the infielders to make good throws to first base. Once in awhile, one is going to get away from you. No one wants that. No one goes into a throw saying I'm going to throw this once 20 feet over the first baseman, or try to make him scoop it. Likewise, Hicks missed the cutoff the other night, it was clear he wasn't trying to throw home or all the way to third. He just missed the throw.

      Just like the shortstop gets an error on a bad throw, if Hicks (or whoever) misses a cut, he can get an error. Sometimes the first baseman saves the shortstop/3B/2B an error by making a great scoop. Sometimes the throw goes to the 2nd cut off and an out still gets made.

      I'm at the point where I think the best thing for Hicks long-term (which should be the #1 objective anyway) is to get to AAA and keep working on his offense and his defense. It has little to do with individual plays (Because mistakes and errors happen, they'e part of the game!), but the overall body of work for Hicks this season has been pretty poor. He needs the time in AAA.

      What annoys me more than anything is words like lackadaisical, lack of effort, lazy, etc. Mr. Bremer used those kinds of words. Hicks is none of those things, and that play shown shows none of that. He made one mis-step and then hustled like crazy to wind up making a nice catch.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Has any CFer ever had more "lucky" OF assists in such a short span of time than Aaron Hicks?

      You're post is right on, Seth. Hicks's career path has been continually a 2 year adjustment to each successive level. I posted in the spring that a AAA demotion or two for Hicks was probably inevitable- Certainly, other talented Twins players have been up and down, it won't be the end of the world if/when the boom falls on Hicks. The problem right now is the glaring lack of alternative legitimate options at the position.
    1. Pius Jefferson's Avatar
      Pius Jefferson -
      When you hit like **** and look lost in CF, the manager is going to be upset over a nonchalant looking catch and flip no matter how safe they actually were.
    1. wagwan's Avatar
      wagwan -
      I don't like the manager showing up his players in public like that. Hicks is a rookie. He is going to make mistakes. Having the manager blow up like that in the dugout is not good. The Twins are going to have quite a few young guys in the lineup the next few years. I have always been a Gardy supporter. But maybe he is not the guy to lead this next wave of young players. Yes they are pros. But they are not going to play like ten year vets. They will do things like that goofy celebration that cost Harrison a grand slam at Cedar rapids. But it was fun to watch those kids enjoying winning. I kind of liked the flip too. It IS a game after all. Does Gardy expect Hicks to perform better after he reacted like that? Would anybody?
    1. big dog's Avatar
      big dog -
      I'm not so sure it was the flip. It also looked like he got a late break on the ball and had to come running in hard. He ended up catching the ball below his waist. He has got to start getting better reads on the ball- if he's not even catching flies he's not adding much (and he's not getting better).
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Gardy better talk about the Doumit missed catch the other day, which cost the Twins the game. But, of course, it was Gardy who let Doumit play LF. That flip was nothing. If he picks on Hicks' fielding he should be picking on every other outfielder, since Hicks is much better that the others. And I am sure that the kid who just started to find his bat really needs that criticism right now... It will do wonders for him and the team.

      Let's see Willingham try to get to that ball.

      Gardy's got to go. He's been getting as curmudgeonly as Kelly was in his last years.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      (I originally posted this on the blog side) These are the managerial moves that will define Gardy's final contract year. Are the young players progressing? Is the current manager building up the organization? Too soon to tell, but woudln't it be nice if a ballgame at Fenway in early May 2013 will be remembered as a turning point in Aaron Hick's long career as a Twin? Gardy has had this impact in the past, as Justin Morneau credits his turnaround, not on a fight with Torii Hunter in Kansas City, but with a sit-down heart-to-heart with his manager, early in his 2006 MVP season. JockBio: Justin Morneau Biography I'm hoping Uncle Gardy takes the kid aside when the cameras aren't rolling, debriefs the situation, and puts "Hicksie" back in center field tonight. I would love to see the kid get his first multi-hit game of the season on the backside of this incident.

      Here's La Velle's take: 3. HICKS IN CROSSHAIRS?: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire did not like the way Aaron Hicks, who entered the game as a defensive replacement, flipped the ball to Brian Dozier after catching a fly ball in the eighth. And Gardy let Hicks have it after the inning. Hicks said he understood why the manager wasn't happy with him. Hicks didn't start on Tuesday and part of the reason might have been how he's gone after fly balls. But I wouldn't be surprised if Hicks is back in there Wednesday. More at: http://www.startribune.com/sports/twins/blogs/206538961.html
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      I think it is interesting what we classify as rookie behavior. At what age were we all taught that hitting a cut-off man is incredibly important or that you keep a bat head high when trying to lay down a bunt or you will give away an easy pop up? He is not a rookie to those skills and concepts. I will not ride Hicks for looking lost at the plate since he jumped levels and batting in the MLB is one of the most difficult sports skills on earth. Lazy play needs to be dealt with immediately. It seems very exceptional to me that Gardy would yell at him in the dugout in a public forum which makes me wonder how many times this had been addressed when the cameras were not on them. Maybe he just boiled over and the fact that Hicks had a guilty look on his face immediately speaks to this. He knew the moment afterwards that he had done something wrong and was in the dog house. I am speculating a lot right now. Short version is lazy play can lose games and it needs to be stamped out quickly.
    1. big dog's Avatar
      big dog -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Gardy better talk about the Doumit missed catch the other day, which cost the Twins the game. But, of course, it was Gardy who let Doumit play LF. That flip was nothing. If he picks on Hicks' fielding he should be picking on every other outfielder, since Hicks is much better that the others. And I am sure that the kid who just started to find his bat really needs that criticism right now... It will do wonders for him and the team.

