Yankees Judge Out-Hicks In: What’s Going On Here?


The Yankees, if the reports are true, made not one, but two U-Turns in their plans for two key players. And I don’t know why they’re doing either one.

The Yankees will not start Aaron Judge in right field on Opening Day and James Kaprielian will pitch at some point in Spring Training.

If the reports are true, both decisions represent a complete turnabout from what most observers have thought the team’s plans for both players were, at least before yesterday. Let’s do Judge first and then we’ll tackle Kaprielian later today.

If this were George instead of Hal, Cashman’s move to throw Judge aside in favor of Hicks would last for all of about twenty seconds

In a well-documented piece, the report on the Judge switch comes from  George King of the New York Post. The gist of the story is that Aaron Hicks “deserves” a chance to prove himself in a Yankees uniform, leaving Judge as the odd man out, at least for now.

Cashman To Steinbrenner: I Got This One, Hal

In effect, this means that Brian Cashman and, most likely, Joe Girardi, who has always had a soft spot for Hicks, are overriding Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner. Because, as King points out, Steinbrenner had weighed in earlier on Judge saying of him:

"“My expectations are [Judge is] going to be my starting right fielder this year,” Steinbrenner said. “That’s a big deal and a big opportunity. I know he’s going to make the most of it.”"

More from Yanks Go Yard

If this were George instead of Hal, Cashman’s move to throw Judge aside in favor of Hicks would last for all of about twenty seconds, with Cashman finding out quickly who’s really the Boss.

To date and unlike his dad, Hal has left baseball decisions to his baseball people. But, stand by because that could change.

For Judge, who is not going to sit around on the Yankees bench collecting dust, this probably means he will start the season at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre if things don’t reverse themselves again.

Brian Cashman offered this explanation to the Post:

"“We never said it was going to be Judge, Hicks is a young man with a lot to prove. He is having a great camp on offense and defense. Judge is having a good camp, too. I know it’s early.”"

It’s not early, Brian. Both players have been in camp for a month now. After yesterday’s win over the Phillies, Judge is batting  .346  with a .433 OBP and a .654 slugging average. By comparison, Hicks is hitting .261, .346, and .565 in the same respective categories.

The Yankees Are Playing With Fire

Except that he’s not a Baby Bomber, having come to the Yankees in a trade with the Minnesota Twins, Cashman appears to be putting Hicks in that category simply because of his age. And beyond that, Cashman is torquing up the competition mantra that was important before the start of Spring Training, but not so much now. Or. at least, it shouldn’t be.

Moreover, Cashman appears to be playing with the egos of both Hicks and Judge, egos that are bound to be a bit frail precisely because of their age.

Aaron Judge has won the right field job fair and square. He’s done everything the Yankees wanted him to do this spring, including cutting down on his strikeouts. What exactly is the problem here, Brian?

For his part, Judge is dutifully saying all the right things and trying to be a “good Yankee”, telling the New York Post:

"“I haven’t thought about it,” Judge said of opening the season at Triple-A. “I want to compete and have quality at-bats. That’s all I can do. As far as where I go, who is playing where, that’s what the big boys are getting paid to do.”"

Up to this point, Spring Training was cruising along smoothly for the Yankees. They’re winning and, knock on wood, have not had any substantial injuries along the way.

And like Judge said, “That’s (making decisions) what the big boys are getting paid to do.” But this decision, at least on the surface and until we hear more from Cashman, appears to be, at best, disruptive and non-sensical.

Sometimes, you can’t leave well enough alone.