It's a common refrain for Yankees fans to pre-fear that the performance of one of their formerly struggling players will improve the second they leave the Bronx, but we must admit: Aaron Hicks is one former Yankee whose immediate improvement we didn't see coming.
He showed next to no spark during his final three years in the Bronx, both at the plate and in the effort department. His regression at the dish could be easily explained away by the wrist sheath issue that began at the outset of the 2021 season and required surgery.
His effort level? That was obviously not going to get better after he unleashed complaints about his current role before ... Game 3 of the 2023 season. Usually, that's the final step before a full shutdown. It occurred this year before the Opening Day bunting had even been taken down. Often, players who seem to be stuck in slow motion are wrongfully accused of not caring. With Hicks, it didn't seem too farfetched.
Despite the possible sandbagging, a return to 2018 form still seemed extremely unlikely. He didn't appear to be dogging it on a full tank. He had lost a step, in the field and at the plate. Possibly two steps. This early decline appeared to stunt his motivation and cause him to check out ... until he went to Baltimore, of course, and became a human energy drink from minute one.
Our bad. It was always real. It was always possible.
Former Yankees OF Aaron Hicks looks born anew in Baltimore
Hicks' small-sample-size numbers will normalize, at some point (right?). That's what makes it essential to write this now, while he's still 10-for-29 with a .472 OBP and 1.058 OPS. It's enough to make you scream. We wouldn't blame you for screaming.
So, who's to blame? Hicks? The Yankees' coaches? Combination of the two? Based on early reports, it ... really seems like Dillon Lawson (and Marcus Thames) and Co. deserve a degree of blame. Or do they deserve credit for their immaculate work in making Hicks look like a $10 million albatross?
After all, considering how quickly it all clicked into place with the Orioles, maybe the Yankees' hitting coaches were the ones sandbagging it for reasons unknown.
According to Hicks and the O's hitting coaches, the team reviewed his Yankees film and crafted an immediate adjustment. Hicks was told to begin from a more athletic stance. He decided to stand more upright. The rest is, apparently, history.
"'A lot of the technique that I used in my swing [in 2018] is what they’re trying to implement, or try to get me to get back to,' Hicks said.- The Baltimore Banner
Borgschulte described it as wanting Hicks to be in more of an athletic position in his initial stance and when his stride foot lands. Hicks said, to be more athletic, he wants to stand taller. By focusing on his posture more than his swing, Hicks feels his hands will have more space to work through the swing."
And, again, this was immediate.
In the age-old angered fan battle between blaming the coaches and blaming the players, perhaps all criticism is fair. At least Hicks' long-dead batted ball profile wasn't unlocked by some other team (while the Yankees paid his salary) at the exact moment New York's entire outfield ran toe-first into walls and injured themselves.
Oh, it was? Ah. Gotcha. Bummer. Keep cashing those pinstriped checks.