      Let's see Willingham try to get to that ball.

      Gardy's got to go. He's been getting as curmudgeonly as Kelly was in his last years.
      I think the difference is that Hicks can be better, and should be. Doumit has no business being in LF, but Gardy put him there and he is who he is. Any player, but especially a really young one, ought to make the best of their talent, and even if they are underperforming they have to improve. Lots of stories of players who end their careers and people say what if they had tried harder, what if coaches hadn't let them get away with things because of their talent early in their career.

      Not saying that's the case with Hicks, but saying he's a better outfielder than Doumit so leave him alone seems like a pretty short-sighted approach to me.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      There's a saying "praise in public", "criticize in private" Good rule to live by.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Gardy needs to get used to coaching guys without shaming them. If he stays around, he will have a lot of young, raw talent in here over the next few years. My sense is what Hicks is doing is nothing compared to what Sano or Rosario will be doing when they get here.

      I think Hicks is making slow progress. He sometimes gets fooled on balls where a guy takes a big swing and hits it off the end of the bat. Looking on TV, it seems like he's let a couple of balls fall in front of him that were catchable, if everything goes right. But that's a learning process. If he's better off learning in AAA, fine, send him down. We now have a viable option down there (Benson, not Thomas).

      Offensively, he's been about what we expect since the disastrous first 10 games. I'd rather he learn to hit up here, where he can learn the pitchers, than down there, where only a few of the pitchers will end up in the majors.
    1. big dog's Avatar
      big dog -
      The TV feed I saw showed Gardy speaking to Hicks and Hicks listening intently. Gardy wasn't screaming and waving his arms. I didn't read any quotes from Gardy in the paper today criticizing Hicks for the flip, or for getting a late jump. Compared to some of the hell TK put young players through, this wasn't anything.
    1. COtwin's Avatar
      COtwin -
      Yet another glaring example of Gardenhire's ineptness with young players. Even if he does get credit for Justin's turn around, how pathetic is that? One player in ten years publicly acknowledges his coaches good input. Is everyone else just to shy to give credit where credit is do? Or is there just none to be given? I agree with Wagwan. Gardy is not the one to help these up and comers find success. Do we think Hicks would have as many hits as he does now without Bruno?
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by big dog View Post
      The TV feed I saw showed Gardy speaking to Hicks and Hicks listening intently. Gardy wasn't screaming and waving his arms. I didn't read any quotes from Gardy in the paper today criticizing Hicks for the flip, or for getting a late jump. Compared to some of the hell TK put young players through, this wasn't anything.
      This. Gardy is free to instruct players on the finer points of the game at any time. Better to do it when it happens than after a few days and through the papers (as he has sometimes done). I thought Gardy handled this one appropriately. Maybe he's learning.

      This was way overblown by FSN North, in particular, Dick Bremmer, who's knowledge of the game begins and ends with, "he's going to be bunting here," in obvious swing-away situations.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      I have to question the idea that has been espoused by a couple of people here that the dugout is a "public" venue. Yes, the ubiquitous (today's 25-cent word) presence of television has given the public a glimpse into that (although without audio so we don't actually know what was said or what Gardy was mad about), but it is still, in my mind, a private venue, just as the locker room is private. With the advent of video-capable smartphones, even locker room "discussions" can now be aired publicly, but that doesn't make it a public forum. There is still a big difference between what happens in a dugout and a locker room and what is said in a post-game press conference that is an intended media event.

      And, while Gardenhire's personality and interpersonal skills are a valid topic of conversation, let's not start shifting the blame for Hicks's play to Gardenhire. Hicks is the one who is making simple mistakes that big-league players just should not be making. When you make the first mistake, the manager should gently correct and coach you; when you make the third mistake, the manager can still correct and coach; when you make the 10th, 15th, etc... at some point you have to kick some butt, because obviously the soft-sell approach is not sinking in.

      Same thing with Plouffe at third.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      IMO, last night was just another example of why I've come to the conclusion it's in everyone's best interests to replace Gardy, the sooner the better. Hicks certainly hasn't impressed anyone with this defense, but I don't get the sense that's because he's not trying hard, or doesn't care. In my experience, when someone is trying hard but not succeeding, yelling at them--especially publicly--tends to make the situation worse. Figure out what needs to be done to correct the deficiencies, and work on that, rather than give the person more reason to question themselves.
    1. Aaron Cross's Avatar
      Aaron Cross -
      Gardy loves to make it about him. Call the kid to your office and reem his butt. Making a spectacle is weak on gardy's part. That said, I think its time to send hicks down.
    1. Aaron Cross's Avatar
      Aaron Cross -
      I dont want gardenhire managing the next group coming up. He's just not the man for the job.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Gardenhire doing this publicly is not how professional people are supposed to act. going ape**** over a flip like that is beyond ridiculous.

      How long can people actually take both this kind of unprofessionalism and idiotic managing?
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      IMO, last night was just another example of why I've come to the conclusion it's in everyone's best interests to replace Gardy, the sooner the better. Hicks certainly hasn't impressed anyone with this defense, but I don't get the sense that's because he's not trying hard, or doesn't care. In my experience, when someone is trying hard but not succeeding, yelling at them--especially publicly--tends to make the situation worse. Figure out what needs to be done to correct the deficiencies, and work on that, rather than give the person more reason to question themselves.

      Spot on.
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