The struggles of the previously pilloried Aaron Hicks are well documented. He was brought over from the Twins; a former first round pick with okay numbers for a back-up. His best season by far with Minnesota was 2015 when he hit .256/.323/.398 with 11 homers in 390 PAs.
Hicks did not even do that well in 2016. After getting 361 PA’s, all he had to show for it was a slash of .217/.281/.336 and eight home runs. Yet all we kept hearing from Girardi and GM Brian Cashman was how talented and athletic Hicks is.
Worse than that, he looked lost and uninspired. He seemed like the slow kid in math class who, eventually, the teacher lets play with his dreidel during lessons. The Yankees never did that, but it only took until June for most of the fans to say, “oh vay”.
Some sports writers made it their favorite pastime to point out the offensive shortcomings (yes, that’s meant to be a double entendre) of Mr. Hicks in articles such as this sarcastic one. That was the right thing to do based on Aaron’s 2016 performance. Well, okay, the sarcasm wasn’t needed but it sure was fun.
Growing Up with the Yankees
But Mr. Hicks has spent 2017 proving the Yankees were right about his potential. Hicks is currently slashing .316/.425/.582 and, more importantly, looking like a different player. His effort and focus are driving him and are a big part of the Yankees winning attitude.
The reasons for the change are best summed up by the two words, preparation, and maturity. I take as my source for the story someone who knows Aaron Hicks intimately: Aaron Hicks. Obviously, he has been asked what the difference is between this year and last. His answer is simple, obvious, and powerful. The first part of the answer is that he shortened his swing.
Hicks, in his understated way, explained that he has started putting in a lot more time preparing for the games. He studies film a lot more and develops a game plan for each at bat. And then he sticks to it. In plain English, he decided to work harder at his craft. This is a journey he has been on since becoming a pro athlete; it looks like he has taken the last step.
Okay, I know that it’s obvious to say, if you want to be successful, work hard at it. And I agree he is open to criticism for not working his hardest up until this time. And that he had those failings while playing for the Yankees is a true sin.
A Successful Yankees Stadium Marriage
But now he is sending the message that, if you want to be successful in work and life, work hard at it. And that seems a message more in need every year. I am glad he is doing phenomenally better, and I’m glad that applying himself is the reason for it.
Perhaps the best I can say of it is, it’s what Roy Hobbs would do. It is no surprise that he has found great success by marrying his natural talent to a newfound work ethic.
And the greatest virtue is that he found religion as a Yankee. Had he done it as a Twins player, he would have cost a lot more. Or, even worse, he could have not epiphanied until he was gone from the Yankees and become this player for someone else.
It seems like ex-Mets make a career out of that [yup, ‘nother double entendre].
So for Hicks, it does not get any more simple than that. He is more successful because he is working hard to be so. And I know that because he said it himself. Deciphering some of the others requires a little guess work.
And I guess I’ll start with Luis Severino.